Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mark Udall Mum on Overlooking Reported Scandal in Interior Department Agency

From the Denver Post this morning:
The alarm bells started more than two years ago about a culture of rule-breaking by government workers now embroiled in a scandal of sex, drugs and potential bribery.

A top government investigator repeatedly warned members of Congress that he had uncovered severe ethical lapses at the Minerals Management Service in Lakewood, where workers oversee billions of dollars worth of oil and gas leases.

He said it bluntly at House hearings in 2006. He said it again in early 2007. He warned a Senate committee in January of last year as well.

Congress did little to tighten the rules for the MMS.
According to the article, the costly problem of "severe ethical lapses" is finally being addressed now. Where was Mark Udall through all of this, though?
Reps. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican; Tom Tancredo, a Littleton Republican; and Mark Udall, a Democrat from Eldorado Springs, are on the Natural Resources Committee, which held a February 2007 hearing where [Interior Department Inspector General Earl] Devaney testified about ethical problems at MMS. He also said problems in calculating royalties may have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

The transcript from that hearing does not show any of the Colorado lawmakers asking questions. There is no roll that would show whether they attended. [emphasis added]
The relevant question is whether Mark Udall was at the hearing. If so, why so silent on the issue? If not, where was he: Sick in bed? Gone golfing with lobbyists? At an out-of-state fundraiser with wealthy liberal donors?
Udall, through an aide, did not answer a question about whether more should have been done earlier or what Congress should do next.
Is Mark Udall just hoping the story goes away before he has to answer any questions? Does he have to think up a tale? Cover his tracks? The answer is that we don't know. But his silence feeds the speculation. Lamborn and Tancredo aren't off the hook yet, either.

Perhaps what is most intriguing is that this story is coming out of a locally-based federal government agency that oversees oil and gas leases. Did the "severe ethical lapses" in the agency affect the ability to distribute leases? Given his longstanding opposition to domestic oil and gas exploration, what did Mark Udall think about this?

As noted of Mark Udall in a March 2008 Congressional Quarterly article (subscription required):
His uncle, Stewart Udall, was Interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. And from his seat on the Natural Resources Committee, Udall can see a portrait of his father, who chaired the panel (then known as Interior) from 1977 to 1991 and wrote legislation doubling the size of the national park system and tripling the extent of the national wilderness system.
With such a family legacy both in the Interior Department and on the Natural Resources Committee, you would think Mark Udall would take a strong interest in a potential scandal there. Did he simply ignore the warnings? Was something else afoot?

More investigation and reporting is needed to answer these questions.

7 comments:

absurdicus said...

Hmm, you have have a subscription to Congressional Quarterly. That wouldn't be the Independence Institute's subscription would it? You didn't use their non-profit resources for the purpose of this piece did you? That might risk the tax status of the Independence Institute.

Ben DeGrow said...

Hmmm... Nope. I doubt I.I. even has such a subscription. I have other sources for CQ.

Are you ready to comment on the issue itself?

Curious Stranger said...

"I have other sources for CQ."

The Schaffer campaign of course!

Ben DeGrow said...

Nope, Matt, you're wrong. Did you ever consider that I may have outsourced the research to friends who are not at I.I. and not at the Schaffer campaign?

You know what they say what happens when you assume? Well, you can fill in the dots.

Of course, it doesn't really matter, does it? Your arguments get weaker and weaker.... and lamer, too.

Curious Stranger said...

Ben, I'm sure your "friends" are happy to be contributing to political causes, I wonder if their employers who are paying for the subscription are.

Curious Stranger said...

Thinking a bit more about it, it seems awfully odd that you would outsource the research of such a banal piece of trivia to a "friend". If you were looking for an illustration of Udall's "family legacy" with the Interior Department, surely you could have found a non-subscription-required reference. I found 3 or 4 on the first few pages of Google results. What was it, exactly, that made this paragraph worthy of taking the time to find another person with CQ access to source it for you?

Ben DeGrow said...

"What was it, exactly, that made this paragraph worthy of taking the time to find another person with CQ access to source it for you?"

Nothing in particular, except that it drives you and your other troll friends paranoid.