The following is a fact-check from the June 13, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL)
During the Bush Administration:
1) The government allowed the [oil] industry and the private sector [of the oil industry] to regulate themselves - LIKELY TRUE
2) MMS regulators went on trips/vactions with oil industry executives - TRUE
3) MMS regulators had sex with oil industry executives – FALSE
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Where, where were the regulators? This from a party who has single handedly allowed industry and the private sector to regulate themselves, who presided over a, an agency in MMS that was so cozy with regulators–was so cozy with the oil industry executives that they were going on trips with them, taking vacations, even sleeping with them?
According to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), prior to the termination of Don Howard (former Gulf of Mexico MMS supervisor who was put on probation for accepting a trip from the oil industry) in 2007, MMS employees let oil industry representatives fill out inspections forms themselves, and MMS employees accepted gifts, trips and even had sexual relations with people from the oil industry. Here is an excerpt from the OIG report where Lake Charles District Manager Larry Williamson describes MMS’s relationship with the oil industry:
According to Williamson, many of the MMS inspectors had worked for the oil and gas industry and continued to be friends with industry representatives. “Obviously, we’re all oil industry,” he said. “We’re all from the same part of the country. Almost all of our inspectors have worked for oil companies out on these same platforms. They grew up in the same towns. Some of these people, they’ve been friends with all their life. They’ve been with these people since they were kids. They’ve hunted together. They fish together. They skeet shoot together ….They do this all the time.”
And here is an email that is pretty revealing, sent from a MMS inspector to a Conoco Phillips employee:
The e-mail chain began with the inspector sending the Conoco Phillips employee an e-mail with the subject line, “Civil Penalty Case recaps – 1st quarter 2006.” He stated, “These are the fines that we assessed to different companies for breaking the rules.” The Conoco Phillips employee responded, “[E]ver get bribed for some of that?” He replied, “They try all the time.” The Conoco Phillips employee responded back, “[E]ver take em?” the inspector said, “I accept ‘gifts’ from certain people. But we have VERY strict ethic standards as you could imagine.” The Conoco Phillips employee replied, “[C]ertain people, meaning women?” the inspector said, “No. meaning good friends that I wouldn’t write up anyway.”
Here is an excerpt about the falsification of inspection forms from the OIG report:
Another confidential source told investigators that some MMS inspectors had allowed oil and gas production company personnel located on the platform to fill out inspection forms. The forms would then be completed or signed by the inspector and turned in for review. According to the source, operating company personnel completed the inspection forms using pencils, and MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form
The OIG report included information about MMS inspectors taking trips offered by various offshore oil production companies. Here is what the report concluded about the trips:
E-mails for MMS inspectors from the Lake Charles office revealed that in 2005, 2006, and 2007, various offshore companies invited MMS personnel to events such as skeet-shooting contests, hunting and fishing trips, golf tournaments, crawfish boils, and Christmas parties. Some e-mails confirmed that MMS inspectors attended these events.
Also, two MMS inspectors went on a trip to the 2005 Peach Bowl, which was provided by Carlos Kibodeaux, a former foreman from Production Management, an offshore production company that operated in the Gulf of Mexico. (now Kibodeaux is the owner of Contract Operator Production Services)
According to a separate investigation conducted by the OIG, Gregory Smith (former head of MMS’s Royalty in Kind office [RIK] – the department of MMS that handled royalty payments [oil instead of cash] to the government from the oil industry to fulfill their lease agreements) had a sexual relationship with at least one employee at the RIK office. Here is an excerpt from the OIG report describing one incident involving Smith and an employee at RIK:
This employee stated that Smith took “the long way” between the two businesses, and during the drive he asked to go to her nearby house, but she refused. “He wanted to have sex; I said no,” she recalled. Smith then asked if she would have oral sex with him, but she told him she did not want to. She said Smith then “basically forced [her] head into his lap,” and she performed oral sex on him while he drove the car slowly.
Smith only admitted to having one sexual encounter with this RIK employee in January of 2003 or 2004. He said it happened at her house, involving “groping and touching” and oral sex. Smith also claimed they both did cocaine that night.
