Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

To the Victor Belong the Oils

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    NEWSLETTERS

    On the same day the Blackhawks paraded the Stanley Cup through downtown Chicago, the Cubs and the White Sox started playing for a much less coveted prize: the BP Crosstown Cup, a three-foot tall brass trophy with a silver overlay, donated by the very same company that’s been spewing millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico.

    As state Rep. John Fritchey put it, “To the victor belong the oils?”

    I don’t imagine the winners will hold a victory parade, or even pose with the trophy at home plate.

    (BP also owns the naming rights to the sinuous bridge in Millennium Park. A flash mob was planning to gather there just after noon, to protest the company. According to the event organizers, about 30 people were expected to show.)

    It’s an uncomfortable time to be taking money from BP, or any oil company. But that hasn’t stopped Rep. Mark Kirk from profiting from his switch from environmentalist to, well, let’s be nice and call it “guy who’s willing to do business.”

    As Progress Illinois reports, Kirk’s change of heart on the cap and trade issue has been followed by a $5,000 donation from Koch Industries, a $1,000 donation from the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and, most recently, $2,000 from ConocoPhillips.

    This despite a boast on his website that “Mark Kirk stood up to Big Oil when he stopped BP from polluting Lake Michigan.”

    Kirk’s embrace by the oil companies has caused an equal and opposite reaction: a rejection by the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. However, Kirk did get the endorsement of one environmental group last week: Republicans for Environmental Protection. Kirk is a longtime favorite of the group, which was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s record of environmental stewardship. REP’s chairman, former Lake County Board member Martha Marks, is a Kirk constituent.

    “Mark Kirk is a proven leader in safeguarding our environment and an outstanding steward of our country’s natural heritage,” REP President Rob Sisson said, citing Kirk’s protection of Lake Michigan, and his efforts to secure funds for cleaning up industrial sites. “Congressman Kirk’s are routinely among the top scores on our environmental scorecard and in 2009 REP was pleased to honor him as the Greenest Republican in Congress.”

    REP doesn’t just greenwash any Republican: it was no friend of George W. Bush. But their endorsement won’t be enough to restore Kirk’s environmental cred.