Vitter Threatens Army Corps. Employees Over St. Tammany Parish Fracking Permit
Just seven months ago, Senator David Vitter unveiled his corrupt hypocrisy by attempting to blackmail prominent decision makers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) moves forward with leadership transitions and promotions in the coming months I’d like to take this opportunity to ensure that you as the two primary Corps leaders continue strengthening your commitment to improve communication and issue resolution with non-Federal stakeholders who depend on the Corps to provide necessary flood protection, reliable navigation and restored ecosystems.”
Sounds like a Senator just doing his job as Senator, right? But, there’s more. Here come the threats as Vitter continued with:
“However it’s critical that Corps leadership understand there remain several significant Louisiana issues that need to be addressed and resolved in an expeditious manner. In light of those issues I can’t support the transition or promotion of new leadership until I know that a constructive approach will be taken to address and resolve these serious problems.”
One of the ‘significant Louisiana issues that need to be addressed and resolved in an expeditious manner’ Vitter points to is the approval by the Corps of Helis Oil and Gas Permit MVN-2013-02952-ETT in St. Tammany Parish. The permit would allow the company to drill an exploratory well for the purpose of oil drilling and hydraulic fracking in St. Tammany Parish. St. Tammany Parish residents have vigorously opposed opening the parish up to fracking because of concerns about air and water pollution, damage to the aquifer that supplies drinking water, and the industrialization of the parish. The St. Tammany Parish Council earlier this year filed a lawsuit in district court to block the proposed oil drilling and fracking project.
On May 8, 2015, approximately 1 month after Vitter’s April 16th letter to the Corps, Helis Oil & Gas Company made a $5,000 contribution to the Vitter campaign. That same day, David Kerstein, CEO of Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC made a $5,000 contribution to the Vitter campaign.
On June 8, 2015, the Corps issued the permit.
The term blackmail can generally be defined as the exaction of money or something of value either for the performance of an act or the exercise of an influence. What David Vitter is essentially saying in his letter to Secretary Darcy and Lieutenant General Bostick is that if they do not perform certain acts, issue the permit, then he will punish them by taking away something of personal value to them which, in this case, are the “transitions and promotions”. In other words, he blackmailed them. Political corruption is one in which extracted resources or public money are used for power preservation and power extension purposes. This usually takes the form of favoritism and patronage politics and may include a politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils. Bribery can generally be defined as giving or receiving anything of value in unlawful payment of an official act done or to be done. There can be no other conclusion other than blackmail, political corruption, and bribery surrounding Vitter’s involvement in the St. Tammany fracking battle.
Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, standards, behaviors, or virtues that one does not truly hold. In a September 13, 2013 letter obtained by Politico from Vitter to the United States Senate Ethics Committee, the corrupt Vitter himself demanded an ethics investigation of Majority Leader Harry Reid and Ethics Chairwoman Barbara Boxer accusing them of attempted bribery.
In that letter, Vitter states:
“The Senate Ethics Manual makes clear that personal financial penalties may not be used to induce Senators to take an official act. In addition, this Committee has been clear that Senators may not hold government officials captive by tying their personal finances or benefits to their official acts.”
“As stated in the Code of Ethics for Government Service, “public office is a public trust.” A government employee must not be influenced by extraneous factors when making decisions and “never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of governmental duties.”
“In addition, the federal bribery statute makes it a crime to “directly or indirectly, corruptly give, offer or promise anything of value to any public official … with intent … to influence any official act.” The phrase ‘anything of value’ in bribery and related statutes has consistently been given a broad meaning, to carry out the congressional purpose of punishing misuse of public office.” Just as Courts have recognized that the promise of higher-paying employment is a “thing of value” for purposes of the statute, the employer contribution that is being threatened to be withheld from Members who do not vote the way that Senators Reid and Boxer prefer is clearly also a “thing of value,” and therefore subjects the members and staff involved in this scheme to potential bribery prosecution.”
To briefly recap, here’s a quick timeline of events:
September 13, 2013–Vitter demands ethics investigation of Reid and Boxer
April 16, 2015–Vitter letter threatening members of the Corps to approve Helis permit
May 8, 2015–$10,000 donation to Vitter campaign by Helis and Helis CEO
June 8, 2015–Corps issues permit
Bribery, blackmail, political corruption and hypocrisy, all combined into one. I call on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics to immediately investigate Senator David Bruce Vitter for all of the above. I encourage anyone else who cares enough about this issue to do the same by contacting the committee at:
220 Hart Building, United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510
Telephone: (202) 224-2981 Fax: (202) 224-7416 TDD: (202) 228-3752
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