The more important case is Crystel Edler (a former RIK oil marketing specialist from 2001 until 2007) had a romantic relationship with two oil employees, one from Shell and the other from Chevron, and her boss Stacy Leyshon knew of the relationships. Here is an excerpt about the incident from OIG’s Investigative Report of MMS Oil Marketing Group:
Edler said she had romantic relationships with two men from the oil industry: One who worked for Shell Pipeline Company and an oil scheduler for Chevron. Edler said her supervisor, Leyshon, knew about both relationships, and Edler did not think there was a reason to rescue herself from dealing with Shell or Chevron. She claimed that she never discussed RIK business with either the Shell employee or the Chevron employee. When asked if she had personal or sexual relationships with anyone else from industry, Edler asked the agents if they had any emails or evidence with which to remind her, adding “I did date people.”
1) The Republican party allowed the [oil] industry and the private sector [of the oil industry] to regulate themselves.
According to the OIG report, prior to 2007, inspection forms were routinely filled out by oil production employees and finalized with an inspector’s signature. Many inspectors and oil industry employees were life-long friends, which led to conflicts of interest, specifically concerning the proper implication of fines or safety write-ups. Because the Republican administration was in office during these incidents and ultimately presided over MMS, we rate Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s statement LIKELY TRUE.
2) When the Republicans presided over MMS (from overall context of interview, it’s obvious Schultz meant during Bush administration), MMS regulators went on trips/vacations with oil industry executives.
According to the OIG report, MMS employees went on hunting trips, to golf tournaments and to skeet-shooting contests with oil and gas employees, which were either completely paid for or partly paid for by oil industry representatives. Also, two MMS inspectors went with Carlos Kibodeaux, owner of Contract Operator Production Services, to the Peach Bowl in 2005. The MMS inspectors paid a portion of the travel expenses to the game, but the tickets and a majority of other costs are attributed to Carlos Kibodeaux. Therefore, because of the evidence included in the OIG report, we rate Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s statement TRUE.
3) When the Republican party presided over MMS (during Bush administration), MMS regulators had sex with oil industry executives.
According to a OIG investigation, Crystal Edler (former RIK oil marketing specialist) had romantic relations with two men from the oil industry. Neither of the men were executives at Shell or Chevron. One worked for Shell Pipeline Company and the other worked as an oil scheduler for Chevron. Ms.Wasserman Schultz specifically says MMS regulators were sleeping with oil executives and that as a technical statement is not factual. She is correct in what seems to be her overall point that there were inappropriate sexual relationships between MMS and the oil industry. However, because the individuals from the oil industry involved in the relationships were not executives, we cannot rate her statement as anything but FALSE.
The following fact-check took a combined 6 hours.
The following is a fact-check from the June 13, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:
CARLY FIORINA | The last head of the MMS (who recently resigned) came from the oil industry – FALSE
MS. FIORINA: And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL) | The last head of the MMS (who recently resigned) came from the U.S. House of Representatives - TRUE
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives. Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S. House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS.
According to both a Washington Post article and a profile of Elizabeth Birnbaum (former MMS director) put out by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Ms. Birnbaum did not come from the oil industry before moving to the Minerals Management Service. Here is the Department of Interior on Ms. Birnbaum’s prior work history:
Before her appointment, she was staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw strategy development, budget management and staff activities for the committee that manages legislative branch agencies. From 2001-2007, she was Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel for American Rivers, where she directed advocacy programs for the nation’s leading river conservation organization.
Not only had Ms. Birnbaum not worked anywhere near the oil industry, but that fact was even a point of criticism against her. Now although Ms. Fiorina only said that the former MMS head came from “the industry,” not specifically the “oil” industry, it seems obvious that based on the larger context of her statements she indeed meant the oil industry. Therefore, since Ms. Birnbaum did not work in the oil industry and did work most recently for the U.S. House of Representatives, we rate Ms. Fiorina’s statement FALSE and Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s statement TRUE.
This fact-check took a combined 1 hour, 45 minutes.