June 7th, 2010
01:41 PM ET

Ex-oil official: Agency is a 'culture of corruption'

Bobby Maxwell, a former Minerals Management Service auditor who spent 22 years with the Interior Department unit, tells CNN that he witnessed "inspections" on off shore oil rigs that were barely worth the name.

"They would look at some papers, have lunch, shake hands with their friends and say goodbye," Maxwell told CNN's Abbie Boudreau in an interview scheduled to air Wednesday on AC360.

Maxwell told CNN the agency had a "culture of corruption" and the inspections he saw were like a country fair - all play and no real work.

The agency - which oversees U.S. offshore drilling, including the Gulf of Mexico - has come under fire for mismanagement, questionable conduct and cozy relationships with industry officials.

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, during an appearance before the House Committee on Natural Resources, said he was trying to change the agency's culture and its structure, which some critics say leads to mismanagement.

"My belief is that most of the employees of the MMS are good public servants," Salazar said. He, however, acknowledged some of the past conduct was "scandalous" and "reprehensible."

Senator pushes to cut 'cozy' ties between oil industry, regulators

Maxwell is still litigating a $60 million whistleblower suit he filed against the agency.

soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Charles Gooden

    Lookin at the present set of of this rig which has multiple valves , considering what happend would it be possible to pu an upside down cone made of a material that would allow the oil to come out via pressure or just holes within a contanment top that graduly pushes cone into place based on the amount of pressure that is need to slow the leak and stop it. This would capture the oil and stop the oil leak.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • cashewfeni

      Not sure if this is the best article to put out ideas.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • rex

      why did he wait for 22 years before he blew the whistle. ? i would like to chech him out !

      June 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phillip Bell

      BP = Big Payoff. Join our Facebook boycott of BP:

      http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/group.php?gid=116094405092992

      June 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doe John

      @ rex

      I agree 100%. WHY did this guy wait 22 freakin' years!?

      June 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • wiseman72

      The whole worldis a "culture of corruption" these days, that´s why I recommend that people wake up and fight against "the powers that be" in any way you know how! Back to HELL with all of the corrupt people that are running things, they have zero respect from me and zero trust for any talking head these days. From the illegal alien from Kenya in the white house to the beaurocrats at town hall are all in on a giant scam that the US has become and we are fuming mad! Revolution is in the air!

      June 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aran

      Hopefully, this disaster will finally get through to people the importance of taking precautions. 'Unchartered Waters' is fine for reasearch in a laboratory or in the field on a small scalle to enable learning how to further progress in a morally safe and responsible path.

      June 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      Use some rudimentary logic, people. He was with the department 22 years. He didn't say the corruption lasted 22 years.

      June 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      He waited 22 years so he could get his pension!

      June 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joyce Wells

      The cone shape would minimize the pressure to the apex that has been cut to allow the least amount of psi possible in order attach and secure a conduit/pipe to route the spillage into a storage container. Vacuum and filter the water in the gulf using wind turbines as a source of power to run a water reclamation process. Digging is going on to route a pipe, why not think ahead and see how the wind turbine being mounted in the ocean or a lake, retention pond in a neighborhood or subdivision as a wind generated source of energy. Let us not continue to tamper with Mother Nature. Let us use what our mama gave us! WIND POWER!

      June 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • nibcar

      Perhaps pouring molten steel (from the surface) over the whole area would be useful. It would harden, and like a volcano's lava, would eventually become like a true "cap" over the entire site. The northeastern end of Lake Erie had millions of tons of solid steel covering the lake bottom. A now defunct steel company used to pour it's excess molten steel directly into the lake. Also, how about seeing BP getting busy siphoning off the surface oil (it'd be mixed w/ some ocean water), then letting it settle and then draining the water out of the bottom of the barrels. Please BP, please show us you're really and truly trying ALL options. The worldwide repercussions from this CAN be decreased if you just try as many "wise" ideas as possible. Accidents happen, we all understand that, but the whole world will look so much more favorably on you if you just try as many options as possible. Fight the good fight.

