U.S. politicos are sure going to miss tone-deaf-to-PR British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward as he shuffles off to Moscow Oct. 1 for his next great adventure, replaced at the helm by good ole boy Bob Dudley.
Exhibit A is New Jersey Sen. Bobby Menendez. The Democrat has demanded that Hayward testify at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday about whether BP used its influence to gain the early release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish jail.
Note to Bobby: of course, it did. That's what lobbying is all about.
Knowing that a prison transfer deal was in the works back in 2007, BP would have been grossly negligent to ignore any future opportunities available in Libya. It's what American companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum did when their executives genuflected before Col. Qaddafi -- presiding in his Bedouin tent -- after President George W. Bush removed sanctions on Libya.
BP today told Menendez to buzz off. It is sending a pitch hitter for Hayward -- U.K. head Peter Mather -- to the hearings.
The British government provided Menendez and fellow Democrats its answer last month. Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote a July 22 letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), saying there were several discussions between BP and the former British administration of Gordon Brown in 2007 when the transfer deal was being negotiated and BP was angling for an exploration deal in Libya.
"This was a perfectly normal and legitimate practice for a British company," wrote Hague. "It is the sort of exchange which occurs regularly around the world, and one that certainly did occur between a range of companies with interests in Libya and their national governments during that period."
Scottish authorities released convicted bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009. He was expected to be dead from cancer by now. In the U.S. this month, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, called the release a "bad decision," but he hasnít seen any information to suggest the Scottish government was swayed by BP.
Menendez wants Scotland to release documents relating to BP's "negotiations for or interest in oil exploration in Libya." He got an answer from Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday: There are no documents because BP didnít have a role in al-Megrahi's let-go.
Stop grandstanding, Bobby. There's a lot of work left in the Gulf for BP to do.
Speaking of grandstanding, U.S. Travel Association chief Roger Dow demanded on July 22 that BP fork over another $500M for PR to tell Americans that oil isnít washing over the beaches in the Gulf.
The $25M that BP initially coughed up for marketing PR is gone. Dow fears that unless BP comes up with the cash, the perception that Gulf beaches are soiled with oil will linger over the next couple of years.
Nice try. Itís a pipe dream to think BP will go on reminding the world via advertising/PR that it is responsible for one of the biggest environmental disasters to hit the U.S.