Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oil Leak

Well, now we know why the oil company executives who testified before a senate committee last week weren’t under oath. It’s because they lied about their involvement with Vice President Cheney’s secret meetings in 2001 to develop the administration energy policy. From the Washington Post:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force in 2001 — something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate “to my knowledge,” and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

[…]

The task force’s activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate. “The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force,” Lautenberg said.

[…]

The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making “any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation” to Congress.

[…]

The person familiar with the task force’s work, who requested anonymity out of concern about retribution, said the document was based on records kept by the Secret Service of people admitted to the White House complex. This person said most meetings were with Andrew Lundquist, the task force’s executive director, and Cheney aide Karen Y. Knutson.

[…]

Toward the end of the hearing, Lautenberg asked the five executives: “Did your company or any representatives of your companies participate in Vice President Cheney’s energy task force in 2001?” When there was no response, Lautenberg added: “The meeting . . . “

“No,” said Raymond.

“No,” said Chevron Chairman David J. O’Reilly.

“We did not, no,” Mulva said.

“To be honest, I don’t know,” said BP America chief executive Ross Pillari, who came to the job in August 2001. “I wasn’t here then.”

“But your company was here,” Lautenberg replied.

“Yes,” Pillari said.

Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who has held his job since earlier this year, answered last. “Not to my knowledge,” he said.

Secret Service records don’t lie. After all, that’s what the Republicans used to impale Clinton for everything from Travelgate to scratching his ass during the playing of the national anthem.

Any bets on what the excuses will be this time?