      June 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned Citizen

      I would like to share a little bit of information about the way Transocean promotes! I have a few family members that work for Transocean and the promotion process is done by who you know NOT YOUR EXPERIENCE!! This is a proven fact that I have seen done to some family members! This could have played a HUGE part in the Horizon. We all agree this is a tragedy that NO ONE was prepared for and are hearts and prayers are with the family members of those who lost loved ones! But perhaps if investigated we may find that it was due to friends promoting friends instead of experience!!!!!!! Thank you for taking time to read this and I hope this is looked into farther!
      Concerned Citizen

      June 8, 2010 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. G D Beckett

    Our regulatory bodies are supposed to be the watch-dogs for the people of this country. This story is quite disturbing in that it suggests we may be equally exposed to other catastrophes due to the Minerals mis-Management Agency failing us, not just the present gulf spill.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chiefusa

      We need to stop giving coorporations the same rights as people. Big coorporations are corrupt and use their money to buy the politicans. When the head of an agency is appointed by the whitehouse this is what we get. Don't blame Bush, he had his faults, but he has been gone for 18 months. Everything around big business is corrupt, they have a license to steal from the citizens, by charging what ever price they want. what are they teaching Phd's and Mba's now days, must not be efthics. throw all the bums of both parties out next election. My two cents worth.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • BewdyCall

      Exactly. The latest episode of 'Real Time with Bill Maher' (HBO) made for some exTREMEly disturbing viewing, to say the least. In discussion with one of his guests about the BP catastrophe in the Gulf, it was revealed that in just the USA alone, we have over 4,000 active oil rigs, all subject to the same "rigorous scrutiny" by the MMS. Can anyone here spell "apocalypse"?

      June 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • allenwoll

      In China, in similar instances of corruption, I think that some firing squads were employed.

      The CERTAINTY of the exercise of morality springs from the potential CONSEQUENCES ! ! !

      A few slugs here and there and you will see trainloads of Corporate Morality descend upon us.

      Regrettably, we are all but human - some cruising about without consciences.
      .

      June 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mykelb

    What do you expect when the top Executive is an oil man (Bush)? And is second in command owns Halliburton?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • reilley

      Exactly!

      June 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • BPstinks

      100% agree!!

      June 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatthefruck

      Did you guys sleep through the last 20 months or so? You know, the months where Nobama got elected and was in charge when the MMS and BP faked inspections, didn't perform inspections, etc. The same Nobama that came down to the Gulf, kicked a little sand around cause he didn't want to get dirty, then left. The same Nobama that has made so much "change" . This litle gulf spill isn;t the change we were hoping for.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLA

      Agree with Whatthefruck – do you liberals EVER tire of pointing at Bush – 100 years from now you'll probably be doing the same thing. The WHOLE infrastructure is corrupt – including Bush, including your precious Obama and everyone that works for them. What has Obama done to provide leadership to resolve what's happened? BP hasn't plugged the leak, hasn't paid a dime to any of the gulf coast states, and aren't providing enough manpower to clean the water/beaches and try to safe wildlife that are suffering and dying. Not to mention they're also not helping the people who's livelihoods are affected by this disaster. And what is Obama and the federal government doing to protect us and our environment from BP – NOTHING, that's what! Open your eyes1

      June 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      100% this is Nobama and his merry band of liberal idiots that have been "appointed" by the annointed one. He is a very typical fringe liberal: hope and pray things work out but in the long run with no real plan and as usual, the conservatives will come to the rescue. I am getting really tired, as a conservative, of continuously "rescuing" the liberals from themselves. I would love to see a new "rescue" tax levied soley on those that voted for O'Bummer. He really takes the cake as far as stupid liberals are concerned. Just a great big ZERO with nothing but a slick suit and the ability to read a teleprompter. Reminds me of Anchorman. Maybe George Soros needs to find a better marionette to control.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      LOLA Agree with Whatthefruck --- 8 years (Bush) vs 20 months (Obama). Hmmm.....?

      June 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MR

      You folks having a hippie flashback or a senior moment or something ? Last time I checked it was Oh-blam-ah in the White House, not GWB. I know it's hard for him to take the blame or ownership for anything, but I find it hard to blame someone who's been out of office since 1/09. You do realize that his people gave BP a safety award only a few weeks before the explosion, or is that something you conveniently forget as well.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • All American!

