Offshore Drilling Firm Pays Big K Street Tab

Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:03pm

Transocean, which leased the now-exploded oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to BP, has already spent $110,000 on the lobbying firm it tapped after the spill.

Capitol Hill Consulting Group, which is led by former Rep. Bill Brewster (D-Okla.), was hired by Swiss-based Transocean less than three weeks after the April 20 explosion. Since then, the firm has lobbied on energy legislation, mobile drilling units and offshore drilling, according to its second-quarter lobbying report filed this week with Congress.

Unlike BP, Transocean did not have a major lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., prior to the spill. But in contracting with Capitol Hill Consulting, the drilling company has tapped veteran Congressional denizens, including Brewster, who helped found the Blue Dog Coalition and the Congressional Oil and Gas Forum, and Jack Victory, a former energy adviser to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Also working on the account is David Jory, the firm’s president; John Blount, a senior vice president; and lobbyist Amanda Hill.

Transocean President Steven Newman testified before numerous Congressional committees in the months covered by this latest lobbying disclosure report. BP officials blamed Transocean for problems on the rig, which BP said included a blowout preventer that failed to operate properly.

In his written testimony, Newman however, stated that the blowout preventer was not the major culprit since the drilling had been completed at the time of the explosion. Furthermore, the company president noted that BP was the general contractor in charge of all activities on the rig.

Capitol Hill Consulting Group did not respond to requests for comment on its lobbying for Transocean.

Since the explosion, numerous groups and companies, many of them not directly related to the oil and gas industry, have been lobbying Congress and the White House on the issue, according to other second-quarter lobbying reports.

The American Society of News Editors, through the law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, has pressed the administration for better access to data related to the leak.

A number of media and open-government groups sent a May 26 letter to President Barack Obama seeking better access. Kevin Goldberg, who works for the law firm, said the White House has not responded to the letter. But he said the point of the letter was to grab the attention not only of the White House and lawmakers but the general public and the newspaper group membership about access issues.

Other groups also have specific interests related to the spill. This week, Broydrick & Associates reported it had taken on the client National Catastrophe Adjusters in an effort to win a contract assisting with disaster compensation for those affected by the Gulf spill.

The Intellectual Property Owners Association is concerned trade secrets that might be divulged if legislation is approved that requires public disclosure of environmental cleanup plans.

Meanwhile, Holland & Knight disclosed that it lobbied on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute regarding the oil spill’s impact on seafood.

Even though a number of companies are hiring new firms to assist them on spill-related issues, BP recently dropped the law firm Arnold & Porter, according to a termination report filed with Congress on May 18. The report said the firm spent less than $5,000 on the BP account in the second quarter on issues related to energy, oil and gas legislation.

Matthew LaRocco, senior legislative and policy adviser with Arnold & Porter, who is listed as contact person on the lobbying form, could not be reached immediately for comment.