- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday he will be announcing a review of widespread corruption in the department, offering reporters a preview of investigations into scandals involving “sex, drugs and inappropriate gifts” among political and career employees in the department.

Mr. Salazar said he will travel to the Minerals Management Service office in Lakewood, Colo., to announce the review and what steps are being taken to prevent any further problems. He said the office is one of the “worst examples of corruption, abuse and of government putting special interests before the public interest.”

The former Colorado senator said the inspector general conducted three investigations, and that some were dealing with “very high-level employees.” Two of the investigations found that transactions involving “gifts and sex and drugs” were actually happening “in the very government buildings where MMS has its responsibilities.”

He also said there will be additional announcements with more information Thursday.

Mr. Salazar said he and President Obama want to send a signal that corruption won’t be tolerated.

“The American people should be proud of their government, all of their government,” he said.

Mr. Salazar wants to institute reforms to “make sure that scandals that have occurred in the past are properly dealt with and that the problems that we uncover are fixed so that they don’t occur again.”

He said that under the Bush administration the Department of Interior was “tarnished” by ethics scandals that led to prison terms and has led Americans to associate the department with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to felony counts involving defrauding of American Indian tribes and corrupting public officials in 2006 and remains incarcerated.

“It will be clear that we will no longer tolerate those types of lapses at any level of government, from political appointees or career employees,” he said, speaking to White House reporters before the press secretary’s daily briefing.

Mr. Salazar said the MMS office collects oil and gas royalties from development on public lands, and brought in $23 billion last year.

But he said employees there “engaged in blatant and criminal conflicts of interest and self-dealing,” and “violated the public trust by accepting gifts and employment contracts from the very oil and gas companies that they were supposed to be holding accountable.”

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