It’s not animal husbandry, but like Rachel Maddow’s new book chronicles, US crony capitalism in the Trump era can often devolve to fossil fuel kleptocracy. In today’s Arms for Dirt, the GOP demand to prosecute the Bidens distracts from the concurrent deals Rick Perry made for his cohorts. These potential crimes were aided by Rudy Giuliani attempting to destabilize Ukraine’s government. But everyone should relax, the exploration leases in Ukraine only last 50 years. Darn that foreign bid-rigging annoying the Ukrainians.

This summer, the Ukrainian government awarded the rights to develop a huge complex of oil and gas fields in the country to an American company that is co-owned by a former campaign donor to then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The decision annoyed the heads of the state-owned Naftogaz conglomerate, which had competed and lost the bidding for the contract. Now, Naftogaz has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the deal, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME, casting a spotlight on Perry’s role in Ukraine’s oil and gas industry.

The Teapot Dome scandal has historically been regarded as the worst such scandal in the United States – the “high water mark” of cabinet corruption.[12][13][14][15] It is often used as a benchmark for comparison with subsequent scandals. In particular it has been compared to the Watergate scandal, in which a cabinet member, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, went to prison, the second time in American history that a member of cabinet has been incarcerated.[16][17] During the Trump administration, news outlets compared alleged misconduct by members of the Trump cabinet,[12][18][14][19] and specifically by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke[20][21][22] to the Teapot Dome scandal.

The suit was filed on Friday afternoon in the District Administrative Court of Kyiv, the sources tell TIME, and has not been previously reported. In a draft of the complaint obtained by TIME on Monday, Naftogaz alleges that the government of Ukraine acted illegally and with bias in July when it granted the oil and gas fields to an American company that is co-owned by Michael Bleyzer, one of Perry’s longtime allies and financial backers.


The Department of Energy (DOE) denied that Perry advocated for the business interests of any specific individual or company during his tenure as Energy Secretary, which ended this month. Rather, a department spokesperson said, Perry advanced the general interests of the U.S. energy sector. “Throughout his tenure at DOE, Secretary Perry championed the American energy industry all over the world,” Shaylyn Hynes, a spokesperson for the Department, said in a statement on Sunday. “[T]hroughout his engagements with Ukrainian officials Secretary Perry consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kyiv’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.”


Since 2017, Perry has played the role of international salesman for the American energy industry, particularly as an enthusiastic hawker of liquified natural gas, which he famously dubbed “freedom gas.” But as one of the Trump administration’s so-called “three amigos” who have led the United States’ diplomatic efforts in Ukraine, Perry is now embroiled in the impeachment inquiry into the president. He refused to comply with House Democrats’ subpoenas for documents related to his meetings with the Ukraine president and has declined to testify before committee members leading the impeachment investigation. Reports of his donors’ receiving a lucrative drilling contract in Ukraine now only heightens the scrutiny on Perry.

The revelations that Perry engaged in what looks to be a classic example of political cronyism should be unsurprising to those familiar with Governor Goodhair’s tenure. Over his 12 years running Texas, he developed a reputation as a brazen purveyor of pay-to-play politics, shamelessly installing his biggest political donors in powerful positions of public trust.



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Secretary of State, Secretary of Energy, White House, Trump, political cartoon


  • December 17, 2019
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