Bush Nuclear Regulator Contacted Potential Employers With Business Before Agency

October 29, 2009 1:41 p.m.

A Bush administration official on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which oversees the safety of nuclear sites, is facing a criminal probe after an internal NRC report concluded that he broke ethics rules by approaching companies with business before the agency, and inquiring about employment.

Before his term expired in mid 2007, Jeffrey Merrifield contacted the Shaw Group, Westinghouse, and G.E. about jobs. Twice, he voted on issues that could have affected the financial fortunes of those companies, according to the report by the NRC’s inspector general. The case has been referred to the Justice Department.In addition, the report found, Merrifield contacted a senior executive at Exelon and asked him to make job calls on Merrifeld’s behalf.

The report was released in response to a public records request filed by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a good-government group.

As POGO puts it in a statement on their site:

The IG investigation found that in the two months before accepting a job created for him at the Shaw Group, Commissioner Merrifield voted both to approve China’s purchase of AP 1000 reactors (in which the Shaw Group had a financial interest) and to change criteria of emergency cooling systems that would directly benefit Westinghouse (of which the Shaw Group owned a 20 percent interest). The IG referred the case to the Department of Justice.

The report found that Merrifield at first took steps to insulate himself from any conflict of interest in his job search, by outsourcing the task a lawyer friend. But in the last two months of his tenure, he stopped working through the lawyer and contacted potential employers directly.

In an email to the Washington Post, Merrifield said:

My job search had no impact on any decision I made as a Commissioner of the NRC…

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