You’d rarely know it from the headlines, but rip-offs of taxpayers and Indian tribes have for decades been business-as-usual at the Department of the Interior’s various divisions, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Bureau of Land Management to the Minerals Management Service. Today, the Department’s Inspector General released three reports – two years in the making – that added something to this story of plunder certain to break through into popular consciousness: sex and drugs.
Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, gets a good deal of the credit for pressing this investigation forward in the first place.
The IG, Earl E. Devaney, told Congress that the Interior Department’s Royalty in Kind program was bathed in "a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity," with 13 bureaucrats, including the former director of the program, Gregory W. Smith, violating ethics rules by accepting gifts from oil executives, having sex with them, rigging contracts, or engaging in other financial dealings that benefited them and the companies at the expense of the taxpayers.
Devaney recommended that several RiK officials who took gifts from the oil companies be fired or banned for life from certain positions. Several have already been transferred but still have government jobs, his report said.
We haven’t yet seen every lurid detail, but Charlie Savage at The New York Times reports:
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 IG found that Smith allegedly took money from a company in exchange for urging other companies to hire its services and engaged in sex with two subordinates, and that subordinates engaged in sex with oil execs.
We always knew government officials were in bed with oil companies, but did they have to take it so literally?
And to top it all off with yet another round of the same old, same old: While some of the agency’s bureaucrats lower down the bribery chain have already been prosecuted or still face prosecution over these matters, two of the highest-ranking officials will go unpunished. They retired during Devaney’s probe, which means, of course, they can’t be sanctioned administratively. And the Cheney-Bush Justice Department with its coterie of hand-picked Rovian ideologues, has chosen not to take them to court.
Ahhhhh. Nice to know what good hands we're in at the Interior Department, the officials who will be unleashed to grant new leases to oil-and-gas companies as soon as the ban on most new off-shore drilling expires on September 30 if the Republicans have their way.
(hat-tip to Over the Edge)