bp image ads come at taxpayer expense

It’s been nearly a week since the disappointing culmination of the NBA Finals, and, as the dream of a Celtics 18th championship recedes from consciousness, I can finally begin to reflect on the spectator experience of watching this year’s series finale. And surprisingly, what stands out most prominently is the multitude of times BP ran a commercial attempting to convince everyone that they are taking responsibility for the socio-ecological-economic travesty in the Gulf.

As I’ve noted before, the fact that big businesses can write off their immense advertising budgets, while at the same time unfairly influencing our cultural dialogue, seems truly unjust, especially in this time of needed revenue and “corporate personhood.” But this recent BP persuasion campaign is an extra-uncalled-for slap in the face. 

As N.Y. Representative John Hall noted last month in a Transportation Committee hearing with Lamar McKay, BP American President, the $30 million or so that BP spent on image beautification over the past two years is “probably about the same or maybe a little more than the cost of a blowout preventer.” And, of course, the money is tax-deductible (under current laws). Sounds like a win-win situation for BP, and a lose-lose reality for the American Treasury, not to mention the people of the Gulf Coast.

But, of course, there’s more. “Now, BP is seizing our search engine results pages,” reports Blue Traffic (an internet marketing site). For the relatively reasonable (for a big business) price of $10,000 a day, BP is making sure its message shows atop any web searches regarding “BP oil spill disaster,” or any other appropriately incriminating phrases. That’s the kind of power that can be bought with a $14 billion profit (in 2009 alone).

Unfortunately, this is nothing new for a company that has been shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for years now, trying to convince the U.S. and the rest of the world that it is the greenest of energy producers. When the truth is, obviously, anything but.

Like Representative Hall, President Obama has expressed his outrage that BP would spend on advertising so heartily and tax-deduct so heartlessly. Hopefully, this fury will be the first step in eliminating this all-too-legal of systemic tax loopholes that large corporations readily abuse, at taxpayer expense.

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Advertising, Economic Justice, Fair Taxation

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