WASHINGTON - Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle twice referred to BP's $20 billion victims' compensation program as "a slush fund" and accused Democrats of using the spewing oil well as an excuse to pass energy legislation.
Angle told a Las Vegas radio station on Wednesday that President Barack Obama and the Democrats were taking political advantage of the April 20 explosion on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig to push for a cap-and-trade energy bill that has stalled in Congress. She also said the disaster that sent gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico occurred because BP "cut corners" and seemed to suggest the Environmental Protection Agency is to blame.
Appearing on KXNT, Angle agreed with a caller who said Obama strong-armed BP executives to set up the fund after the April rig explosion.
"Government shouldn't be doing that to a private company and I think you named it clearly, it's a slush fund," Angle said.
Angle attempted to walk back the comments in a statement on Thursday:
"Having had some time to think about it, the caller and I shouldn't have used the term slush fund; that was incorrect.
"My position is that the creation of this fund to compensate victims was an important first step -- BP caused this disaster and they should pay for it. But there are multiple parties at fault here and there should be a thorough investigation. We need to look into the actions, or inactions, of the Administration and why the regulatory agency in charge of oversight was asleep at the wheel while BP was cutting corners. Every party involved should be held fully accountable."
Obama met with BP executives at the White House last month and emerged from the meeting with a $20 billion commitment from the company to pay fishermen whose businesses were affected and to clean up the Gulf.
BP publicly backed the plan.
"From the outset, we have said that we fully accepted our obligations as a responsible party. This agreement reaffirms our commitment to do the right thing," BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward said when announcing the plan.
Angle also said the entire industry shouldn't have to pay for the spill. Only BP is funding the victims' fund.
"Everyone in the petroleum industry shouldn't be penalized for one bad person's actions. It would be like throwing us all in prison because one person committed murder. And that's exactly what's going on here," she said. "It's an overreaction by government for not the right reasons. They're actually using this crisis ... to get in cap and trade and every fine and penalty and slush fund, like you said."
Angle, a former state lawmaker, seemed to suggest the oil industry was regulated by the EPA. Offshore drilling, however, was overseen by the Minerals Management Service, a part of the Interior Department.
"The problem with even the EPA is that it's all about money. It's a taxing, fining agency. What we really needed was a management agency," said Angle, who is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Plum Line's Greg Sargent first reported Angle's BP comments.
Listen to audio of Angle's comments: