Gran’ Ole Party at Interior

Whether sipping wine together at genteel fundraisers, or snorting coke at the Minerals Management Service, the fusion of big business and the executive branch is approaching completion under the Bush administration. To say that the regulators are “in bed with” the regulated is no longer merely a metaphor:

[I]nvestigators [have] . . . “discovered a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” [at the Interior Department] in which employees accepted gratuities “with prodigious frequency.” The report cited one e-mail from a Shell Pipeline representative asking a woman in the royalty office to attend “tailgating festivities” at a Houston Texans football game: “You’re invited . . . have you and the girls meet at my place at 6am for bubble baths and final prep. Just kidding.”

Besides Shell, the energy company employees mentioned in the report worked for Chevron, Hess and Gary-Williams Energy. The social outings detailed in the report included alcohol-, cocaine- and marijuana-filled parties where certain employees of the Minerals Management Service were nicknamed the “MMS Chicks” by the energy employees.

Not only does the system tend to generate enormous rewards for the wealthiest–it also garners ethics awards for those in government:

Just before the Department of Interior’s inspector general released reports that laid bare the oil-and-sex scandal in the department’s oil royalties office this week, Interior won an annual award from the federal Office of Government Ethics, The [Washington] Post’s Mary Pat Flaherty and Derek Kravitz report.

[DOI was praised] for “developing a dynamic laminated Ethics Guide for employees” that was a “polished, professional guide” with “colorful pictures and prints which demand employees’ attention.” The guide, the award noted, was small enough for employees to carry.

I suppose the lamination is very handy for reading while in a bubble bath.

Stalin once said that “one killing is a murder, a million is a statistic.” After the epidemic of lawbreaking in this administration, perhaps we can update that to say “one violation of the law is a scandal; 100 violations are a comprehensive deregulatory program designed to get big government off the backs of business.”

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