BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, who has been with the company since 1982, was chastised again recently for poor leadership. This time, it was for taking a day off to watch a yacht race. He was seen as out of touch with what was happening to his company, which has lost more than half of its stock value, and for being out of touch with the enormity of the disaster in the Atlantic Ocean.
However, at this point, he's no longer who the rest of us should be watching. It's become very apparent that he's ineffective. Even BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, who has held the post for only a year, slipped on at least one occasion when talking about just who's in charge of stopping the leak. He later cleared up the confusion and said that they would not be changing CEO's in the middle of a crisis.
That doesn't tell us who's in charge of the clean-up and it really doesn't bode well for Hayward. Once the mess is a thing of the past, it sounds like he will be, too. Imagine trying to get a new job with a recession going on and tagged as one of the leaders on the wrong side of one of the biggest man-made environmental disasters ever. That's got to be a resume killer.
Instead, pay attention to the growing huddle behind the curtain in our nation's capital. There's a long list of well-paid lobbyists that have been hired by the various parties involved in the Gulf oil spill fiasco. They are quietly going about the business of shaping their carefully crafted opinions with lawmakers, so that when the oil settles, the corporations involved can control what comes next.
Lobbyists are suddenly in great demand. BP has been reported as hiring Tony Podesta's firm. His brother, John Podesta was the Clinton White House's Chief of Staff. Then there's Hilary Rosen, the former Washington editor-at-large for the Huffington Post and now part of the Brunswick Group, and Jim Turner, former House Democrat from Texas, who's now with Arnold and Porter, and Ken Duberstein, the White House Chief of Staff under Reagan. That's not even the entire list for just BP.
Transocean, which leased the Deepwater rig to BP, has hired Capitol Hill Consulting Group and FD Public Affairs who have former Washington power players among their ranks. Until now Transocean's presence in Washington had been very limited.
That's all changed, along with the other oil giants who have also hired multiple firms. Each one is claiming that the lobbyists are there to make sure the congressional panels who are conducting five separate inquiries, so far, get all of the material they have requested. There is a general insistence that no one is trying to maneuver policy on future drilling or the potential for higher liability costs.
But, really, if that were true, then a lot of underpaid college interns who were willing to search for material could have done the job equally as well and for a lot less money. The money they saved could have been sent to everyone affected by the spill, and that list is expanding as quickly as the oil.
However, if the real intention were to try and come out of all of this with the best brand image possible, as well as protecting the product, the oil leases, then hiring lobbyists who know how to sell and who to sell it to makes a lot of sense.
Too bad it leaves out the American taxpayer and what we might want.
Remember, a few short months ago when we were all up in arms about financial aid being handed out to failing corporations without anyone checking with the American taxpayer who was footing the bill? Well, this is your wake-up call about what's about to happen in the halls of the House and Senate when it comes to the big energy giants. Go to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml to find out how to contact your representatives and share your opinions about what you'd like to see next.
There are far more of us, and we're willing to work for free.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., ne.