      Stop blaming Bush for everything...makes you sound..well...kind of STUPID!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • nookly23

      Do you always ignore facts for your own agenda? Do you enjoy looking the fool? MMS head was Obama's pick. Who gave BP the green light for BP to ignore regulations. Those same regulations that were in place to PREVENT disasters like this one. You and like you are the reason they say was invented, "ignorance is bliss." Liberals are certainly bliss.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      .... and what do you expect if the largest big oil contributor to the Obama campaign was .... gasp.... British Petroleum??

      June 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Voice of Reason

      You all can continue to blame liberals or conservatives but the truth is all sides are to blame. The MMS was established in 1982, that's close to 30 years of supervision by both Democrats and Republicans. The energy your anger takes would be better spent on assisting in the mess we are all currently in and realizing that if the NY Times headline tomorrow read Bush to Blame or Obama to Blame there would be no victory for either side, since oil will still be spilling in the Gulf atnd that effects every American, no matter their political views.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark8000

      I blame Bush/Cheney more than Obama, too. For that matter, you can go all the way back to Reagan. Look at the Seceretaries of Interior Republican presidents have appointed – like James Watt and Gale Norton, appointed to oversee the regulatory process and turned out to be corrupt tools of the petroleum industry. BP might have contributed to Democratic party candidates, but now it's the Republicans in Congress who are trying to limit BP's liability. It was a Republican Supreme Court that ruled Exxon was not liable for the Valdez oil spill. I blame the Republicans.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Berger222

      Mykeld exactly how stupid are you? Bush has been gone for 18 months. This is Obama's baby now. The buck always stops with the President – exept Obama who keeps chanting Bush. This is getting really old.....

      June 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimCC

      This spill is simply the headstone of the FAILURE of the entire conservative agenda. Deregulation got us here plain and simple, thank Ronnie for that. Extreme tax cuts and huge spending under Reagan & Bush x2 have eaten up 20% of your tax dollars on intrest. Of course W and his dad get the blame for the oil mess, don't be stupid.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianne

      I am a screaming mad Tea Party Poster.

      Say Bush and I will explode.

      Newsflash. Obama is President. He won by 7 points. It takes 8 years to rewire a federal agency. I think Bush and Cheney and Reagan and Clinton all had a hand in the current shape of the MMS.

      Now Tea Baggers think that government is easy to run, but ask them for an idea. LOL. THEY HAVE ZERO IDEAS!

      Now go whine somewhere else. LOL

      June 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Making this either democratic or republican is stupid. It's no one person's fault or the fault of one particular policy. It's the current administration's new challenge to fix this, and the policies and procedures surrounding this event that allowed it to happen, but it's not the Obama administrations fault for this. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE having been screaming drill baby drill and this is what happens. The idea that everyone can be rich is simply retarded and, once you discover what really matters in life, isn't very important anyways. We see dollar signs and just want to believe what is too good to be true is actually true. Wake up and increase regulation!

      June 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      To the Bush Apologists out there – exactly what do you think would have happened if Obama had tried to add money, inspectors, and oversight to MMS – WITHOUT THIS DISASTER? The GOP would whine and fuss and carry on that it wasn't needed, that it was more job-killing surplus government, liberal-big-government as usual, etc. Obama did what he could to work with the system as your man left it, and did what he could, hoping things wouldn't come completely unglued in the near term. Too bad that didn't happen. The situation got this way because of the GOP, and when you're busy trying to fix a health care system that needlessly kills tens of thousands of Americans per year, it may be hard to muster the energy to go after one screwed up agency at that particular moment. Before now, I just disagreed with the GOP, since I've seen it in action over the last year, I find it an organization that is profoundly repulsive and decidedly un-American (unless dishonest seizure of wealth is an American value)....

      June 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amunaka

      Does anybody really believe that bush will ever get a pass while there are those of us that can still remember ..get used to it cause it'll be a long time coming before anyone stops bringing up the bush administrations lies corruption and malfeasance and of the mismanagement.. misinformation and disinformation of all the cons and repubs over the years ...so stop dreaming ..

      June 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      We got what we deserved really for sending an oil baron and a guy from Halliburton to run the country for 8 years.

