Bill McCollum, Florida’s Republican attorney general, excluded from meeting with Eric Holder on oil spill

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Gulf Coast state attorneys general on Tuesday in New Orleans about the oil spill’s long-term effects and ongoing cleanup efforts, he left Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican, off the invitee list.

Attorneys General from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were invited to meet in person with Holder in New Orleans and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott participated in the meeting via teleconference.

McCollum wasn’t too happy about Holder’s lack of hospitality. The move, though no authority has publicly stated it, looks like an Obama administration political ploy to keep a top Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate out of the spotlight.

The Florida attorney general said he thinks it’s “concerning” that Holder didn’t include the State of Florida in the meeting.

“The administration has not demonstrated clear competence in responding to this unprecedented environmental disaster since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010,” McCollum said in a statement after having been excluded from the meeting.

Representatives in McCollum’s offices in Tallahassee, Fla., said they didn’t even know about the meeting until a reporter contacted Florida attorney general spokeswoman Sandi Copes about the conference the night before.

Holder said he plans to hold several meetings with all the states affected by the oil spill, but that the meeting Tuesday was intended only for those states immediately feeling the impact.

In a statement on June 1, Holder said:

“This afternoon, our team from Washington met with attorneys general and U.S. attorneys for the states and districts whose coastlines and citizens have been impacted by this disaster to discuss how we can work together to respond to this tragic spill.”

“Yesterday’s trip was the first in a series of meetings we will be holding,” said DOJ spokeswoman Hannah August. “We held this meeting with officials from states most immediately affected, and recognizing the risk to Florida, we have reached out to Attorney General McCollum to schedule subsequent meetings.”

Florida has been immediately affected by this disaster, though, Copes said, which is why she doesn’t understand why the Department of Justice would exclude McCollum from the meeting.

Copes said Florida’s Department of Emergency Management and Department of Environmental Protection have handled several claims for reimbursement or damages and expects more in the near future.

“To our knowledge, BP has paid every claim from Florida that has been presented at this point,” Copes said. “However, we have not yet ruled out any options for pursuing relief for the State of Florida and its citizens.”


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The Florida attorney general, who’s also an active GOP candidate for governor of the state, has spoken out against the Obama administration from the early stages of the spill, asking for Obama and Holder to ensure BP, Transocean Holdings and Halliburton, the companies responsible for the spill, repay Floridians any and all reasonable claims for reimbursement.

The five Gulf Coast states’ attorneys general banded together in a bipartisan effort to keep the oil companies and federal government in check in regards to repayments in early May with the “Gulf Coast Coalition.” Of the five attorneys general in the group, McCollum is the only one actively running for a higher office.

McCollum hasn’t just clashed with the Obama administration on how to handle the oil spill cleanup and recovery efforts; he’s one of several attorneys general suing the federal government over Obama’s Health Care Reform.

U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist, on the other hand, is basking in the publicity he’s been able to scrounge up from the oil spill’s national attention. Last week, Crist, who recently left the GOP to run against Republican Marco Rubio and either Kendrick Meek or Jeff Greene, both Democrats, as an independent, stood beside Obama at a press conference in Louisiana as the other Gulf State governors drifted away.

Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Burgos said Crist has gone to extreme lengths to politicize the Gulf oil spill issue, and has once again changed his position on offshore drilling to not support it.

“Of greater concern is [Crist’s] use of a very serious emergency as a political stunt in some respects,” Burgos said. Crist “has been criticized by many for politicizing this issue [the oil spill]. He’s willing to say and do anything to win an election.”