“A Culture Of Ethical Failure”

From the NYT, the Interior Department’s Inspector General seems to have found a lot of unusually blatant corruption:

“In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” besets the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.”

Why am I not surprised?

Here’s an account of just one of the officials involved:

“The report said that from April 2002 to June 2003, Mr. Smith improperly used his position with the royalty program to help a technical services firm seek deals with the same oil and gas companies. The services firm paid Mr. Smith more than $30,000 for asking the oil companies to hire it, the report said.

Mr. Smith requested and received approval to take on the outside work, but the report says he misled the office into thinking he would be performing technical consulting, rather than marketing the firm to companies with which he also conducted official business

The report accuses Mr. Smith of improperly accepting gifts from the oil and gas industry, of engaging in sex with two subordinates, and of using cocaine that he purchased from his secretary or her boyfriend several times a year between 2002 and 2005. He sometimes asked for the drugs and received them in his office during work hours, the report alleges.

The report also says that Mr. Smith lied to investigators about these and other incidents, and that he urged the two women subordinates to mislead the investigators as well.”

One person has already pled guilty to a felony, and the reports recommend prosecuting another, as well as taking administrative action against several more, “including either firing them or banning them for life from certain positions.” To give you a sense of how bad it is, the guy just described is not one of them.

Apparently, one of the reports also contains this memorable phrase: “sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length.” Indeed.

It’s an interesting image, but I wish no inspector general of our government had had occasion to write it.