U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) recently announced the Federal Integrity Committee is looking into the potential cover-up of documents leading to the drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010.
Vitter requested this investigation along with senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
He said these efforts are in conjunction with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources to discover potential improprieties by having Department of the Interior Inspector General Mary Kendall testify on the matter.
In a release, Vitter said after attending the House hearing Aug. 2 that Kendall “appears to have been directly involved with the report that led to the job-crushing moratorium, even though she was supposed to remain independent.”
Immediately following the moratorium, Vitter said he requested the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General investigate the oil spill report that led to the moratorium, specifically addressing any mistakes in the report.
The IG reported back that any mistakes were inadvertent, but the House Natural Resources Committee report showed there was “likely collaboration” between Department of the Interior and Inspector General officials.
“It is pretty outrageous to know politics seems to be likely influencing the office of the IG in lieu of science,” Vitter said.
In a letter sent to Kevin Perkins, the chairman of the Integrity Committee, Vitter, along with Sessions and Cornyn, alleged “administrative (non-criminal) misconduct against Inspectors General and designated senior staff members of the Office of the Inspector General.”
The letter said the allegations were based on documents obtained from the House NRC that demonstrated Kendall failed to ensure an independent, impartial and complete investigation into the Obama administration’s offshore drilling moratorium and related activities.
The letter also said the acting Inspector General “stymied a full and complete investigation and an accurate and complete report pertaining to these matters … It appears that in documents obtained by the NRC, Ms. Kendall revised the draft OIG investigation report to strike a sentence stating the role of President Obama in requesting the 30-day report.
“She also proposed deleting entire pages of key findings and analysis drafted by senior OIG staff, including sections detailing the role of the White House in revising the 30-day report … to give the untrue impression that the administration’s political decision to impose a six-month moratorium was revised by independent peer reviews.”
The correspondence concluded the work of the OIG was imperative to the proper function of federal agencies and needed to operate without political influence.
Vitter’s Press Secretary, Luke Bolar, said although it was made clear that there was enough evidence to meet the “threshold standard” to initiate the committee process to determine whether or not to further investigate, they could not divulge the content of any communications regarding ongoing matters pending before the committee.
Accordingly, the committee could not share what information was provided by Kendall or anyone else involved in the matter.
He said the Integrity Committee did not have the authority to take action against Kendall. However, they could make recommendations based on the findings of their investigation; and if they do find criminal activity occurred, they could refer the matter to the FBI with a recommendation for further investigation.
Possible options range from recommending Kendall’s termination to a further investigation by the FBI.
There is also the possibility no recommendation could be made if nothing noteworthy or nefarious happened and the matter would be considered closed.
Bolar said the Interior Department also continues to reject document requests by the House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over the Interior Department.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved a motion Aug. 1, with a 26-17 vote, to provide the chairman with authority to issue subpoenas to five administration officials and potentially others who have direct knowledge or involvement.
This was granted after key members at the Interior Department (including Secretary Ken Salazar’s counsel, Steve Black, who was involved in editing the report) refused initial requests testify before Congress on the matter.
The House investigation gives Vitter hope the matter will be resolved, allowing oil and gas jobs to return to Louisiana in numbers seen before the Deepwater Horizon accident.
“The Gulf moratorium crushed thousands of jobs —many losses of which Louisiana is still suffering from — so it’s encouraging to see the appropriate action taken to start an accurate investigation,” Vitter said. “Alarming evidence from a whistleblower shows that the original investigation I requested on the moratorium may not have been independent and could have even involved the acting IG tampering with the facts. I’m hopeful that this independent Integrity Committee will conduct a thorough and accurate investigation and get to the bottom of this potential cover-up.”