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In Good Conscience

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However questionable its behavior, BP is entitled to have its side of the Gulf spill story heard, including what it believes to be the scope of its liability.

That being said -- it is one thing if the former public servants turned high powered Washington lobbyists recently hired by BP work to make certain the company is not unfairly penalized for the damage inflicted on the Gulf region.

It's quite another if the lobbyists are expected to find loopholes that would allow BP to escape paying the full compensation due to the injured parties. Unfortunately, given Washington's lobbying culture, the odds favor the second alternative being the one actually in play.

You have to figure that for the money BP is showering on these influence brokers, the chances are that the company wants them to find ways to lowball its liability rather make sure it does not have to pay a penny more than the maximum officially assessed amount of reparations.

What could be more unconscionable for any lobbyist than to succeed in shortchanging beleaguered fellow Americans who in many instances might be on the verge of ruin because of the massive BP oil spill? If they have a conscience, the BP lobbyists who once served in government should find it especially hard to sleep at night were they ever to deny full compensation to the very citizens whose welfare was once their professional concern.

Of course, no lobbyists are admitting they are engaged directly in BP damage control. If they comment at all, it is to say they have been recruited to obtain information on the spill situation for BP, not get the company off the hook.

Is that explanation a cover-up for selling one's soul for big bucks? A rationalization for a guilty conscience? The real truth? We shall find out from BP's conduct in the ensuing months whether former public servants turned lobbyists, Democrats and Republicans alike, are information gatherers or rip-off artists.

Among the 29 out of 43 individuals with government backgrounds who are representing BP in various capacities are Hillary Rosen (handling public relations), a former assistant to Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. and Jamie Gorelick (legal consultant) who served in President Clinton's Justice Department. The Republicans include Ken Duberstein who was President Reagan's chief of staff and former Bush official Daniel Meyer.

Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and the author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, due for release at the end of the summer.

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