Last November, John Oliver had a fun episode of his show discussing whether or not President Trump had fulfilled his promise to “drain the swamp” (spoiler alert: he did not). Part of that episode focused on the story of Scott Angelle, who Trump appointed to run the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, an organization within the Department of the Interior, whose sole focus is supposed to be on enforcing safety standards for offshore oil drilling. The organization was created in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, after people realized that there was a conflict of interest in the existing government agency in charge of enforcing safety, the Minerals Management Service, because it was also in charge of collecting revenue from those very same oil companies. So the BSEE was set up solely to focus on safety. Except, as a NY Times profile made clear, when Scott Angelle took over, he seemed much more focused on using the position as a business opportunity for oil companies — perhaps not surprising, given that Angelle had very close ties with the industry, including getting $1 million to sit on the board of a pipeline company. In the report, which talked about just how often Angelle seemed to be meeting with oil execs, it noted:
Mr. Angelle’s speeches often center on helping the oil and gas industry cut costs and grow their businesses. And agency documents suggest moves he has already made could save the industry more than $1.3 billion in compliance costs over the next decade.
John Oliver and his team went further, highlighting speeches where Angelle directly seemed to cozy up with oil industry execs, including one where he (a) gives out his cell phone number, (b) tells industry execs to call him rather than text to avoid having their text messages released under FOIA, and (c) telling them that it was “a business opportunity” for those execs to “engage with” him. Oliver played the video, in which Angelle gives out his personal cell phone number: 571-585-3730.
That got me interested. So I filed a FOIA request asking for his phone bills, which would reveal who was calling him. The Department of the Interior actually sent me Angelle’s phone records back in February — though I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.
Now, Muckrock (the service I used to file the FOIA request) has set up a crowdsourcing campaign, asking people to go through Angelle’s phone records to see if there’s anything interesting in the 58 pages worth of phone calls listed there. There’s a special page on the Muckrock site that anyone can go to, view the phone bills and enter details about exactly who is calling Scott Angelle.
For what it’s worth, Muckrock also points out that another user successfully FOIA’d Angelle’s calendar as well, so you can see some of whom he was meeting with.
Please help us “drain the swamp” by figuring out who was calling Scott Angelle. And who knows, perhaps John Oliver will feature what you find on a future episode.