      It was expected and it doesnt come as a surprise to anyone. Just voting clowns like these into office is why the rest of the world is laughing at us since we show all care about is pampering of big business. Billionaires getting tax breaks, gimme a break they have stolen enough already as it is.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Schmitt

      Bush would have had his "oilmen" connections and have fixed this before it's gotten this bad! Obama sat around & waited for BP to give him updates. I'm glad this wasn't a nuclear accident, we'll all have radiation poisoning by now.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Blaming either president for this is like blaming Ronald McDonald if you get a bad cheeseburger. The problem here is the wholesale purchase of power in Washington by the lobbyists and campaign dollars. Nothing improves until we cut the ties between campaign finance and corporate contributions.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Is that first name bull because that sounds like Bull Schmidt to me.

      June 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      So you think Obama could undo all the damage of the Bush administration in a year? You must really think Obama is puff the magic dragon. That and you really didn't say dragon. I will be happy if they can arrest the MMS folks that took bribes the rest is a culture change that has damage stacking up since Reagan. Deregulation caused these problems and less regulation is not the answer. The rest is a bunch of Bull Schmitt.

      June 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      I agree with VoiceOfReason. We shouldn't be blaming Bush or Obama. This, like the Katrina disaster, is simply the result of public policy that has been ruined through either mismanaged, corruption, ignorance, or a combination of all three. It's no surprise that nobody took notice until disaster struck. So instead of playing "which president is at fault", how about owning up to the fact that most of the issues today are the result of a corrupt and poorly-managed system that someone at some point needs to overhaul.

      June 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. C.J.Huckabee

    it's an organization staffed and run by the federal government...why would anybody be surprised?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianne

      Name an efficient non-Federal agency. LOL. The telephone company or your cable provider or wait - the power company - the medical insurance company.

      They are all so well run. I never have problems trying to get service.

      I mean BP is doing a fabulous job in the GULF. Give me a break.

      Its the government's fault.

      BP is the 4th largest corporation and they failed this one big time. They know the safety regs. They by-passed every single safety feature they could and the oil rig exploded. LOL. That must be Obama's fault - and not Bush's.

      The spin in here is seriously hilarious!

      June 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Schmitt

      Same thing will happen to health care. Just can imagine how much mismanagement that will be.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Largo Barbara

    Culture of corruption is said in polite circles. Step into my office – you A$$wipes.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. brainscan

    Enough BAD BUSINESS has gone on in this supposedly SACRED Capitalistic country known as the USA for the past 40 years that we are really due for some HELL and it is all bustin loose at one time. Sort of glad to see it happen during my time. I am just a little feared of what the outcome will be in a few short years. The USA has been the shortest "adventure" of any supposedly high rising great country, our founding fathers are spinning in their graves...we have shown like a comet in recent times and now we are falling like a METEOR!!! What a GAS, er I mean OIL!!!

    June 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RandyT

    It is not at Minerals Management Service, although because of the oil business' paid off pols they may be one of the worse. Look around at all the reglatory agencies – most all their first and second layer of management are x-industry folks. We have foxes in all the chicken houses – all of them. Government is not the problem, it is corporate owned government that is the problem.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      this is true. all the regulatory agency's have issues. Some are getting a little better though (EPA) b/c there has been some notice of what the Bush administration has done.. and they are working to strengthen some things that have become "unenforced".. You cant FIND and FIX and TURN AROUND 8 years of corruption in a year (especially with all the policy initiatives going on).

      June 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Petey

      Eight years of corruption? Try 40. All bureaucracies, even the effective ones, are corrupt. The bigger you make the regulatory system, the more opportunities you create to game it. It's the nature of the beast.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 5t1v

    and what are WE THE PEOPLE supposed to do with this piece of news? OUR government turns out to be as corrupt as the big business it is supposed to be over-seeing so WHAT are we paying them with our taxes for? The OIL GUSHES, BP takes it's time to find a solution that suits them, and OBAMA cant even de-bar (cancel all their government contracts) because ..... ??? (anyone have an answer?). It's a very depressing cycle of events that simply makes me feel like a witness to what goes on, and completely powerless. It's like waking from a dream where i am enslaved to an oil company, completely depressing. Am I alone?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carol Warner

