It's the sort of storyline fit for a National Lampoon sex comedy--not
the federal government. Regulators in charge of overseeing offshore
drilling cruised porn sites, shook off crystal meth hangovers, and
accepted lavish gifts from oil and gas companies, according to an Interior Department report. The agency at issue is the
Minerals Management Service. At its Louisiana branch, where the Gulf oil spill continues to cause an
environmental catastrophe, the inspector general found "a culture where
the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies was widespread."
- C'mon, Regulators! sighs Dan Indiviglio at The Atlantic: "What is it with bureaucrats and pornography? Last month, we learned that some SEC employees were busy surfing porn when they should have been discovering fraud or preventing the financial crisis. When will the government put some filters on its computers? Of course, the real question here is why government regulators don't just fail to do their jobs, but strive to fail so spectacularly? The report blames nepotism. It says most of the problem employees were hired more due to connections than actual knowledge or experience in the industry."
- Here Comes the Cleanup Crew, writes Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company: "This is all a huge embarrassment to the federal government, which is why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced that he is splitting the MMS into three agencies: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. By separating the offices responsible for safety enforcement and revenue collection, the government hopes to stop corruption. But with MMS employees and oil company employees sharing such cozy relationships -- even from childhood, in many examples -- it's not far-fetched to think of the agency's reorganization as the bureaucratic version of dispersant on a gushing oil spill. Contained. Reshuffled. But bound to bubble up again."
- Cronyism Will Persist, writes Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones: "The IG claims that the unseemly ties between industry and Lake Charles' MMS regulators are things of the past, having been severed in the wake of the January 2007 firing of an inspector who'd taken gifts from an oil company. But some inspectors could have gotten better at hiding their ties to the good 'ol boys. After all, it's hard to imagine a change of heart on the part of some former inspectors cited in the report. Asked by a Conoco Phillips employee in an email exchange if he ever takes bribes, one former inspector said he didn't, but added that he does take 'gifts' from 'good friends that I wouldn't write up anyway.'"
- Only One Way to Fix This Problem, writes Mike Labossiere at Talking Philosophy: "Regulations can only be as good as the people who enforce them (or fail to do so). A country could have very good laws, but the folks who are supposed to implement them could lack the will or the desire to do so. This could be due to moral weakness on the part of the enforcers or some other factors (such as a lack of support on the part of the law makers). The solution to this problem involves getting ethical and competent people into such positions and taking steps to ensure that they do not succumb to corruption or frustration."