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Cobell | Opinion
Opinion: Scoundrels and scandals at Interior


"On Sept. 10, Earl Devaney, the Interior Department’s inspector general, released a report to Congress that documented — in lurid and embarrassing detail — the widespread use of sex, bribes and drugs by MMS employees to lubricate their professional relationships with officials of the oil and mineral industries. What, you may ask, is the Minerals Management Service?

This is the office responsible for collecting royalties from energy companies that drill for oil and gas on public land owned by you and me. Last year alone, more than $14 billion in royalties was collected by MMS and deposited in our account. We cannot be sure of the real total, however, since MMS accounts are so bungled that no one can be sure if the reckoning is close to correct. Coincidentally, the MMS is also responsible for collecting royalties for resources taken from more than 11 million acres of Indian land.

It's a shame the Devaney report didn't stop with the drugs and orgies, since taxpayers deserve just a little vicarious entertainment along with all the bad news. But while the story's entertainment value was mostly swamped by the meltdown on Wall Street, few of its particulars were lost on the 400,000 plus plaintiffs in a lawsuit known as Cobell vs. Interior.

Indian plaintiffs have been waiting patiently to be paid $47 billion in royalties they allege were stolen from Indian trust lands by government and industry officials since 1887, when Uncle Sam first began to manage Indian resources. For those who have not been following the American saga of Elouise Cobell, a community organizer for the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Mont., and the lead plaintiff in this case, here’s a recap of the highlights of her quest."

Get the Story:
Paul Vandevelder: Scoundrels and scandals in the Interior Department (The Vail Trail Weekly 10/8)

Certification for Appeal:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (September 4, 2008)

Historical Accounting Decision:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (August 7, 2008)

Related Stories:
Jodi Rave: Corruption 'nothing new' at Interior (09/22)
Government appeals decision in Cobell case (9/19)
Cobell: Judge gives Interior a pass on trust duties (9/16)
Appeal stretches Cobell lawsuit into another year (9/16)
Appeal stretches Cobell lawsuit into another year (9/16)
Cobell seeks to resolve trust issues on appeal (09/09)
Cobell: Lawsuit more than a question of dollars (9/8)
Jodi Rave: Cobell set for appeal of $455.6M decision (9/8)
Judge certifies appeal of Cobell accounting decision (9/5)
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Howard Dean slams McCain for treatment of Cobell (8/26)
Native finance group supports appeal in Cobell case (8/20)
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Jodi Rave: Interior can't find owners of $73M (8/13)
Cobell to appeal $455.6M ruling 'as soon as possible' (8/13)
Jodi Rave: Cobell to appeal $455.6M decision (8/11)
Cobell final ruling of $455.6M disappoints (8/8)
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Cobell to appear on NPR program 'Tell Me More' (6/16)
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Letter: Indians kept poor by federal government (6/16)
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Editorial: Indians short-changed by trustee (6/13)
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Jodi Rave: Cobell happy with opening day of trial (6/10)
Jodi Rave: Cobell trial begins in Washington DC (6/9)
Cobell trust fund case set for final trial (6/3)
After six-plus years, BIA website finally online (05/27)
BIA to be fully online in a couple of months (5/21)
Interior heads back online after disconnect (5/15)
Judge issues pre-trial order in Cobell trust case (5/13)
Bush administration responds to Cobell $58B claim (04/11)
'Rough justice' seen in resolving Cobell case (4/7)
House panel threatens Cobell accounting cut (4/4)
Letter: A small spark of justice in Cobell case (3/31)
Cobell plaintiffs say $58B owed for Indian trust (3/21)
Cobell case set for resolution in court (3/6)
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Judge to hold Cobell hearing this Wednesday (3/3)
Next hearing in Cobell case set for March 5 (02/21)
Resolution appears near in Cobell trust case (2/19)
Editorial: Settle 'botched' Indian trust fund (02/06)
Editorial: Settle the Indian trust fund lawsuit (2/4)
Kempthorne reiterates $7B Indian trust offer (2/1)
Editorial: A remedy for 'neglect' of Indian trust (2/1)
Cobell: 'Great day in Indian Country' (1/31)
Judge: Cobell historical accounting 'impossible' (1/30)
Cobell statement on historical accounting decision (1/30)
Jim Cason: Historical accounting facts (01/18)