This article about former federal officials working as oil and gas lobbyists incorrectly said that Randall Luthi left his position as director of the Minerals Management Service just weeks before the explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to become president of the National Ocean Industries Association. Luthi joined the oil industry trade group weeks before the April 20 blast, but he had left the MMS 14 months earlier.
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Three of every four oil and gas lobbyists worked for federal government
All told, more than 430 industry lobbyists once had jobs in the legislative or executive branches, according to the Post analysis, which was based on CRP lobbying data, employment histories and other records. Scores had ties to major committees that shape federal oil policies or to lawmakers who supported industry priorities while in Congress, records show.
Focus on ex-lawmakers
The analysis suggests the industry has focused on hiring former lawmakers from oil-producing states. Fifteen of the 18 former members of Congress who now lobby for oil and gas firms are from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma or Kansas.
Dozens more previously worked as aides to lawmakers from those states. At least three industry lobbyists, for example, previously worked for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), an outspoken critic of President Obama's oil-drilling moratorium in the gulf.
During a June hearing, Landrieu warned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that a prolonged halt to deep-water drilling "could potentially wreak economic havoc on this region that exceeds the havoc wreaked" by the spill itself. Later that evening, Landrieu held her annual "Crawfish Fest" fundraiser, and its hosts included seven oil industry lobbyists -- six of whom previously worked on Capitol Hill, the invitation shows.
Landrieu said in an interview that she is naturally interested in oil and gas issues given the industry's importance to Louisiana. But, she added, the industry contributes relatively little to her campaign accounts given its size.
Out of more than 100 former staffers, Landrieu said, only a handful work for oil firms. They include former legislative counsel Kevin Avery, now representing Marathon Oil, and former energy adviser Jason Schendle, now lobbying for BP and other oil firms. "These two individuals don't have any more special access than anybody else," Landrieu said. Avery and Schendle did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Marathon spokesman Lee G. Warren said the company seeks varied backgrounds in hiring for its government-affairs team; records show it has hired at least seven lobbyists with government experience. Warren said former government employees "offer experience and expertise."
The party affiliation of lobbyists is fairly evenly divided. About 55 percent of the revolving-door lobbyists with clear partisan affiliations have worked for Republicans, including two former aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who lobby for Exxon Mobil, the records show. Three aides to former vice president Richard B. Cheney, himself a former oil-services executive, now lobby on behalf of oil firms, including former energy adviser Kevin O'Donovan, now a Royal Dutch Shell executive. Former interior secretary Gale Norton is a Shell lawyer.
Shell spokesman Bill Tanner said the company looks for "candidates with the academic and professional experience, proven commitment and highest standards of integrity."
Plenty of oil lobbyists also have worked for Democrats, including power broker Tony Podesta, whose lobbying firm represents BP and Sunoco. He has co-hosted at least five fundraisers for Democratic candidates this year, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
From agency to industry
Nowhere has government and industry coziness been on display more clearly than at MMS -- recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The Post analysis found more than a dozen former MMS employees working for the oil industry. Lawmakers have asked the agency to provide Congress with the work histories of agency employees. The agency's new director, Michael Bromwich, acknowledged conflicts in the inspecting ranks in a statement to The Post and said new procedures aim to prevent employees from conducting inspections of former employers.
One recent example of a revolving-door move within MMS involved Randall Luthi, who left as agency director just weeks before the BP explosion to become president of the National Ocean Industries Association. Although Luthi's salary has not been disclosed, the previous association president made $580,000 in salary and bonuses in 2008, tax records show. Luthi, who declined interview requests, made less than $160,000 at MMS.
The Obama administration's single revolving-door appointment at the agency is a former BP executive, Sylvia Baca, who was named deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management in June of last year. (Baca served as assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the Clinton administration.)
Salazar spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said Baca does not work on offshore-drilling issues and has been recused for two years, or until next summer, from participating in any cases involving BP.
The close ties between industry and government can lead to troubles. In a few cases, fraternal ties and the lure of money have led to criminal convictions. Former Interior officials Milton K. Dial and Jimmy W. Mayberry pleaded guilty in 2009 and 2008, respectively, to charges stemming from a contracting scheme that allowed the men to retire from MMS but continue to earn six-figure salaries funded by the agency.
Dial declined to comment. In a telephone interview, Mayberry said, "It was a contracting issue between me and the government, and that's been resolved."
When agency investigators examined the MMS's Lake Charles, La., office this year, they found that inspector Donald C. Howard reaped financial benefits from an offshore firm he was supposed to be regulating. Howard was sentenced last year to one year of probation and fined $3,000. He did not return calls seeking comment.
Staff writer T.W. Farnam and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.