Sex, Drugs & Oil – Palin’s Fight To Reform Big Oil in Alaska

| Associated Press Writer

The alleged transgressions involve 13 former and current Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with — and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from — oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

The investigations reveal a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by a small group of individuals “wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards,” wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney, whose office spent more than two years and $5.3 million on the investigation.

Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length,” Devaney said.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere inside the Denver Minerals Management Service office responsible for marketing oil and natural gas that energy companies barter to the government in lieu of cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such royalty-in-kind payments last year. The oil and gas is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation’s emergency stockpile.

“During the course of our investigation, we learned that some RIK employees frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives,” the report said. Two government employees who had to spend the night after a daytime industry function because they were too intoxicated to drive home were commonly referred to by energy traders as the “MMS Chicks.”

Between 2002 and 2006, nearly a third of the 55-person staff in the Denver office received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, including Chevron Corp., Shell, Hess Corp. and Denver-based Gary-Williams Energy Corp., the investigators found. Two oil marketers received gifts and gratuities on at least 135 occasions. One admitted having a one-night-stand with a Shell employee. That same individual allegedly passed out business cards for her sex toy business at work, bragging that her income from that business exceeded her salary at the Interior Department.

Devaney said the investigations took so long because Chevron refused to cooperate. An Interior Department official said Chevron would not allow investigators to interview its employees.

Don Campbell, a Chevron spokesman, said Wednesday that the company “produced all of the documents that the government requested months ago.” A Shell spokeswoman said it would be premature for the company to comment on the report until it had time to review it.

The reports also said former head of the Denver royalty-in-kind office, Gregory W. Smith, used cocaine and had sex with subordinates. The report said Smith also steered government contracts to a consulting business that paid him $30,000 for his work from April 2002 through June 2003. Smith retired from the office in May 2007.

Smith’s attorney, Steve Peters, called the claims “sheer fantasy.”

Greg Smith was a loyal, dedicated employee of the federal government for more than 28 years,” Peters said Wednesday. “His efforts in running the royalty-in-kind program resulted in one of the most profitable government programs in American history.”

MMS Director Randall Luthi, in an interview, said the agency was taking the report “extremely seriously” and would review the allegations and weigh taking appropriate action in coming months. The inspector general is recommending that current employees implicated be fired and be barred for life from working within the royalty program.

House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said “this whole IG report reads like a script from a television miniseries and one that cannot air during family viewing time. It is no wonder that the office was doing such a lousy job of overseeing the RIK program; clearly the employees had ‘other’ priorities in that office.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., urged Democrats to reopen a House investigation of the Minerals Management Service that was initiated in 2006 by House Republicans. “Looking into and fixing these problems would have meant highlighting the enormous revenues that domestic oil and natural gas production contributes to our treasury. This just didn’t fit into their anti-drilling campaign,” he said.

While most government royalties for drilling on federal lands are paid in cash, the government in recent years has been receiving a greater share of its oil and gas royalties in the actual product. More of that oil is also being sold on the open market, versus being deposited in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s emergency oil stockpile. Congress earlier this year passed a law halting deposits of oil to the reserve to help alleviate high gasoline prices.

The investigation was prompted by a 2006 phone call from an employee in the Denver office who reported ethical lapses.

___

Associated Press writers H. Josef Hebert in Washington and Ivan Moreno in Denver contributed to this report.

Yes, Palin Did Stop That Bridge – Obama & Palin – A Comparison of records

Yes, Palin Did Stop That Bridge

By JIM DEMINT
WALL STREET JOURNAL   September 10, 2008; Page A15

“But, you know, when you’ve been taking all these earmarks when it’s convenient, and then suddenly you’re the champion anti-earmark person, that’s not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can’t just make stuff up.” — Barack Obama, Sept. 6, 2008

In politics, words are cheap. What really counts are actions. Democrats and Republicans have talked about fiscal responsibility for years. In reality, both parties have a shameful record of wasting hundreds of billions of tax dollars on pork-barrel projects.

My Senate colleague Barack Obama is now attacking Gov. Sarah Palin over earmarks. Having worked with both John McCain and Mr. Obama on earmarks, and as a recovering earmarker myself, I can tell you that Mrs. Palin’s leadership and record of reform stands well above that of Mr. Obama.

Let’s compare.

Mrs. Palin used her veto pen to slash more local projects than any other governor in the state’s history. She cut nearly 10% of Alaska’s budget this year, saving state residents $268 million. This included vetoing a $30,000 van for Campfire USA and $200,000 for a tennis court irrigation system. She succinctly justified these cuts by saying they were “not a state responsibility.”

