BP Funded Smarmy Opposition Ads Against Toledo's 'Lake Erie Bill of Rights' Ballot Initiative

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A few weeks before the election in Toledo that eventually made Lake Erie a person, there was much discussion about who was bankrolling those smarmy and scary-sounding radio ads that predicted the evils of the new Lake Erie water monster if the amendment passed. The ads warned a healthier Lake Erie was going to put people out of business and that food would cost too much, with the good people in Lucas County possibly starving to death.

And here was the worst part of these ads: With foreboding music in the background, the narrator said that “outside special interests” were the ones behind pushing this Lake Erie environmental rights mess. Oh, the humanity!

But in the ironies of all ironies, the ones that bankrolled the ads that bemoaned the “outside special interests,” were in fact, “outside special interests.”

In post-election campaign finance filings released last week, it was revealed that nearly all of the smarmy ad funding came from a $302,000 donation from BP Corp. North America, affiliated with Houston-based BP America Inc., the subsidiary of one of the world’s largest oil companies, formerly known as British Petroleum. You know, the one that caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.



BP America’s media affairs director, Michael Abendhoff, said in a prepared statement that BP funded the anti-Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) campaign because it “believes a healthy Lake Erie is important to the region and to our employees who live and work along its shores … That’s why we support the rigorous environmental permitting already in place and strong enforcement of existing laws to help protect this precious natural resource.”

“We opposed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights because it undercuts those existing laws and allows individuals to file lawsuits against businesses that are operating properly under state or federally approved permits,” his statement continued. “While we did not support this specific measure, BP remains committed to working with regional and state elected officials on Lake Erie issues and to a strong permitting process that protects this important resource for generations to come.”

Despite such care for its workers that live and work along the Lake Erie shores, not many paid much attention to the ads, and the LEBOR referendum won by a 61-39 margin on Feb. 26. Julian Mack, a backer of the amendment and a member of Toledoans for Safe Water member, said, “I’m glad the voters of Toledo recognized a lie when they saw it and that they weren’t swayed by money and politics this time. And I think it underlines the nobility of our cause.”

Even the Toledo Blade, which was none too pleased with the amendment from the beginning, had had it with how the opposition hid their BP funding. “Voters should not have been kept in the dark about this outside influence,” the Blade wrote in an op-ed last week, and that the opposition “should have disclosed the involvement of BP at the outset.”

“Local opponents hid in their mahogany-lined boardrooms and let Big Oil carry their water, pun intended.”

One more point: Markie Miller and Crystal Jankowski, both members of the Toledoans for Safe Water organization and originators of the ballot idea, have been asked to address the United Nations in New York on April 22. Good for them.

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