September 16, 2008

Scandal in the Interior

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This past week, a new scandal emerged from the Department of the Interior. Given how lurid the details to the scandal are, it is more than a little surprising that it has not had a more explosive effect, and it is disappointing that there has been little coverage of it on media outlets..

It seems Bush isn’t the only one with an affinity for the white stuff. According to the New York Times, in three reports, Earl Devaney, the inspector general of the Interior Department, found that employees in the Department’s Mineral Managements Services had engaged in some serious debauchery involving sex and drugs fueled by the oil execs’ expense accounts, going so far to say that “a culture of ethical failure” has emerged.

But is it really that unexpected? Considering the past few years under this current administration, most members of the Washington elite could be labeled as morally bankrupt. While our nation’s attention is turned to “PigGate,” let us take a brief trip down memory lane…

* Jack Abramoff: former high-powered lobbyist who in 2006 pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials and struck a deal in exchange for the names of lawmakers he courted with expensive gifts and trips; he was also linked to employees in the Interior Department at the time. He is also thought to have bribed former House majority leader Tom Delay.
* Monica Goodling & former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: Goodling, Gonzales’s counselor,rejected Department of Justice job applicants on the basis of their political views concerning abortion and gay marriage
* Nine attorneys fired from the Department of Justice without any verifiable explanation: This matter is still being investigated by the Justice Department and could potentially lead to criminal charges against some administration officials according to The Huffington Post.
* Leaking Valerie Plame’s identity: Scooter Libby, former Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney, outed CIA Agent Valerie Plame whose identity was supposed to be kept secret in retribution for her husband’s criticism of the Iraq War.
* Former Governor Eliot Spitzer: He was linked to a high-end prostitution ring.

All of these incidents, it could be convincingly argued, showcase a “culture of ethical failure.” After such a myriad of scandals over the years, perhaps it’s not too surprising that we’ve turned a blind eye to the current debacle. It’s just business as usual, as horrifying as that sounds.

Oil administration officials from the department are thought to have cost taxpayers $4.4 million as they engaged in acts of promiscuity and substance abuses with one employee cavorting with two female subordinates and buying coke from one of them. Not to mention that two female employees are alleged to have engaged in sexual relations with a few oil company employees, when regulations clearly state relations are not to go beyond “arms-length.”

The Wall Street Journal states “in a report between 2002 and 2006, 19 employees in the agency’s royalty-in-kind program, roughly a third of the program’s total staff, had “socialized with and had received a wide array of gifts from oil and gas companies with whom the employees were conducting official business.”

So, it seems that employees in the Mineral Management Services like being wooed by the oil execs as much as freshmen boys like being courted by the top fraternity house on campus. Who knows what will emerge when the new president takes office this January, but until then we need to hold ourselves to better ethical standards and stop being so complacent when such terrible activity happens.