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, Mississippi, 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. Town officials in Biloxi bought 14 SUVs and pickup trucks.
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.
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