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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 21, 201012:00 PM EST

Meek wants more BP ad money, Atwater wants spending plan


by Keith Laing

The News Service of Florida


A pair of statewide candidates said Thursday that BP should pony up more than the $25 million the company promised to pay for spreading the word that Florida’s beaches have been unharmed so far by the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and that the state should be more specific about how all the money coming from BP will be spent.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek said that the $25 million, which BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward announced this week after meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist, was a “drop in the bucket.” He said on a conference call with reporters Thursday that BP should kick in at least $100 million, which Meek argued was only half of the revenue the company generates in a day.

“While I applaud your company’s promise to make $25 million available to promote Florida tourism, it simply is not enough,” Meek wrote in a letter to Hayward.

“I am writing to request that you pledge an additional $75 million - the amount of money required by conservative estimates to run an adequate domestic and international marketing campaign. This type of ad campaign will cost at least $8 million a week. Over 12 weeks, it will cost the state at least $100 million.”

The company has not responded publicly to Meek’s request.

Meanwhile, Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), who is the leading Republican candidate for chief financial officer, said Gov. Charlie Crist should make it very clear how the state will spend all the money it gets from BP to deal with the spill, including an initial $25 million the company pledged.

“I would respectfully urge your office to share with the citizens of this state exactly how these funds are to be transmitted to and received by the state, how they will be spent, who will drive the process of distribution, how decisions on deployment will be made and who will be asked to participate in that decision making,” Atwater said in a letter to Crist Thursday afternoon.

“It would be helpful to have one person designated to make timely decisions, and a central repository of data which would be made available to the residents of this state,” Atwater continued.

“We should be able to track these funds and identify the accountable parties, as well as determine what, if any, responsibilities various parties throughout the state may be asked to assume.”

The state’s tourism agency, Visit Florida, said this week it will launch its own $2.5 million ad campaign, with commercials airing in markets within driving distance of the Panhandle beaches, Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Houston.

Meanwhile, Crist on Thursday extended the state of emergency because of the threat of oil damage to Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties in Southwest Florida, and Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in South Florida.

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