Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Way to Run a Government

It has long been apparent that many members of the Bush administration have been figuratively in bed with the oil industry. The administration has long resisted acknowledging the threat of climate change. They have tried to open the Arctic NWR to drilling repeatedly. Most recently, Dick Cheney's potential successor is trying to reverse the polar bear's listing as an endangered species in order to drill as much as possible. In addition, there has been widespread interference with government scientific findings and corruption in the Interior Department.

What we did not know is that some members are literally in bed with the oil industry.

In one of the new reports, investigators conclude that a key supervisor at the agency’s minerals revenue management office worked together with two aides to steer a lucrative consulting contract to one of the aides after he retired, violating competitive procurement rules.

Two other reports focus on “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” and unethical behavior in the service’s royalty-in-kind program. That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in the form of oil and gas rather than cash royalties.

Modeled on a private-sector energy company, the decade-old royalty-in-kind program transports, processes and resells the oil and gas on the open market. But while its officials interact with energy company executives, they are subject to government ethics rules, such as restrictions on taking gifts from sources with whom they conduct official business.

One of the reports says that the officials viewed themselves as exempt from those limits, indulging themselves in the expense-account-fueled world of oil and gas executives.

In addition, the 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.
With officials behaving in this manner, it is no wonder that the administration has acted so favorably towards oil and gas interests.