Updated 4:12 p.m.
BP America is revising its lobbying spending for 2010, filing disclosure documents that cut the company's advocacy tab nearly in half for the first quarter and reflect a second-quarter bill far lower than what the company spent in any quarter last year.
An amended report filed yesterday drops BP's spending from $3.53 million to $1.6 million for the first quarter of the year. BP's second-quarter report, also filed yesterday, shows $1.72 million in spending.
But BP spent nearly $16 million lobbying the federal government in 2009, and has reported spending less than $4 million lobbying in the first half of 2010. That means the company in the center of the Gulf oil spill is now on track to spend roughly half the amount lobbying the federal government it did last year.
BP spokesman Scott Dean said in an e-mail that the changes are due to a shift in the way one of its major trade associations, the American Petroleum Institute, provides the amount of member companies' dues attributable to lobbying. Dean said the trade association had previously calculated the dues amount using Internal Revenue Service definitions, but in 2010, began providing the Lobbying Disclosure Act number.
Trade associations can report using either method, and the one they use can make a big difference (see an earlier BLT post on this here). The change by API "has resulted in a substantial reduction of BP's reportable lobbying expenditures," Dean wrote in an e-mail.
A spokesman for API said the trade association has always offered members both the IRS number and the LDA number. Other major oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell Oil, have not amended their first quarter 2010 reports, though API's website lists them as members.
Kenneth Gross, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and the head of the political law group, said trade associations must provide the number for tax purposes, and associations that calculate their spending using the LDA method are in a position to provide both numbers, giving members the options of choosing which one to use.
"I'm sure there was a lot of sensitivity to the number they were putting out, and if there were a way to legally make it less, they would take advantage of that," he said.
BP's second-quarter lobbying disclosure report shows that the company lobbied on "issues related to the Gulf of Mexico incident," a reference to the spill that began in April. The company also spent more on some outside firms than it did in the first quarter. Podesta Group reported receiving $120,000 from BP in the second quarter, double the $60,000 the lobbying firm reported receiving in the first quarter. BP also paid $30,000 to the Eris Group, which registered to represent the energy company last month.