Meanwhile in Washington, Mr. Obama voted for numerous wasteful earmarks last year, including: $12 million for bicycle paths, $450,000 for the International Peace Museum, $500,000 for a baseball stadium and $392,000 for a visitor’s center in Louisiana.

Mrs. Palin cut Alaska’s federal earmark requests in half last year, one of the strongest moves against earmarks by any governor. It took real leadership to buck Alaska’s decades-long earmark addiction.

Mr. Obama delivered over $100 million in earmarks to Illinois last year and has requested nearly a billion dollars in pet projects since 2005. His running mate, Joe Biden, is still indulging in earmarks, securing over $90 million worth this year.

Mrs. Palin also killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in her own state. Yes, she once supported the project: But after witnessing the problems created by earmarks for her state and for the nation’s budget, she did what others like me have done: She changed her position and saved taxpayers millions. Even the Alaska Democratic Party credits her with killing the bridge.

When the Senate had its chance to stop the Bridge to Nowhere and transfer the money to Katrina rebuilding, Messrs. Obama and Biden voted for the $223 million earmark, siding with the old boys’ club in the Senate. And to date, they still have not publicly renounced their support for the infamous earmark.

Mrs. Palin has proven courageous by taking on big spenders in her own party. In March of this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported that, “Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about what he sees as Gov. Sarah Palin’s antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state.”

Mr. Obama had a chance to take on his party when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a sham ethics bill, which was widely criticized by watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste for shielding earmarks from public scrutiny. But instead of standing with taxpayers, Mr. Obama voted for the bill. Today, he claims he helped write the bill that failed to clean up Washington.

Mr. Obama has shown little restraint on earmarks until this year, when he decided to co-sponsor an earmark moratorium authored by Mr. McCain and myself. Mr. Obama is vulnerable on this issue, and he knows it. That is why he is lashing out at Mrs. Palin and trying to hide his own record.

Mrs. Palin is one of the strongest antiearmark governors in America. If more governors around the country would do what she has done, we would be much closer to fixing our nation’s fiscal problems than we are.

Mrs. Palin’s record here is solid and inspiring. She will help Mr. McCain shut down the congressional favor factory, and she has a record to prove it. Actions mean something. You can’t just make stuff up.

Mr. DeMint, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122100927525717663.html

The Job of Being Alaska’s Governor – How does it stack up?

REVIEW & OUTLOOK
   

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

SEPTEMBER 10, 2008 , PA14

One rap on Sarah Palin’s qualifications to be Vice President is that she governs one of our least populated states, with a budget of “only” $12 billion and 16,000 full-time state employees. On the other hand, it turns out that the Governor’s office in Alaska is one of the country’s most powerful.

[Sarah Palin]

For more than two decades Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, has maintained an index of “institutional powers” in state offices. He rates governorships on potential length of service, budgetary and appointment authority, veto power and other factors. Mr. Beyle’s findings for 2008 rate Alaska at 4.1 on a scale of 5. The national average is 3.5.

Only four other states — Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia — concentrate as much power in the Governor’s office as Alaska does, and only one state (Massachusetts) concentrates more. California may be the nation’s most populous state, but its Governor rates as below-average (3.2) in executive authority. This may account in part for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor legislative track record. The lowest rating goes to Vermont (2.5), where the Governor (remember Howard Dean) is a figurehead compared to Mrs. Palin.

In Alaska, the Governor has line-item veto power over the budget and can only be overridden by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature. In 1992, the year Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, his state budget was $2 billion and among the smallest in the country. Compared to that, Sarah Palin is an executive giant.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122100776282517559.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

SC Democratic Chairwoman Issues Apology: Palin’s “Primary Qualification is she hasn’t had an abortion”

South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler lashed out at Sarah Palin Wednesday, saying the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”

Fowler issued an apology Wednesday evening.

“I personally admire and respect the difficult choices that women make everyday, and I apologize to anyone who finds my comment offensive,” she said in a written statement. “I clumsily was making a point about people in South Carolina who may vote based on a single issue. Whether it’s the environment, the economy, the war or a woman’s right to choose, there are people who will cast their vote based on a single issue.  That was the only point I was attempting to make.”

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/10/sc-democratic-chair-palins-chief-qualification-is-she-hasnt-had-an-abortion/

Don Fowler, Former National Democratic Commitee Chairman, last week was forced to apologize after being captured on an amateur video during an airplane flight chuckling while saying, “Hurricane (Gustav) is going to hit New Orleans about the time (the Republican National Convention) starts. … That just demonstrates God is on our side.”

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/10/sc-democratic-chair-palins-chief-qualification-is-she-hasnt-had-an-abortion/

USA TODAY: ALLEGATIONS THAT PALIN BANNED BOOKS ARE FALSE

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