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The Associated Press June 18, 2010, 10:59AM ET

Paul: Big oil deserves profit, must obey rules

Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul defended the oil industry's right to reap profits, but the conservative Republican somewhat tempered his support Thursday evening with a call for the industry to show responsibility and "obey some rules."

Speaking at an event sponsored by an oil and gas group, the libertarian-leaning Paul said he still doesn't like the Obama administration's tone toward BP, but said the oil giant should pay to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"We need to find out what happened, we need to investigate it, rationally and reasonably, and try to fix it so it doesn't happen again," Paul said.

"But I don't like the idea of vilifying people. ... If you're the president of the United States, you can talk a business out of business simply by talking down their stock. I don't think that's good."

Before his speech, Paul declined to comment when asked by a reporter to respond to Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton's remarks that the White House conducted a "$20 billion shakedown" by requiring BP to establish a compensation fund for those harmed by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Earlier in the campaign, Paul made headlines by accusing the Obama administration of sounding "un-American" in its criticism of BP, the company responsible for the deep well and offshore rig that exploded April 20, spewing massive amounts of oil.

Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, received a warm reception from the oil and gas group. His Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, did not attend due to a scheduling conflict, his spokeswoman said.

In his speech, Paul criticized administration comments toward BP, especially remarks by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who told CNN last month: "Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum."

"I don't like the idea of judging people before they're found guilty," Paul said. "I also don't think it's good for the cleanup effort to try to put BP out of business. I want BP to pay for it.

"I'm all for BP making profit and I'm all for you making profit. But you recognize ... that you have responsibilities, too. There was an accident, there are responsibilities. I think BP recognizes that."

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