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The Jaw-dropping Interior Department Scandal

THE JAW-DROPPING INTERIOR DEPARTMENT SCANDAL.... Hilzoy noted late yesterday some of the shocking details surrounding the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, where an anything-goes atmosphere led to Caligula-like corruption and debauchery. We've probably all become at least a little inured to Bush administration scandals -- there are just too damn many -- but when federal officials start trading cocaine and sex for lucrative contracts, you know the administration has exceeded the limits of even the most capable satirists.

But this extraordinary scandal is more than just an indictment of a corrupt administration, it also has a certain policy significance. The Minerals Management Service just happens to be responsible for issuing drilling licenses to oil companies, and collecting royalty checks from the industry.

And this, of course, helps connect the scandal to the debate over coastal drilling. As Yglesias explained:

Note that I'm pretty sure these are the guys who will be supervising our new paradise of continental shelf drilling. But I'm sure that electing a new chief executive from the same political party as the current one, who shares the same close ties to the same oil and gas companies that make the donations that allow them to hire the same political operatives, will be just the thing to turn this kind of problem around. You know what they say -- if it first you don't succeed, try again with a different guy who has the same ideas and associates.

Yep. As Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said on the Senate floor yesterday, "I warned publicly that we could not trust the oil companies that want to drill in the waters off our most protected coastlines, nor the federal watchdogs charged with keeping a watchful eye over them. Now, we have proof."

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