      No, you are not alone. I feel the same way. The government has always been in bed with the oil companies. Sad, but true. History shows that most of our foreign policy has to do with securing our oil supply. BP is more concerned with getting as much oil as it can from the leak; they do not care about anything else, which is why they haven't come up with a solution.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      Our government is not only in bed with the oil industry, but also banking & wall street, health insurance, pharmaceuticals and on and on. How can the politicians keeping taking money from these companies for their campaigns and then turn around and do what is right for the people in terms of policy making. Answer – they can't and that is why we continue to get the shaft day in and day out. And I'm not talking only democrats or only republicans. They are all (federal, state & local) too cozy to these companies and won't risk losing their $$$$. So where does that leave hard-working, middle class America!!!! Holding the bag (that's where)!!!!!!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Doe

    One "minor" note which fails to be discussed in the news. Goldman Sachs, and BP CEO unloaded their shares of BP stock a few weeks before the crisis. Seems to me some catastrophic system failure occured, which then lead to information being passed through circuitous routes, about what is going to happen. Criminal probe in the making......

    June 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      Thanks, John Doe. Good to know.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    I'm very curious to see how an MMS investigation pans out. It will most likely show that the MMS (along with EPA) were weakened and corrupted by the Bush/Cheney administration. Instead of trying to fight regulation in Congress and the courts alone, the previous administration likely weakened these agencies by appointing cronies who would carry out their agenda.

    Republican administrations have a history of trying to weaken the regulations that protect 'real Americans' from corporate greed.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • AZProud2be

      It's Obama's team investigating Obama's Mineral Mgmt Team. How do you think it's going to turn out? They will blame it on anyone but themselves.

      June 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatthefruck

      Trying stating some FACTS next time. You know those pesky little truths that Nobama and his crew seem not to know what they are?

      June 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianne

      It will take some time to undo the de-regulation of Reagan/Bush but we must do this to make America great again!

      June 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AZProud2be

    One would think after the Mineral Mgmt Team dropped the ball regarding Inspections of Coal Mines and all those miners were killed, and Obama made promises. You would think that Obama would have been checking and rechecking ALL Inspections done by Mineral Mgmt. including the offshore oil rigs. Is that why Obama has shut down Offshore Drilling, to go and repair/reinspect those rigs to hide what his Mineral Mgmt team missed or let slide. WHY HAVE WE NOT SEEN 2009/2010 Mineral Mgmt Inspection Reports???? What are they HIDING?

    June 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianne

      Why didnt Bush increase the Airport security regulations to prevent 9/11?

      June 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sanaka Thompson

    CNN: This article is SO poorly written I can't believe it. What is "The Agency"??? The Minerals Management SERVICE is referred to, as is the Interior DEPARTMENT, neither of which, obviously, is called an AGENCY. So when "The Agency" is disparaged, what are you talking about? A news article should be written so as to convey its own basic information, not as if one is picking up in the middle of an ongoing conversation.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ben

    Anyone for whom this is actually news is living under a rock. EVERY regulatory agency, whether it be mineral, environmental, financial, medical etc. is in bed with the same people they're supposed to be "regulating." The entire system is one big joke, and Obama getting elected on a promise to change this culture of corruption is the punchline.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bush's Oil Adventure

    Everyone who voted for Bush is getting what he/she voted for. “No business regulation.” Unfortunately all of us are paying the price.

    June 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrunswickChick

      You haven't seen anything yet. Just wait until we start paying the price for the current administration. It will go on for generations and generations.........

      June 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianne

      Bush and reagan put us into Debt.

      Clinton had surpluses and somehow Bush wasted them with Tax giveaways and lavish drug benefits that were not paid for.

      Again how does your whining here solve the issue at hand.

      The MMS needs reform and the industry needs better regulation. Tax oil and rebuild the MMS with workers that care about American and the environment.

      June 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 0nanism0

    "Culture of corruption" Sounds just like lobbyists and Congress. BP has no right to call any agency of the gov't corrupt when they are promoting corruption with the millions they spend on lobbyists. I wish I had billions of dollars to buy my representatives!

    June 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
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