Did oil execs lie to Congress?

News & Politics

For those of us who follow environmental news, the fact that Dick Cheney's super-double-secret Energy Task Force consisted of oil-industry leaders is less than surprising. The sheer amount of energy and vitriol Cheney and his aides put in to hiding the attendance roster, coupled with the fact that environmental groups weren't included in the meetings, pretty much convinced us that it was as we feared, and probably a lot worse.

However, the surety with which we can predict the Bush Administration's behavior is still a far cry from having proof of how it went down. So it comes as a great relief that the Washington Post announced today that a White House document 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 Cheney's aides.

Kos has the transcript of the actual exchange:

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 [Exxon].
"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.
"We did not, no," Mulva said [Conoco].
"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.
As the Post piece notes, "the executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury." Nonetheless, New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg plans to ask the Justice Dept. to investigate.

By way of Prometheus 6, here's the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's take on the Senate's sham hearing in question, in which Alaskan senator Ted Stevens refused to make the lying executives testify under oath.
Following up on yesterday's letter, a number of Democratic Senators today asked Chairmen Stevens and Domenici to require oil executives to testify under oath. As today's hearing began, Cantwell made a motion "to have the committee vote on whether the executives be given the oath," but Sen. Ted Stevens immediately rejected the motion. [CNNMoney, 11/9/05]
[...] A GOP pollster told the Seattle Times that even Congressional Republicans "are unhappy with the behavior of the oil companies ... These are free market guys. They believe the market works. But in this case they are concerned that the consumer was clearly taken advantage of ... and they're pretty angry about it." [Seattle Times, 11/9/05]
Findlaw has an extensive collection of documents that details the long and sordid history of watchdog groups' attempts to find out what really happened behind those closed doors.

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