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Washington PR firms cashing in on BP spill

By Garance Franke-Ruta

As the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf continues, beleaguered international oil firm BP is beefing up its communications apparatus and turning to some of Washington's best known lobbyists and public relations pros.

The latest addition: the bipartisan corporate communications firm of Purple Strategies. Helmed by former Bush strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic media consultant Steve McMahon (whom some may recall from his days cutting ads for former Vermont governor Howard Dean), the company is behind BP CEO Tony Hayward's Thursday advertisement seeking to repair the company's image -- and his own -- according to a report in CNN, where Castellanos is also an on-air contributor. BP approached Purple Strategies last week about taking on the work, ABC reports.

Hayward calls the spill a "a tragedy that should never have happened" and apologizes to those affected by it in the Gulf region in the ad (above). "I'm deeply sorry," he says and promises, "We will make this right."

Other Purple Strategies clients have included PhRMA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Also handling public relations for BP in Washington is its long-time firm the Brunswick Group, whose District office is helmed by Hilary Rosen, another CNN contributor.

The Feehery Group, led by John Feehery -- who was for six years chief spokesman for Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and now appears often on CNN -- is also doing work for BP, CNN said.

BP's new head of U.S. media relations has political ties, as well; Anne Womack-Kolton, the 2004 campaign press secretary for Vice President Dick Cheney, stepped into the post Tuesday from her position as a director at Brunswick Group.

As previously reported by The Post, lobbyists doing work for BP include "a Who's Who of the profession, from Democratic powerhouse Tony Podesta to former Reagan aide Kenneth Duberstein."

By Garance Franke-Ruta  |  June 4, 2010; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: In weekly address, Obama offers empathy for Gulf Coast


Where is the outrage? The outrage is directed at the President of the United States from people who don't like him no matter what he says or does. The outrage from day one has been towards President Obama even when most Americans know that this had nothing to do with the President. People immediately gave cover to BP and they continue to do so by continuing to vilify President Obama and making this all about Obama. The media is guilty by perpetuating the outrage against the President.

Isn't it interesting that people have been vilifying President Obama because of his outrage that BP is spending millions with commercials talking about how great BP is? Read the blogs. Read the comments from people blaming the President and vilifying everything he says or does regarding the oil spill. Notice what is missing? Nothing being said about BP and what they have done or haven't done. Yep, where exactly is the outrage?

Posted by: catmomtx | June 5, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Just because BP, in its rush for profits, by pushing forward with risky drilling, unfortunately cost the lives of 11 human beings, and created the worst enviromental catastophe in the nation's history. That BP, to save costs, as keeping the rig any longer in its present location was over budget, has potentially destroyed the livlyhoods of thousands of people. That because the project was already weeks beyond schedule, and was threatening the completion of another drilling project before hurricane season, BP inadvertantly destroyed much of the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico and possibly beyond. None of this has anything to do with the quality of the people in charge at BP, nor does it accurately reflect the value that BP truly represents to humankind. BP must hire these people to help the public to see this sometimes not so obvious truth.

Posted by: jmdziuban1 | June 4, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Where is the outrage that no one will represent all the fisherman, restaurant and tourist business in the gulf who will be devastated by this failure of a business? I hope these PR people rot in hell. Even with a Democratic administration bug business wins and Main Street gets screwed. We are as corrupt a country as Russia and China.

Posted by: enelson52 | June 4, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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