WASHINGTON (AP) — Staff members at an agency that oversees offshore drilling accepted tickets to sports events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography, according to an Interior Department report alleging a culture of cronyism between regulators and the industry.
The report began as a routine investigation, the acting inspector general, Mary Kendall, said in a cover letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose department includes the agency.
“Unfortunately, given the events of April 20 of this year, this report had become anything but routine, and I feel compelled to release it now,” she wrote.
Her biggest concern is the ease with which minerals agency employees move between industry and government, Kendall said. While no specifics were included in the report, “we discovered that the individuals involved in the fraternizing and gift exchange – both government and industry – have often known one another since childhood,” Kendall said.
Their relationships took precedence over their jobs, Kendall said.The report follows a 2008 report by then-Inspector General Earl Devaney that decried a “culture of ethical failure” and conflicts of interest at the minerals agency.
The report covers activities between 2000 and 2008. Salazar said he has asked Kendall to expand her investigation to look into agency actions since he took office in January 2009.
The report said that employees from the Lake Charles, La., MMS office had repeatedly accepted gifts, including hunting and fishing trips from the Island Operating Company, an oil and gas company working on oil platforms regulated by the Interior Department.
Taking such gifts “appears to have been a generally accepted practice,” the report said.
Two employees at the Lake Charles office admitted using illegal drugs, and many inspectors had e-mails that contained inappropriate humor and pornography on their government computers, the report said.
One MMS inspector conducted four inspections of Island Operating platforms while negotiating and later accepting employment with the company, the report said.
Right-wingers are trying to blame the oil spill on Obama, claiming “it’s his Katrina.” This is not Obama’s Katrina. This is Bush’s Katrina: The Sequel.