A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.
The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, 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 the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate. "The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force," Lautenberg said.
The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making "any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress.
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.
"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.
"We did not, no," Mulva said.
"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.
Ouch. But of course, these poor oil companies still need the help of our generous executive administration, and the Senate - in order to secure additional tax breaks . . . because billions upon billions in record profits during the 3d Quarter (in the midst of national emergency) wasn't enough.
Well, at least a few Senators think it may have been enough:
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Windfall profits tax needed
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Hands Off The Windfall