The Swamp Bling
Bushies sought to overpay GOP supporters for Everglades mineral rights
The Bush administration agreed to grossly overpay Florida’s family-owned Collier Resources Co. for oil and gas rights on 400,000 acres in the Everglades, according to Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney. In 2002, Interior Secretary Gale Norton triumphantly announced the deal as “a win for all sides” that would help protect the fragile wetlands. But Devaney’s report reveals that while the Colliers would have won big, taxpayers would have been bilked to the tune of $120 million (plus tax breaks) for mineral rights worth an estimated $5 million to $68 million. In brokering the deal — which has since fallen apart — Interior officials ignored legal requirements and the objections of career federal employees, and failed to report fully to Congress. In fact, Devaney found evidence that Interior had already effectively paid Collier for the same rights back in 1988. In a shocking coincidence, members of the Collier family contributed more than $121,000 to Republican candidates during the last election cycle, including at least $5,000 to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.