Monday, August 10, 2009

The DOI: A Long History of Politics & Corruption


Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1921. He was convicted of bribery in 1929 for his part in the controversy. A major factor in the scandal was a transfer of certain oil leases from the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy to that of the Department of the Interior, at Fall's behest.

Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt — already facing criticism related to his alleged hostility to environmentalism and his support of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching, and other commercial interests, and for banning The Beach Boys from playing a 1983 Independence Day concert on the National Mall out of concerns of attracting "an undesirable element" — resigned abruptly after a September 21, 1983, speech in which he said about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."[1] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.[1][2]

Under the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, the Interior Department's maintenance backlog climbed from $5 billion to $8.7 billion, despite Bush's campaign pledges to eliminate it completely. Of the agency under Bush's leadership, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney has cited a "culture of fear" and of "ethical failure." Devaney has also said, "Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of Interior."[3]

Gale Norton, Interior Secretary under George W. Bush from 2001-2006, resigned due to connections with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Julie A. MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department appointed by Norton in 2002, also resigned after an internal review found that she had violated federal rules by giving government documents to lobbyists for industry.[4][5] On July 20, 2007, MacDonald's "inappropriate influence" led H. Dale Hall, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to order a review of eight endangered species decisions in which the former deputy assistant secretary was involved. Hall has called MacDonald's disputed decisions "a blemish on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior."[6] On 17 September 2008, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to more than triple the habitat of the California red-legged frog, citing political manipulation by Julie MacDonald.[7] In a government report released in December 2008,[8] Inspector General Devaney called MacDonald's management "abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive,"[9] and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who commissioned the report, attributed the "untold waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars" to MacDonald's actions.[10]

On September 10, 2008, Inspector General Devaney found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service. In a cover memo, Devaney wrote “A culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency. According to the report, eight officials accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski, and paintball outings; meals; drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game, and a Colorado Rockies baseball game. The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” According to the New York Times, "The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch."[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

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The previous Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne is criticized for not placing any plants or animals on the federal endangered species list since his confirmation on May 26, 2006, until September 2007. As of that date, Kempthorne held the record for protecting fewer species over his tenure than any Interior Secretary in United States history, a record previously held by James G. Watt for over 20 years.[21]

On December 16, 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity announced intent to sue the Interior Department under Kempthorne for introducing "regulations...that would eviscerate our nation’s most successful wildlife law by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act." The lawsuit, which is critical of policy advocated by Kempthorne and President George W. Bush, was filed in the Northern District of California by the CBD, Greenpeace and Defenders of Wildlife. According to the CBD, "The lawsuit argues that the regulations violate the Endangered Species Act and did not go through the required public review process. The regulations, first proposed on August 11th, were rushed by the Bush administration through an abbreviated process in which more than 300,000 comments from the public were reviewed in 2-3 weeks, and environmental impacts were analyzed in a short and cursory environmental assessment, rather than a fuller environmental impact statement."[22]

[edit] References
^ a b 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations. 1988
^ RMOA - Document
^ Bush legacy leaves uphill climb for U.S. parks
^ Matthew Daly (May 1, 2007). "Embattled Interior official resigns post". Associated Press.
^ New York Times, "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife", July 21, 2007.
^ Broder, John M (2007-07-21). "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife". New York Times.
^ A California frog may be about to get room to stretch its red legs
^ Report Finds Meddling in Interior Dept. Actions
^ Investigative Report of the Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy Redacted
^ Wyden-Requested IG Report on Interior Corruption Uncovers "Contempt for the Public Trust" and "Untold Waste" - Senator praises Devaney's investigation into political interference in ESA decisions.
^ Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department
^ "Report Says Oil Agency Ran Amok: Interior Dept. Inquiry Finds Sex, Corruption". The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Oil companies gave sex, drinks, gifts to federal overseers". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Memorandum [cover letter by inspector general]". Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Investigative Report of Gregory W. Smith (Redacted)". Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Investigative Report of MMS Oil Marketing Group - Lakewood (Redacted)". Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Government Officials Tried To Rewrite Ethics Rules To Accommodate Their Partying". Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ "Official increased employee’s ‘performance award’ for providing him with cocaine". Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ Simon, Dan; David Fitzpatrick (October 14 2008). "Whistleblower: Oil watchdog agency 'cult of corruption'". CNN.
^ Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award: Protects Fewer Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History
^ Bush Administration Regulations Gutting Protections for Nation's Endangered Species Published Today - Conservation Groups' Challenge to 11th Hour Reductions in Protections for Nation’s Wildlife Moves ForwarD

