Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bush Administration Appointees Perform Jobs Correctly, Protect Oil Companies

Once again, we see that the business of Government is business. Why can't Democrats understand that the Republicans won the elections of 2000, 2002, 2004 & 2006 (thanks, Diebold!) and that therefore we get to say or do anything we want with the country?

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 — Four government auditors who monitor leases for oil and gas on federal property say the Interior Department suppressed their efforts to recover millions of dollars from companies they said were cheating the government.

The accusations, many of them in four lawsuits that were unsealed last week by federal judges in Oklahoma, represent a rare rebellion by government investigators against their own agency. The auditors contend that they were blocked by their bosses from pursuing more than $30 million in fraudulent underpayments of royalties for oil produced in publicly owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The agency has lost its sense of mission, which is to protect American taxpayers,” said Bobby L. Maxwell, who was formerly in charge of Gulf of Mexico auditing. “These are assets that belong to the American public, and they are supposed to be used for things like education, public infrastructure and roadways.”

The new accusations surfaced just one week after the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, told a House subcommittee that “short of crime, anything goes” at the top levels of the Interior Department.

In two of the lawsuits, two senior auditors with the Minerals Management Service in Oklahoma City said they were ordered to drop their claim that Shell Oil had fraudulently shortchanged taxpayers out of $18 million. A third auditor, also in Oklahoma City, charged that senior officials in Denver ordered him to drop his demand that two dozen companies pay $1 million in back interest. And in a suit that was filed in 2004, Mr. Maxwell charged that senior officials in Washington ordered him not to press claims that the Kerr-McGee Corporation had cheated the government out of $12 million in royalties.
These "auditors," are, of course, traitors to the Administration and should be purged. And we now what's REALLY behind their claims of fraud:
On Wednesday, Interior officials denied that the agency had suppressed any valid claims and implied that the auditors simply wanted a share of any money recovered through their lawsuits.

“If these auditors believed there were fraud and or false claims on the part of the companies they were auditing, they should have followed the proper procedures,” the Interior Department said in a written statement. “Instead, they opted to pursue private lawsuits under which, if they prevail, they could receive up to 30 percent of the monies recovered from the companies.”

In defying their own agency, the Interior Department’s auditors sued the oil companies under a federal law, called the False Claims Act, that was created to allow individuals to expose fraud against the government. People who successfully recover money for the government in such cases are entitled to a portion. A losing company is required to pay triple the amount of recovered money as well as back interest — potentially more than $120 million in the cases brought by the auditors.
You see? They just want the money. Not to punish these companies for cheating the country, but to enrich themselves. Crazy lawsuits like these are why we so desperately need Tort Reform in this country. So a few oil companies forgot to pay a few paltry million dollars in owed fees, and so a few Republican appointees covered up for them... why should Kerr-McGee have to pay triple damages now? I mean, they advertise on Fox News, for goodness' sake! How is the brave mouthpiece of America's President supposed to stay in business if the government keeps suing their advertisers? Only a trial lawyer could love laws like these.