Top Florida Democrat upset with Obama as tar washes up on Panhandle beaches

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink received mixed messages from the White House following a letter she sent to President Obama on May 24 asking him to step in and enforce BP’s promises to repay small businesses and residents feeling the effects of the oil spill.

Sink, who’s also the frontrunner Democrat for Florida’s upcoming gubernatorial elections, said, through campaign spokesperson Kyra Jennings, that she’s upset Florida hasn’t received the full attention of the Obama administration.

“She [Sink] thinks Florida businesses have to be at the forefront of the [Obama] administration’s concern,” Jennings said.

In the letter to Obama, Sink asked him why the federal government isn’t handling small business claims. She said small business owners shouldn’t have to look for lost income and revenue from BP.

“CFO Sink recommended that the federal government handle those claims to make it easier for Floridians,” CFO spokesperson Jayme O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said the White House has been receptive to the CFO’s requests, though none of them have been fulfilled yet – nor is there a timeline for their implementation.

“The White House agrees with us that something better has to be done,” she said.

But that’s about it. The White House hasn’t stepped in or enforced anything in Florida yet.

Also, in the May 24 letter, Sink asked the Obama administration to take over plugging the leaks as BP has been trying for more than a month.

“I ask you, for the good of the entire region, to take over the process to stop the leak,” Sink wrote in her letter to Obama.

Sink said Floridians are tired of the games and the misleading statements.

“I have said this crisis would have the same effect as a Category 5 hurricane hitting our state,” she said. “Floridians want to know: Where is the federal government’s leadership?”

Frustrated with the lack of response from the administration, Sink demanded on Thursday that BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward come before the Florida cabinet’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday to explain his plan to protect the state’s economy and environment.

Though the tar balls only started washing up on the Florida Panhandle beaches today, the tourism and fishing industries have been hurting since the first days of the spill more than a month ago.

In a letter to Hayward, Sink wrote:

“The people of Florida have lost their patience and so have I … And yes, I can understand that you ‘want your life back,’ I assure you that all of us along the Gulf Coast who have had our livelihoods and our lives disrupted by this disaster want our lives back!”

Florida Democratic Party Communications director Eric Jotkoff said BP’s latest advertisements featuring Hayward saying he “wants his life back,” insulted Floridians.

“All people in Florida are frustrated with BP’s misleading us [from the beginning of the spill],” Jotkoff said. “We want our state back. We want our beaches and our way of life back.”

Sink said that, though BP is responding to most small business claims in Florida, the oil giant isn’t giving them enough money to survive.

“They need to start writing big checks instead of small stipends,” CFO spokesman Kevin Cate said. “Clearly, not enough is being done to take care of our citizens.”

Cate said the CFO hasn’t heard back from Hayward yet, but recommends he show up in Tallahassee on Tuesday.

“If he knows what’s good for him, he will,” Cate said.

BP wouldn’t comment specifically on Sink’s demands of Hayward, but said:

“Tony Hayward has been in the U.S. since the start of the incident and has seen many of the affected coastal areas. BP is committed to remaining in the Gulf until the response is completed and beyond.”