Where are the conspiracy theorists?

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Local congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Tom Davis (R) raised a ruckus last week over the possibility that the Interior Department may have covered-up some incompetence (or something more serious?) that resulted in billions of dollars in profits for oil companies. Here’s the AP article. A Bloomberg version is here.

From the Bloomberg version:

The Interior Department may have withheld information from a Congressional committee investigating Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases that gave producers a break on drilling fees worth as much as $10 billion, the committee’s chairman said yesterday.

Must be those two oil men in the White House’s fault, right?

Well, no.

The House Government Reform Committee is investigating whether the department excluded provisions in gulf leases from 1998 and 1999 that require royalty payments during times of high oil and gas prices. A subcommittee headed by Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, has sought records related to the leases and has held three hearings.

In a letter yesterday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Mr. Issa and Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia, the chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said e-mail messages and other documents might have been deliberately withheld from the committee. The documents must be provided to the committee by next Thursday, the letter said.

“We believe that the department may have deliberately withheld crucial information contained in e-mails,” according to the letter. “If this is the case, then it has intentionally impeded this duly authorized Congressional investigation.”

Drilling leases written in 1996, 1997 and 2000 included price thresholds that, if met, call for royalty payments. Price thresholds are missing in leases from 1998 and 1999.

There’s one name not mentioned in either version of the story: Clinton. This happened in ’98 and ’99. You can bet that if this had happened in ’01 or ’02 the lefty blogs would be having a Halliburton-size field day with Bush and Cheney allegedly handing billions to their buddies.

But this story, even with gas prices continuing to edge ever higher, hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in the mainstream media.

As to why the Bush Interior Department may be covering up for a Clinton Interior Department sin — let’s just say that administrations may change, but much of the bureaucracy remains the same.

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