Obama's Cozy Relationship with BP exposes "Revolving Door"
Revolving Door Between BP And Its Regulator Getting More Attention
FREDERIC J. FROMMER | 05/26/10 04:53 PM | AP
"To say that MMS has had a revolving door problem doesn't even begin to describe how profoundly this agency has entangled itself with industry," said Mandy Smithberger, an investigator with the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog group. "The revolving door has spun so readily in this case that the lines between the regulators and the regulated are now virtually nonexistent."
The government restricts certain practices by federal workers. Government employees who participate in contracts, grants or lawsuits generally are barred forever from representing anyone before a federal department or court on that matter. For employees who supervised such matters in the final year of their government service, that ban lasts for two years.
"Very senior" employees – such as Cabinet officers, the vice president and some high-level White House officials – are subject to a two-year cooling-off period, during which they are banned from contacting their former agencies or certain high-level executive branch employees in any federal agency. "Senior employees" – who include other presidential appointees – are subject to a one-year cooling-off period, although Obama made these people sign a pledge agreeing to extend it to two years as a condition of employment.
Grant's name surfaced at a congressional hearing when Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., asked BP America President Lamar McKay about former Interior officials who worked at his company and about former BP officials who work for the Interior Department. Grant did not return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment, and BP declined to discuss his employment.
McKay also cited Sylvia Baca as someone who went from BP to Interior. She made the switch twice. In the Clinton administration, she served as the Interior Department's assistant secretary for land and minerals management and worked as the department's acting director of the Bureau of Land Management.
In 2001, Baca joined BP, where she worked in several senior management positions. Last June, Salazar brought her back to Interior, tapping her for the position of deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management.
He cited her "professionalism and detailed knowledge of Interior's land and energy responsibilities."
Asked about her hiring at a House hearing Wednesday, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said that Baca has recused herself from the oil spill because of her prior employment with BP.
"She has not been involved in offshore energy issues," he added.
More generally, the offshore drilling industry has tapped the government's expertise and connections. The National Ocean Industries Association, an offshore energy trade group, has plucked its last two presidents from the ranks of former MMS directors. In March, Randall Luthi, who was MMS director from July 2007 through January of last year, took over the industry post, replacing Tom Fry, who had been president of the group since December 2000.
Through a spokeswoman, Luthi declined an interview request. Fry did not return a message left through the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, where he serves as a trustee. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/26/bp-r...