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Gulf States Go on Spending Spree With BP Cleanup Money

It looks as if money designated for the BP oil-spill recovery is being used for questionable purposes. MSNBC is reporting that in the year since the Gulf oil spill, officials along the coast have gone on a spending spree with BP money, dropping tens of millions of dollars on gadgets and other gear — much of which had little to do with the cleanup, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The oil giant opened its checkbook while the crisis was still unfolding last spring and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gulf Coast communities with few strings attached. In sleepy Ocean Springs, Miss., reserve police officers got Tasers. The sewer department in nearby Gulfport bought a $300,000 vacuum truck that never sucked up a drop of oil. Biloxi, Miss., bought a dozen SUVS. A parish president in Louisiana got herself a deluxe iPad, her spokesman a $3,100 laptop. And a county in Florida spent $560,000 on rock concerts to promote its oil-free beaches.

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In every case, communities said the new, more powerful equipment was needed to deal at least indirectly with the spill. In many instances, though, the connection between the spill and the expenditures was remote, and lots of money wound up in cities and towns little touched by the goo that washed up on shore, the AP found in records requested from more than 150 communities and dozens of interviews.

Florida's tourism agency sent chunks of a $32 million BP grant as far away as Miami-Dade and Broward counties on the state's east coast, which never saw oil from the disaster. Some officials also lavished lucrative contracts on campaign donors and others. A Florida county commissioner's girlfriend, for instance, opened up a public relations firm a few weeks after the spill and soon landed more than $14,000 of the tiny county's $236,000 cut of BP cash for a month's work.

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Take the needle off of the record. We can't take anymore. This is why you need oversight and a real commitment to recovery. BP is wrong for throwing money at a problem/catastrophe like this with few guidelines. State officials are dead wrong for spending the money on frivolous purchases and hooking up friends and lovers in the process. This is why the people in the Gulf Coast don't stand a chance — not because of the natural disaster, but because of the disastrous ways in which state officials and major corporations operate.

Read more at MSNBC.

In other news: Gerald A. Lawson, Black Video Game Pioneer, Dies.

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