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Did BP Play a Role in Release of Pan Am Bomber?

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The four Democratic senators from New York and New Jersey came out with strong criticism of BP this week for its alleged role in the release from prison of the only person convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland.

The release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was originally part of a prisoner transfer with the Libyan government that BP promoted to protect its $900 million investment in an offshore oil and gas exploration deal off Libya's Mediterranean coast. BP insists it did not lobby U.K. authorities specifically on al-Megrahi's release but the larger prisoner transfer issue.

"If anyone thinks this is a coincidence, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared earlier this week. "If I were a prosecutor, I'd love to take this case to a jury." 

Schumer, along with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) penned a letter to the State Department asking for an investigation of BP's role in al-Megrahi's release. The senators also called for BP to freeze its operations in Libya.

Yet despite the fierce criticism, their offices seemed at a lack of words on whether their boss' would refuse to accept campaign contributions from BP's political action committee or its employees -- or return contributions already received.

Only Afshin Mohamadi, a spokesman for Menendez, told OpenSecrets Blog that Menendez had already parted ways with cash from BP.

According to Mohamadi, Menendez donated $2,000 -- the amount in PAC money Menendez has received since 2007 from BP -- to the American Bird Conservancy.

Representatives of the other senators did not return multiple calls seeking comment for this story. 

The only BP-linked contributions Gillibrand and Schumer have ever received came from one source. Julius Leiman-Carbia, an attorney for BP who resides in Brooklyn and is the head of corporate compliance for the oil giant according to his LinkedIn profile, has given Gillibrand $750 this cycle and gave Schumer $250 last year.

Neither Gillibrand nor Schumer have received money from BP's political action committee. Nor have any BP employees ever contributed to Menendez's coffers. Lautenberg, for his part, has never received any contributions from either BP's PAC or its employees.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) later added their voices by requesting an investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A committee hearing on the issue is now scheduled for July 29.

Al-Megrahi, who doctors claimed would die within months from cancer, was eventually released on humanitarian grounds, not as part of the prison transfer. BP insisted that it lobbied only on the prisoner transfer, not Al-Megrahi individually, and that it had no part in Scottish authorities' decision.


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