December 14, 2005

Senate Democrats again want oil execs investigated

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Wednesday again
demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether big
oil company executives lied to Congress about their firms'
involvement with a White House task force that developed the
Bush administration's energy policy.

The lawmakers accused the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp., BP
Plc's U.S. unit, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp and Shell Oil of
lying during a Senate hearing in November when they said their
companies did not participate in the energy task force headed
by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Washington Post later reported that a White House
document showed many of the companies had met with the energy
task force.

The executives stood by their initial statements when they
were to asked to clarify them after The Post story came out.
However, they admitted talking about various energy matters
with members of the administration, including Cheney.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on
Wednesday, the lawmakers said if witnesses believed the laws
won't be enforced requiring truthful testimony to Congress,
then Senate hearings will loose their usefulness and the
chamber can't legislate.

"You and your Department have a unique constitutional duty
to enforce laws that help protect the integrity of proceedings
before the United States Senate," the lawmakers said. "We
strongly urge you to exercise this critical duty."

The letter was signed by eight Democrats, including Senate
Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Frank Lautenberg of
New Jersey.

Lautenberg had previously asked the Justice Department to
investigate whether the oil company executives lied in their

The department responded that it takes allegations of false
statements to Congress very seriously, and asked Lautenberg to
provide specific information, beyond what is available in
printed news reports, on which oil executives may have lied to