Interior Department Parties Its Way Through Oil and Gas Revenues

The New York Times uncovers the hedonistic side of the Interior Department:

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.

Based in suburban Denver and modeled to operate like a private sector energy company, the decade-old royalty-in-kind program sells oil and gas on the open market. Its employees are subject to government ethics rules, such as restrictions on taking gifts from people and companies with whom they conduct official business.

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.” That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in oil and gas rather than cash royalties.

These folks put the indulgence into the Interior Department. If this keeps up, the government should seriously consider revamping its recruiting efforts, focusing on college parties rather than college job fairs.

Politics aside, I’d say that the overall juiciness of this scandal is pretty good.

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