U.S. Senator for Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor last week, proposing a path to restore government agencies that have been taken over by corporate interests. Citing lax oversight and the inappropriate influence of corporations over the Minerals Management Service (MMS), Senator Whitehouse said “We can no longer wait for more catastrophes to root out improper corporate influence in our government, we have to at long last address the problem of insidious regulatory capture.”
The Senator went on to cite many examples of MMS corruption, including: MMS staff accepting money and gifts from oil and gas companies; senior executives at the agency’s Royalty in Kind office steering contracts to their own outside consulting firm; an inspector in the agency’s Lake Charles, Louisiana office conducting inspections of a company’s drilling platforms while negotiating a job with that company; and other “significant issues worthy of separate investigation, including ethical lapses, program management, and process failures.”
Senator Whitehouse then explained how these activities led to conditions ripe for disaster, and that the answer to this disaster is to “clean house” and free the government from corporate interests:
We must be able to trust our government, both in plain view in front of us, and in corners far from sight, to be serving always the public interest, not doing the secret bidding of special interests; of corporate interests, because that’s where the big money is at stake.
Have we now learned, have we now finally learned, from the financial melt-down and the Gulf disaster, the price, the terrible price, of all those quietly cut corners?
Have we now learned what price must be paid when the stealthy tentacles of corporate influence are allowed to reach into and capture our agencies of government?
I pray, let us have learned this; let us have learned that lesson. I sincerely pray we have learned our lesson, and that this will never happen again. But let’s not just pray.
In this troubled world God works through our human hands; grows a more perfect union through our human hearts; creates his beloved community through our human thoughts and ideas. So it is not enough to pray. We must act.
To read the full transcript of Senator Whitehouse’s speech and view it on video, click here to go to Daily Kos.
Here’s a video of Senator Whitehouse in September, 2008, where he asks a very pointed question of oil company executives and top energy experts at a Senate Energy Policy Forum. This guy seems to “get” it – and in this video he articulates it. What an anomaly he is politics today!
To send Senator Whitehouse an email to support and encourage him, you can go to his website and click on the “email Sheldon” link on the bottom. If you’d like to write a letter or telephone him, his contact information is below: