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Corruption Chronicles

Interior Dept. Officials on the Take?

Officials at the federal agency responsible for managing billions of dollars in oil revenues are being investigated for accepting money from companies vying for government contracts as well as multi billion-dollar shortfalls in oil payments from those companies.

A bureau of the United States Department of the Interior, the Minerals Management Service is the agency that oversees a program in which oil and gas companies pay the federal government nearly $4 billion a year in royalties. The money is the federal government’s second-biggest source revenue behind taxes.

It turns out that several high-ranking officials at the agency’s operational base in Denver Colorado have illegally taken money from oil and gas companies striving to obtain lucrative government contracts that allow them to lease public lands. The officials acted as “paid consultants” and apparently steered oil-trading contracts to the highest bidder.

Information from the Department of Interior’s Inspector General – an internal watchdog–led the FBI to launch an investigation into the serious matter. In a 56-page report the Inspector General outlines how senior officials, responsible for collecting royalties from companies that drill on public lands, also took money from those companies.

This is why the Department of the Interior is filled with people who got their job because they were close to the oil industry and could be expected to tilt every decision accordingly, as per a lawmaker who is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce and Resources Committees. Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey said royalties owed to the government from production on public lands has become the currency of cozy cooperation between industry and its special friends in the Interior Department.


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