Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love Among the Ruiners

WaPo, the New York Times, the AP, and most especially the Denver Post, which was onto the story a month ago, this afternoon are full of the news that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Interior has issued three comprehensive reports detailing how oil company executives and top-level employees of the agency supposedly regulating them -- Mineral Management Services (MMS) -- screwed each other, literally, while screwing the public.

Pensacola area residents will recognize MMS as the agency that recommended granting near-shore oil and gas drilling leases off Pensacola Beach to Chevron and other major oil companies several years ago. Only Congress now stands in the way of those leases becoming operative.

"Wide Ranging Ethics Scandal Emerges at Interior Dept." reads the headline at the New York Times. "Gov't Officials Probed About Illicit Sex, Gifts," headlines the right-of-center Washington Post. "Drill, Baby, Drill" mocks Duncan Black at Eschaton. "Sex, Drugs, Energy Deals Probed at Denver Interior Office," adds the Denver Post.

Even the most lurid headlines cannot come close to matching the seamy, grotesque, self-dealing, and criminal misbehavior detailed over nearly 100 pages in Inspector General Earl Devaney's three full reports, available here ... here... and here. [pdf files]. As a cover letter from the Inspector General puts it --
The single-most serious problem our investigations revealed is a pervasive culture of exclusivity, exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the Federal Government.
So, too, apparently does Chevron Oil Company share in that opinion that it's above the law. The Inspector General's reports repeatedly state that Chevron refused to cooperate with any aspect of the investigation.

Charlie Savage at the Times has a helpful overview of the latest scandal in the Bush administration:
[T]he Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” besets the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.

* * *

[T]he report alleges that eight royalty-program officials accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski and paintball outings; meals and drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game and a Colorado Rockies baseball game.

The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

The investigation separately found that the program’s manager mixed official and personal business, and took money from a technical services firm in exchange for urging oil companies to hire the firm. In sometimes lurid detail, the report accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine.

One MMS official already has pleaded guilty to felony charges and is scheduled for sentencing in November. Devaney's report also recommends criminal charges be brought against another MMS official who left to join a start-up company he favored while still employed by the Interior Department. Several others may be fired and banned from similar positions for life.

But does this sound familiar?
[T]wo of the highest-ranking officials who were targets of the investigations will apparently escape sanction. Both retired during the investigation, rendering them safe from any administrative punishment, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them on the charges suggested by the inspector general. [emphasis added]

Shades of Abu Grahib, Gitmo, Cheney, and George W. Bush. It is a hallmark of this administration that the higher the executive, the more likely he is to escape any accountability.

And now Northwest Florida's only congressman, Jeff Miller, wants to remove the congressional ban on drilling and give the go-ahead to drill off Pensacola Beach to this agency and Chevron Oil Co.?

It's no secret who Miller is planning to screw. Look in the mirror.

1 comment:

panicbean said...

Watch this movie trailer for I.O.U.S.A., which balloon juice has a post up about, and if you aren't already crying, you will be.

This country is in the proverbial hand basket, and these neocons could care less.