Democrats are highlighting a wide-ranging ethical scandal at the government agency that handles oil and gas royalties, hoping to prevent defections on an energy package that does not include a provision to share oil and gas revenues with state governments.
For Republicans are hoping to siphon off support for the bill from Democrats who wanted to see oil and gas revenues from new offshore drilling shared among states, the scandal could not have come at a worse time.
According to a report delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has become embroiled in a far-reaching scandal which includes allegations of accepting lavish gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and of sexual misconduct between MMS employees and representatives from oil companies.
The agencies inspector general wrote that “a culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency, which collects more than $10 billion per year in royalties.
The salacious scandal has captured national media attention, with the AP dubbing it "the oil broker sex scandal."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could barely contain her smile at a press conference Thursday afternoon as she said she “didn’t realize how cozy the relationship was” between big oil and the Interior Department.
House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Louise M. Slaughter said she welcomed criticism from Republicans over leaving out the royalty sharing provisions from their bill.
“After…all the shenanigans going on [at the Interior Department] with big oil, we would be happy to have that debate,” said Slaughter. “In bed with big oil, literally, this is beyond the pale.
“I don’t know how they are going to defend that to save their lives. Those contracts are tainted.”
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