Party time

A great many people have long believed that, under the administration of President George W. Bush, federal authorities assigned to oversee oil and gas production in this country were in bed with the energy companies.

Now a few employees with a Department of Interior office in Denver have demonstrated that is literally true.

Some workers at the Minerals Management Service, a government agency responsible for collecting billions of dollars of oil and gas royalties from public lands, had sex with representatives of energy companies they were overseeing, according to a report released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

They also accepted expensive gifts from energy representatives and rigged contracts for favored companies, the report said. They joined in parties where alcohol, marijuana and cocaine were used, and some became so intoxicated they had to spend the night.

We don’t want to paint with too broad a brush. Not everyone at the Minerals Management Service has been so cavalier about the public trust they oversee.

The inspector general said 19 of the 55 employees in the Denver office received gifts or gratuities from oil and gas companies. Only nine were believed to have engaged in the sorts of outrageous behavior listed above, based on the two-year-long investigation conducted by the inspector general.

But those nine employees have seriously damaged the credibility of their agency at a time when the public is already skeptical of how the Interior Department interacts with the energy industry, and they may have cost taxpayers considerable amounts of money by rigging contracts.

We’re glad to see the inspector general ferreting out this horrendous activity by government employees. Those guilty must be hammered hard by the judicial system. But the public also has a right to know which energy companies used gifts, parties and sex with federal employees to receive favorable treatment.


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