John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

By now most of us know that an outfit calling itself the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is the veritable poster child for entrenched bureaucratic hypocrisy and inconsistency.

The MMS, for those who don’t know, was rattled by a recent report out of the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General’s Office, which detailed a high degree of partying among the MMS employees in Denver and the army of corporate toadies attached to the oil and gas industry.

Now, I find nothing wrong with a little partying in general, having done my share of it over the years.

But when the partying parties are supposed to be separated by a wall of objectivity and by a mentality of monitoring, not to mention the fact that one side of this equation is duty-bound to find ways to pull the wool over the eyes of the other side, that’s when things go a little sour for me. And that’s what happened here.

To explain, the MMS is charged, in part, with oversight of the interaction between the oil and gas industry and the government, which represents the people of the United States ” that’s you and me.

Part of what the MMS is supposed to do is make sure that royalty payments and that sort of thing are being correctly turned over to the states where the industry is doing business. Colorado, in case you hadn’t noticed, is one of those states.

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When the MMS employees are having sex and getting high with the very people they’re supposed to be watching, you have to wonder who’s minding the store while all this hanky-panky is under way. I suppose one can’t blame the oil and gas lobbyists, or whomever it is that has been partying with the federal workers. After all, it’s a corporate lackey’s job to find ways to entertain and otherwise distract federal functionaries so that the corporations can slip by with all manner of tricks and treats pilfered from the federal treasury. I suppose these treats might include such things as the overlooking of missed royalty payments, or the granting of undeserved mineral exploration leases, who really knows?

So, we need an investigation, such as has been called for by Colorado’s congressional delegation. And we need a little talk from our presidential candidates and their running mates on this subject.

Why?

Because whomever wins this tawdry contest on Nov. 4 will be in charge of seeing that we don’t get robbed blind by corporate interests, and I want to know how they feel about federal overseers playing footsie with those they are supposed to oversee.

And, interestingly, we should be able to learn things about how Gov. Sarah Palin handled the oversight question in Alaska, where some of the biggest players in the oil game have been tumbling around in the muck for decades.

It might also be of interest to look back on Sen. John McCain’s positions on gouging by military contractors in Iraq. It’s not directly related to the MMS fiasco, but it would give a clue as to how McCain feels about the looting or public accounts for private gain. As a Republican, he has been on the controlling side of things in the Senate through some of the worst pilfering of the Iraq war, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hold some views on the subject.

All in all, I’d say this little episode in Denver, where the MMS parties took place, might be a fine opportunity to drop all the chatter about lipstick on pigs and other inconsequential distractions and get back to some real debate.

Of course, it’s the chatter and the hype that the Republicans want to stay focused on, rather than on their party’s dismal record over the past seven years, or on the frightening potential upheaval represented by McCain’s age and poor health coupled with Palin’s frankly unsettling views and record, or anything else that might upset the Republican apple cart by shining a bright light through the fog of politics as usual.

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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