Sen. Shelby Slams Augustine Commission, Demands Investigation Into Alleged Conflicts of Interest

richard-shelbyRICHARD SHELBY PRESS RELEASE

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, today wrote a letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin calling for an investigation of the Augustine Commission’s staff. The Augustine Commission was tasked with reviewing U.S. human space flight activities and presenting objective options to the President on the optimal path going forward. In light of the fact that several members of the Commission’s staff are federally registered lobbyists for the commercial space industry, Shelby called on NASA to investigate how these staff members’ involvement affected the Commission’s findings:

“Lobbyists are paid to represent a certain viewpoint and advocate for their client or employer’s position,” Shelby wrote to Martin. “Clearly, these lobbyists, whom represent the commercial space industry in their full time profession, have an agenda which is biased. Thus their decision-making is inevitably skewed by their allegiance. It is unfortunate that the options presented by the Augustine Commission are now tainted by the efforts of these individuals who happen to gain the most from the imbalanced comparisons and lack of consistent treatment of flight options in the report.”

FULL TEXT OF LETTER

December 14, 2009

The Honorable Paul K. Martin
Inspector General
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
300 E Street, SW
Suite 8V39
Washington, DC 20546-0001

Dear Mr. Martin,

I am writing with serious concerns regarding the Augustine Commission staff, their vocation, and their conduct while serving as Commission staff. It has come to my attention that several members are, in fact, federally registered lobbyists and that some of these individuals have taken direct advantage of their temporary roles on the Commission to further their personal business. Further, there are lobbyists that worked as Commission staff that are not even acknowledged in the report. This is both disturbing and unconscionable.

The Augustine Commission was tasked to review U.S. human space flight activities – a noble goal to ensure that the nation is on a sustainable path to achieving its aspirations in space. I have a significant interest in the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program, the recent options presented by the Augustine Commission, and the pending decisions by the President on the future direction of NASA. However, I am concerned by the presence of lobbyists on this independent commission.

Lobbyists are paid to represent a certain viewpoint and advocate for their client or employer’s position. Clearly, these lobbyists, who represent the commercial space industry in their full time profession, have an agenda which is biased. Thus their decision-making is inevitably skewed by their allegiance. It is unfortunate that the options presented by the Augustine Commission are now tainted by the efforts of these individuals who happen to gain the most from the imbalanced comparisons and lack of consistent treatment of flight options in the report.

Therefore, I ask your office to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the role of federally registered lobbyists on the Augustine Commission. I request your office investigate and document any and all contacts these lobbyists made while serving on staff on the Commission. It is clearly possible that these individuals used their position to enhance their professional contacts benefiting their lobbying business and their client’s interests. Further, I would like a review of any and all input these individuals had into the report and its findings.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to reviewing your findings on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Richard Shelby