Democrats Use Barton Apology to Go After Other Republicans

Posted June 18, 2010 at 1:45pm

Democrats have started fundraising campaigns to bankroll television ads blasting Republicans after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized to BP on Thursday for what he called a “shakedown” by the White House.

Barton was forced to quickly recant his apology by House GOP leaders — who threatened to immediately force him out as the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee — but Democrats are hoping the story will continue to tar Republicans as the party of Big Oil. Barton suggested to BP CEO Tony Hayward on Tuesday that the $20 billion escrow account that the company agreed to set up to compensate victims of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill was a “shakedown” by the White House.

The Democratic National Committee sent out a fundraising e-mail Friday and plans to run cable ads highlighting that Barton could be in charge of regulating the oil industry if Republicans take back the Congress.

The Chairman Barton scenario is looking less and less likely, however, because Barton would need a waiver from GOP term limits to stay at the top of the committee.

But Democrats say that as long as Republicans keep Barton at the top of the committee, they’ll have to answer for his politically radioactive rhetoric.

Democrats are also targeting two other House Republicans who have not apologized for comments sympathetic to BP. Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) has not retracted his reference to the $20 billion escrow fund that BP agreed to in a meeting with the White House as a Chicago-style “shakedown” in a press release. Barton echoed the “shakedown” rhetoric during his apology to Hayward.

And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is getting tagged by an ad from her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, after several comments that she made that were critical of the escrow fund and for saying, “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps.'”

Meanwhile, after Hayward’s widely criticized performance before Energy and Commerce on Tuesday in which he defended the company’s commitment to safety, he has agreed to turn over oversight of the company’s drilling operations to another BP official, Sky News reported.