QOTD on Big Oil and Interior scandal: "Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length."
Look, I'm resisting the temptation to ask what length they can be, mkay? Charlie Savage:
As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the 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.
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.
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.
he report also details cozy relationships between energy companies and other officials in the royalty-in-kind program office.
The report found that 19 officials — about one-third of the program’s staff — accepted gratuities from oil companies, which was prohibited because they conducted official business with the industry. Eight of the 19 accepted gifts that exceeded maximum limits for gifts for government employees — no more than $20 for any one item and no more than $50 from any source per year.
On one occasion in 2002, the report said, two of the officials who marketed taxpayers’ oil got so drunk at a daytime golfing event sponsored by Shell that they could not drive to their hotels and were put up in Shell-provided lodging.
The same two women also “engaged in brief sexual relationships with industry contacts,” the reports’ cover memo said, adding that “sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length.”
I'd say the "Drill now" advocates have got some 'splainin' to do about who they actually want to do the drilling.