Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ethics problems go on at Bush/Cheney Interior Dpt.

Bush and Kempthorne

TUCSON -- Please read this important editorial today from NYT. I'm proud to say that PEER and I worked with NYT on this issue and editorial.


NEW YORK TIMES -- July 10, 2007, Editorial

Interior’s Incomplete Ethics Policy

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has described himself as a late-inning relief pitcher, sent in to clean up the department after the tumultuous and destructive reign of Gale Norton. Not the least of his problems has been the terrible ethical hangover left by Ms. Norton’s deputy, J. Steven Griles, who went to prison for lying to Congress about his ties to Jack Abramoff, a convicted former lobbyist.

From his first day about a year ago, Mr. Kempthorne has stressed the importance of ethical behavior. He recently sent all employees a plan to transform his agency into what he called “a model of an ethical workplace” — including more ethics lawyers, stronger disciplinary procedures and new restrictions on meetings with lobbyists.

This is good, but not enough. Almost no attention is paid to the most fundamental ethical failure of the Norton regime: the willingness to censor or tailor scientific findings to suit the ideological objectives of the White House and the wishes of industry and other special interests. Mr. Griles was among the worst offenders, carrying water for oil, gas, mining and grazing interests. But there were others.

The department’s inspector general found that Julie A. MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary, ran roughshod over scientists whose findings on behalf of certain endangered species annoyed commercial interests. Ms. MacDonald, who has since resigned, was also accused of sending internal agency documents to industry lobbyists.

Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary with strong ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, demanded the lifting of restrictions on commercial activity in the national parks, including snowmobiles, despite warnings from agency scientists that doing so would expose the parks to environmental harm.

Congress has taken note. Alarmed by reports that Mr. Cheney intervened in efforts to save fish species in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin, Nick Rahall, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is resuming his investigation into the administration’s favoring of politics over science.

If Mr. Kempthorne is serious about cleaning up his agency, this deserves his attention as well.

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