Oil Spill Centerpiece of Campaign Against Rep. John Mica

Rep. John Mica
Rep. John Mica has been an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration's response to the oil spill.
TAMPA (2010-6-8) -

The issue of oil drilling is popping up in Congressional races across Florida, especially the one involving long-time drilling supporter Congressman John Mica. His long-shot opponent is making oil drilling a centerpiece of her campaign.

It’s no news that John Mica is a big supporter of the oil industry – and they support him right back.

He’s received more only from oil and gas interests than anyone else in Florida’s Congressional delegation: more than $100,000 since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

His brother David is executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, and his daughter’s public relations firm did some work for the oil and gas industry.

It’s not really been an issue for the 18 years Mica’s represented Florida’s seventh district, which stretches from Winter Park and St. Augustine.

But his challenger this year, non-profit director Heather Beaven, is putting Mica’s oil and gas ties front-and-center in her campaign.

She thinks oil drilling is the magic bullet that will allow her, a Democrat, to put herself out there as the anti-establishment candidate a Tea Partier just might vote for.

“It’s a character issue. It’s an integrity issue. When a large portion of your family relies on a particular industry, and when a large chunk of your campaign war chest comes from a particular industry then you have a conflict of interest,” she said.

Beaven also is accusing Mica of hypocrisy. He’s taken the lead in blaming the oil spill on President Obama. Mica’s campaign did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment, but he spoke about it at a recent Congressional hearing:

“I don’t want to point fingers, but I just want to review the process and what’s taken place, and what didn’t take place,” Mica said.

“All of the actions to ensure that safety measures were put in place have to be attributed to the Obama Administration. What I’ve done is outline…I call this the 'Obama Oil Spill Timeline.'"

Mica says the oil spill in Obama’s fault, and not President Bush’s, because the Interior Department approved BP’s drilling plan on April 6, 2009 – two-and-a-half months after he took office.

Later in the same hearing, he criticized Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“I see in today’s headlines, ‘Salazar says regulatory oversight of industry is lax.’ He said it would be premature to say watchdogs underestimated the risk. I don’t know what planet he’s on, but we’ve had these warnings for some time,” Mica said.

Beaven points out Mica’s earlier opposition to regulation, such as his 2008 speech against giving the Coast Guard new powers to guard against natural gas explosions in ports.

“Gas prices are soaring, people are seeing natural gas prices reach record levels, we’re creating more red tape, more impediments, setting up another regime in which we will limit our supply and actually create more impediments toward getting the supply so costs can go down,” Mica said in 2008.

Beaven says Mica has fought increased safety regulations for workers, too.

“When you have taken every law enforcement tool away from an agency, and then you turn around and say it’s their fault, that is hypocrisy at its finest,” she said.

She also points to other instances where Mica voted for reductions in certain parts of the Coast Guard budget – but this belies the fact Mica has been a vocal opponent of Obama’s proposed cuts to the Coast Guard long before the spill.

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