WASHINGTON – More than 40 lawmakers this week called for BP to suspend its dividend, stop its advertising and spend the money instead cleaning up its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Not a single cent” should be spent on television ads, said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., at Wednesday’s news conference in Washington. “If BP is so concerned about its public image, it should plug the hole.”

The lawmakers said they were concerned that London-based BP may pay dividends before the full cost is known for cleaning up the continuing spill and compensating affected businesses and individuals along the Gulf coast. A dividend moratorium would hit BP shareholders.

Capps and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., were among more than 40 lawmakers who signed a letter to BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward asking the company to suspend dividends. Democratic senators such as Charles Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon had called earlier for the dividend to be halted.

“Let’s keep the money there” in the Gulf, Welch said Wednesday. “This is no time to divert resources from the job at hand.”

Hayward and Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in a June 4 conference call that the decision on whether to maintain the 14-cents-a-share quarterly dividend for the second quarter will be made on July 27. If they keep the same dividend this year as in 2009, the dividend yield, or ratio of payout to share price, is more than 10 percent, the highest among 18 peers according to Bloomberg data.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $3.36 trillion in assets, was the biggest holder of BP shares, with 5.92 percent as of Dec. 31, according to Bloomberg data drawn from regulatory filings.

Legal & General Group, the British insurer and money manager, ranks second with 4 percent as of May 4. It managed $480 billion as of March 31.

Sovereign wealth funds are among BP’s largest shareholders. Norges Bank Investment Management, which oversees Norway’s state fund, held 1.8 percent as of May 1. Kuwait Investment Authority owned 1.8 percent and the Republic of China held 1.1 percent, both as of May 1.

Geographically, U.S. investors are the biggest holders in BP, according to Junction RDS, a London-based shareholder research firm. They held 9.4 percent through BP’s London-listed shares and an additional 28 percent via New York-listed American depositary receipts as of May 1. British investors came next with 31 percent.