Washington (CNN) – The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is spilling onto the television airwaves in the form of political commercials as candidates and interest groups seek to use this economic and environmental disaster to advance their campaigns and causes.
So far, more than $4.3 million has been spent on political TV ads that reference the oil spill caused by the explosion in April of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated on behalf of BP.
The commercials appear in state and congressional races as well as in states where organizations are seeking to pressure U.S. senators to support comprehensive energy reform legislation, according to a new analysis conducted for CNN by Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group.
"In today's media environment, candidates and groups like to leverage major events in the news to try and score political points," said CMAG President Evan Tracey, CNN's consultant on political TV commercials.
While most of the blame has been laid at BP's doorstep, critics are also using the disaster to criticize President Obama for his handling of the spill and the clumsy response by some Republican lawmakers.
In Alabama, the two candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination have aired commercials that specifically target the president. Bradley Byrne charges in his ad that the state's shoreline and "our economy are seriously threatened because of BP and Obama's incompetence."
His opponent, Robert Bentley, is running a commercial showing a picture of Obama with a BP logo in the background. "Standing up to Obama and BP," says a narrator at the close of Bentley's commercial.
Alabama Republicans will choose their gubernatorial nominee in a July 13 runoff after no clear winner emerged in last month's primary.
In Minnesota, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's Democratic opponent Tarryl Clark has a commercial criticizing the congresswoman for appearing to side with BP over the cost of the cleanup.
And when it comes to the battle over public policy, numerous groups comprised of environmental, labor, and other left of center organizations are paying to run commercials in key states to pressure U.S. senators to support a comprehensive energy bill.
Tracey predicted that more oil spill related political commercials will appear in the coming months as we head into the midterm elections.
"It is clear from early advertising that both parties are going to try and use this spill to their advantage," he said.