Monday, 5 July 2010

Blog Award Sponsor Linked to BP's Spin Machine

At this time of the year, a number of bloggers begin lobbying their readers to vote in an annual award poll organised by the 'Westminster bubble' magazine Total Politics, hoping for a listing in one of the 'Top 100' categories and the chance to provide the magazine with some free advertising.

But how many of them have ever wondered about the poll's sponsor, which for another year is a company called APCO Worldwide?

APCO is a US lobbying company with extensive links inside the Washington establishment: its international advisory board includes former US senators, ambassadors and insiders like Reagan's chief foreign policy advisor Richard Allen and Anita McBride, former assistant to President Bush. Its clients include a number of the usual multinational companies, particularly in pharmaceuticals, alongside government contracts, but in June one of APCO's Vice Presidents, Anne Womack-Kolton, took on a rather tougher challenge - running media relations for BP.

As Think Progress reported:

Under threat of receivership and criminal investigation for its destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, foreign oil giant BP has hired a former top aide for Vice President Dick Cheney to be their new spokeswoman. Anne Womack-Kolton has been hired to be “head of U.S. media relations.” A rising star in the Bush-Cheney White House since the 2000 campaign, Womack-Kolton served as Cheney’s press secretary during the 2004 election before running public affairs in the Bush Department of Energy:

Another story in June, this time in the Wall Street Journal, reported that another of APCO's clients is Kyrgyzstan's Asia Universal Bank (AUB), which was run by the son of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is accused of inciting ethnic violence against the country's Uzbeks. Maksim Bakiyev now faces charges of "abuse of office, misuse of government funds and money laundering". Earlier this year, the chairman of APCO Worldwide’s government relations team, former Democratic Senator Donald W. Riegle, joined AUB's board. On 7 April 2010, as the Bakiyev government fell, AUB officials approved international wire transfers purportedly for the bank's clients totalling about $170 million, or more than 10% of the country's banking assets. Kyrgyzstan's new leaders and its central bank believe a sizeable portion of this money is the plundered wealth of President Bakiyev and his inner circle.

None of this will matter, of course, to the right-wingers who make up the majority of Total Politics' readership and blog award voters. But I can't help wondering how many left-wing or Green bloggers will be prepared to simply overlook the blog awards sponsor, knowing about APCO's links to BP and the company's enrichment by dubious central Asian governments?

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