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POGO Applauds the Senate Energy Committee for Voting in Favor of Slowing Revolving Door between Industry and Interior

June 30, 2010 

 

Today, the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources adopted an amendment to S. 3516, the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2010, to add tough new ethics rules and slow the revolving door, which has been spinning out of control between the oil and gas industry and the Department of the Interior. POGO appreciates the leadership of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in offering this measure to address the critical issue of far too much closeness between the oil and gas industry and its regulator. 

POGO's Executive Director Danielle Brian praised the committee, "The Gulf crisis offers a real life example of how the revolving door has  not only polluted our water, but government as well.  This legislation will help ensure that door stops spinning."

Yesterday, POGO and 12 other concerned organizations sent a letter of strong support for the revolving door amendment that was originally offered by Senator Wyden to the committee. This amendment would have established a two-year cooling off period between employment at the Department of the Interior and the oil and gas industry, as supported by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The letter stated, "The Deepwater Horizon disaster dramatically illustrates the enormity of the risk to our safety, the environment, the economy, and the general public interest by the capture of government agencies by private industry. The revolving door between the oil and gas industry and its regulator is at the rotten core of the lax oversight that led to oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico."

While the Wyden-Bingaman Conflicts of Interest Amendment offers a one-year, instead of a two-year cooling-off period, it also clarfies other ethics rules to ban industry gifts and define conflicts of interest.

Specifically, the Wyden-Bingaman Conflicts of Interest Amendment:

  • Expands the Ban on Lobbying: Expands current restrictions to ban all Interior Department employees with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – not just the highest ranking officials – from lobbying for two years after leaving Interior for any party that had an issue pending before or involving the substantial participation of the employee in the year prior to leaving.

 

  • Expands the Ban on Lobbying Contacts: Expands current restrictions to ban all Interior Department employees with duties under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act from making lobbying contact with Interior for at least one year.

 

  • Makes Inspections and Enforcement Lobbying Off-limits: Specifies inspection and enforcement action as off-limits for lobbying during the two-year ban.

 

  • Slows the Revolving Door between Interior and Industry: Adds a one-year cooling-off period banning former Interior employees from employment with any party that had issues pending before them or in which they substantially participated in their previous year of civil service.

 

  • Slows the Reverse Revolving Door: Bans Interior employees brought into the Department from industry from overseeing matters relating to any former industry employer or client for one year.

 

  • Clarifies Definition of Conflicts of Interest: Clarifies conflicts of interest rules to ban Interior employees from substantially participating in any issue related to a financial interest of the employee, the employee's spouse, minor child, or general partner; an organization for which the employee serves in an official capacity; or a person or organization with which the employee is negotiating for employment or financial interest.

 

  • Clarifies the Gift Ban: Clarifies the gift ban applies to all Interior Department employees with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and provides civil penalties.

 

  • Gives Ethics Rules Some Teeth: Establishes civil and criminal penalties for violations of these restrictions which are not in the current law.

POGO urges Congress to enact these critical reforms to help to end the dangerously close relationship between the regulators and the regulated. Indeed, revolving door reform is needed throughout the federal government, but it is imperative that Congress address the problem that helped lead to the Gulf oil disaster now.


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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