Thursday, June 17, 2010

DOIs Long History of Scandal


Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1921. He was convicted of bribery in 1929, and served one year in prison, 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."[2] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.[2][3]

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."[4]

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.[5][6] 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."[7] 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.[8] In a government report released in December 2008,[9] Inspector General Devaney called MacDonald's management "abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive,"[10] 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.[11]

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."

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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.[22]

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."

1.^ http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/utley-mackintosh/index.htm retrieved 2010-05-20
2.^ a b 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations. 1988
3.^ RMOA - Document
4.^ Bush legacy leaves uphill climb for U.S. parks
5.^ Matthew Daly (May 1, 2007). "Embattled Interior official resigns post". Associated Press. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/05/01/interior_official_quits_ahead_of_hearing/.
6.^ New York Times, "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife", July 21, 2007.
7.^ Broder, John M (2007-07-21). "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/washington/21interior.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin.
8.^ A California frog may be about to get room to stretch its red legs
9.^ Report Finds Meddling in Interior Dept. Actions
10.^ Investigative Report of the Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy Redacted
11.^ 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.
12.^ Charlie Savage (September 10, 2008). Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/washington/11royalty.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
13.^ Kravitz, Derek (September 11, 2008). "Report Says Oil Agency Ran Amok: Interior Dept. Inquiry Finds Sex, Corruption". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/10/AR2008091001829.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
14.^ Savage, Charlie (September 11, 2008). "Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/washington/11royalty.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
15.^ "Oil companies gave sex, drinks, gifts to federal overseers". McClatchy Newspapers. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/226/story/52243.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
16.^ "Memorandum [cover letter by inspector general"]. http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2008/09/10/18/Gordon-OIG-Cover-Letter.source.prod_affiliate.91.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
17.^ "Investigative Report of Gregory W. Smith (Redacted)". The Washington Post. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigative/documents/smith-080708.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
18.^ "Investigative Report of MMS Oil Marketing Group - Lakewood (Redacted)". The Washington Post. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigative/documents/mmsoil-081908.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
19.^ "Government Officials Tried To Rewrite Ethics Rules To Accommodate Their Partying". http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/10/rik-ethics-rules. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
20.^ "Official increased employee’s ‘performance award’ for providing him with cocaine". http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/10/smith-cocaine. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
21.^ Simon, Dan; David Fitzpatrick (October 14 2008). "Whistleblower: Oil watchdog agency 'cult of corruption'". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/14/oil.whistleblower/index.html.
22.^ Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award: Protects Fewer Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History
23.^ 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

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