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Oil executives caught lying to Congress
Seattle Times/AP
Oil executives clarify task-force contacts
H. Josef Hebert
December 1, 2005

WASHINGTON — Five oil-industry executives acknowledged frequent company contacts with government officials to discuss energy issues but insisted that they had responded truthfully at a recent Senate hearing when they denied participating in Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force.

The exchange at the Nov. 9 hearing prompted accusations by some Democratic senators that several of the executives may have knowingly misled Congress. A report published a few days later found that White House logs showed representatives of some of the companies had visited officials of the energy task force.

New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Jeff Bingaman, its ranking Democrat, asked the executives to clarify any discrepancies. The senators released the executives' written responses on Wednesday.

John Hofmeister, chairman of Shell Oil, said Shell representatives did not meet with the task force but added, "Shell representatives did meet with the administration, including the vice president and his staff, on a broad range of energy-policy issues."

Exxon Mobil said its chairman, Lee Raymond, responded accurately when he said no one at the company participated in a task-force meeting — as the question was phrased by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

In its letter, however, Exxon Mobil confirmed that company officials met with a Bush administration official for 45 minutes on Feb. 14, 2001, to discuss the "global energy supply and demand situation." On the same day, the company said, the same information was given to members of Congress and others. The Cheney task force issued its report on energy priorities in May 2001.

Lautenberg called the executives' clarifications "corporate doublespeak that only further demonstrates the need for a criminal investigation" of their Nov. 9 testimony.

There was no indication that either Domenici or Bingaman planned to press matters further. The White House has steadfastly refused to provide a list of oil companies that provided information to the Cheney task force, going to court to fight attempts to obtain such information.

Ross Pillari, chairman of BP America, said on Nov. 9 that he did not know whether anyone from his company participated in any task-force matters.

In his clarification, Pillari reiterated that he was "not personally involved in energy policy issues" in 2001. After looking into the issue further, he confirmed that "BP representatives did meet with (task-force) staff members."

They "provided them with comments on a range of energy policy matters ... much like we continue to do on a routine basis with members of Congress and the administration," Pillari wrote.

James Mulva, chairman of ConocoPhillips, also insisted that he had responded accurately when he said his company did not participate in the Cheney task force. Mulva said he since had learned that Archie Dunham, chairman of Conoco, and another Conoco official "had attended or participated in a task force meeting in 2001."

David O'Reilly, chairman of Chevron, wrote that Chevron representatives "did not attend any meetings with administration officials or staff for the purpose of discussing (Cheney) task force activities." But O'Reilly attached to his reply a letter he sent to President Bush on Feb. 5, 2001, emphasizing "we need to increase our energy supply" and discussing other energy issues.

"Chevron personnel routinely have and did have discussions on U.S. energy policy with officials in the administration and their staff," O'Reilly wrote in his response to Domenici and Bingaman.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

Does anyone tell the truth anymore? My god, what do our children think of this behavior? Why isn't congress doing something about it? Why aren't our churches opposing these known liars and their supporters in congress. Why isn't the media demanding investigations into these lies? Has lying become so common, EVERYONE does it?