[edit] Further reading
Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (2004)
Utley, Robert M. and Barry Mackintosh; The Department of Everything Else, Highlights of Interior History; Dept of the Interior, Washington, D.C.; 1989

[external links, click on title above to get to them)

United States Department of the Interior Official Website
The Department of Everything Else: Highlights of Interior History
Indian Trust: Cobell V. Kempthorne
Department Of The Interior Meeting Notices and Rule Changes from The Federal Register RSS Feed
Sex, Drug Use and Graft cited in Interior Department New York Times, September 10, 2008
Center for Biological Diversity v Dept of the Interior April 17, 2009 DC Appellate Decision stopping offshore Alaska Oil Leases.

Click on title above for full story;

1 comment:

Joti said...

The Dark History of Dept. of Interior (DOI) from my paper, "Wild Horses, Wild Innocence"

In April 1997, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) published a White Paper entitled; HORSES TO SLAUGHTER, Anatomy of a Cover-up within the Wild Horse & Burro Program of the Bureau of Land Management. Jeff DeBonis, PEER Executive Director writes on page 3:
This Peer white paper documents the institutional complicity of the Department of Interior in the continuing slaughter of federally protected wild horses. He goes on to say; The documents in this report detail the inability of the Department of Interior to police its own misconduct. Consequently, the failings reported are not principally those of the Wild Horse & Burro program but those of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Law Enforcement program, the Department of Interior Inspector General, the Office of the Solicitor and the Secretary of Interior, himself. This white paper was prepared by current and former Special Agents and investigators within the BLM. Several were participants or eyewitnesses to the events described in the report. These individuals represent more than a century of law enforcement experience.

The report shows that the BLM not only tolerated, but actually “facilitated the routine and illegal trafficking of wild horses to slaughter.” A four year investigation (1992-1996) uncovered that BLM employees as well as government contractors took as many as 30,000 mustangs, fattened them up in corrals and secretly sold them to brokers from rendering plants (called killer buyers). They used fabricated documents and falsified computer records. In 1993, a crackdown on these operations was initiated as Director Baca began the investigation and the documentation of:
a) Theft of wild horses during BLM sponsored “gathers” or captures;
b) “Black booking” or phony double branding of horses so that duplicate branded horses could disappear without a paper trail: c) manipulation of wild horse adoptions where one person holds the proxies for a group of supposedly separate adopters and the horses all end up in slaughter;
d) Use of satellite ranches to hold horses for days or weeks as stopping points on the way to slaughter; e) fraudulent use of wild horse sanctuaries/ranches subsidized by the federal government to care for unadoptable wild horses deemed excess and removed from the range as fronts for commercial exploitation.

Director Baca was moving forward with the investigations of managers within his agency, however in these investigations, there was “apparent obstruction and witness tampering by BLM managers” according to the PEER report. The case never went to trial. Many including Baca blamed the then Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt, who forced Baca out of his post as BLM Director in 1994. After Baca’s removal, the Dept. of Interior campaigned to shut down the U.S Attorney’s investigation even though a grand jury had convened to hear the evidence. Comments from lawyers in the Dept. of Justice effectively squashed the case arguing that, there was so many people involved in these operations, that singling out certain persons for prosecution, would be unfair. In her article, Last Stand for the Wild Horses, author Deanne Stillman called this “a kind of deadly equine insider trading.” All of the past negative history for Americas’ wild horses also includes hundreds of illegal wild horse shootings with little motivation to find or punish the perpetrators. This and the illegal and inhumane slaughter of 50,000 of America’s wild horses from the early 80’s to the mid 90’s ....