Friday, September 18, 2009

First Bush Cabinet Member to be Criminally Investigated.

Do you remember the Interior Department Colorado office scandal last September?  Perhaps this will refresh your memory.

GOPHypocrites ...The report says that eight officials in the royalty program 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. In sometimes lurid detail, the report also accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine.

The culture of the organization “appeared to be devoid of both the ethical standards and internal controls sufficient to protect the integrity of this vital revenue-producing program,” one report said...

Inserted from <NY Times>

I remember thinking that Interior was sure a mess and now I know why.

Gale-Norton The Justice Department is investigating whether a former secretary of the interior, Gale A. Norton, violated the law by granting valuable leases to Royal Dutch Shell around the time she was considering going to work for the company after she left office, officials said Thursday.

The officials said investigators had recently turned up information suggesting that Ms. Norton had had discussions while in office with Royal Dutch Shell about future career opportunities. In early 2006, Ms. Norton’s department awarded three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration. In December 2006, she joined Shell as the company’s general counsel in the United States for unconventional oils, a company spokeswoman said.

The existence of a federal criminal investigation was first reported Thursday by The Los Angeles Times.

Ms. Norton, 55, was President George W. Bush’s first interior secretary. In that job, she was an ally of Vice President Dick Cheney in the administration’s general approach of opening up more federal lands for energy exploration.

The possibility that Ms. Norton violated the law by seeking employment with a company while she was a federal official in a position to benefit the company stemmed from an investigation of many months by the Interior Department’s inspector general. The officials who confirmed the investigation did so on the condition of anonymity, citing the custom to decline to speak publicly on criminal investigations in progress.

Kelly C. op de Weegh, a Shell spokeswoman, said: “We are aware of an investigation. However, we are not in a position to comment.”... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Now consider that, if Norton were innocent, it would be a simple thing for Shell to issue a statement that there were no job related negotiations at the time.  This indicates to me that there were.  After their legal department considers the matter, they may yet issue a false denial for fear that Shell officials might be charged, or worse yet from their perspective, those valuable leases could be voided.  One thing is clear.  The officials in the Interior Department who did all that partying weren’t the only ones getting screwed!

However, there is reason to hope matters at Interior will improve.

Interior Dept Ken Salazar knew when he became interior secretary that he was inheriting a department with a reputation for shady behavior and for cozying up to the industries that it is supposed to regulate. On Wednesday, Mr. Salazar took a big step toward creating a more transparent and responsible agency. He announced his intention to kill a scandal-ridden oil and gas royalty program that had cheated taxpayers of millions of dollars through corruption and incompetence.

The target for extinction is the royalty-in-kind program, which is administered by the department’s Minerals Management Service. The service collects about $12 billion a year in royalties from oil and gas production on federal property, onshore and in waters like the Gulf of Mexico. Of this, about half is paid not in cash but in oil and gas, which the government then sells to refiners on the open market or, when necessary, diverts to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Under Mr. Salazar’s plan, the government will henceforth collect all its royalties in cash. This should be more easily administered and more transparent than payment-in-kind, which is vulnerable to manipulation at either end of the transaction. Oil can be overvalued when the government buys it or undervalued when it is sold. A series of reports have found that, for one reason or another — sheer laziness was often a factor — the service had failed to collect many millions of dollars in royalties it was owed under the program... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Removing the thoroughly corrupt Bush/GOP from power is making a difference there already.


the walking man said...

concert tickets, golf outings etc. etc. How cheaply some people will prostitute themselves.

Brother Tim said...

All they're doing is replacing David Copperfield with Chris Angel.

Annette said...

Time will tell, but now that eyes are opened, things should be better. At least we can hope for it.

TomCat said...

Cheap indeed, Mark. I think they were instructed to give the industry whatever the industry wanted and decided to use the situation to have a good time.

Brother, I'm a little thick this morning. I know Copperfield is an author and Angel, a rock star. Your point is...?

Annette, I love your optimism. You have more than I. I hope you are prophetic.

Brother Tim said...

Actually, Copperfield and Angel are both Illusionists. Mind Freak.

TomCat said...

That it was, my friend. You got me on that one!