By Ben Geman - 07/08/10 05:05 PM EDT
Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle on Wednesday called the $20 billion BP escrow account created under White House pressure a “slush fund” – echoing phrasing by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) that Democrats pounced on to cast Republicans as handmaidens of oil companies.
Angle’s comment is sure to provide political ammunition for Democrats seeking to keep the Nevada seat in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is locked in a tight race with her.
Angle, speaking on the Alan Stock Show, agreed with a caller on the radio program that criticized the account for oil spill claims, which BP agreed to create under intense White House pressure and does not manage.
“The short answer is no, government shouldn't be doing that to a private company,” Angle said. “And I think you named it clearly — it's a slush fund.”
Angle attacked BP, alleging the company cut corners and engaged in criminal behavior, and called for better federal oversight. But she then slammed what she called the Obama administration’s overreaction to the oil spill. “Everyone in the petroleum industry shouldn’t be penalized for one bad person’s actions,” she said, alleging “an overreaction by government for not the right reasons.”
“They are actually using this crisis, if you will — because they never waste one, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals — they are using this crisis now to get in cap-and-trade, and every fine and penalty, and slush fund,” Angle said.
Alinsky, author of the book Rules for Radicals, was a pioneering community organizer in Chicago who died in 1972 and has influenced generations of left-leaning grassroots activists.
Angle on Thursday backed off the “slush fund” comment, stating that she “shouldn't have used the term” and that it 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,” she said in a prepared statement.
“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,” Angle added.
But Reid’s campaign had already attacked Angle’s comments.
“The fact that Sharron Angle has sided with BP and says they shouldn’t have to guarantee the funds to cleanup their mess, risking a taxpayer bailout, is just the latest example of the extreme and dangerous agenda she would bring to Washington,” said Reid spokesman Kelly Steele in a prepared statement.
Barton last month used the phrase “slush fund” to describe the BP account when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for what he called a White House “shakedown” of the oil giant. Barton later retracted his apology under heavy pressure from GOP leaders.
But Democrats have nonetheless used Barton’s comments to allege the GOP does not stand up to oil companies. For instance, the Democratic National Committee highlighted them in a recent ad that also featured comments by Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul.
Paul, in May, drew widespread attention when he said President Barack Obama’s criticism of BP “sounds really un-American.”
This post was updated at 1:47 p.m.