Corporate Statism at Interior

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Bush and his handlers have recently taken to describing the enemy as “fascist” or “Islamofascist” and anyone who disagrees with their policies as appeasers of the fascists. This is not just an incorrect usage of the term “fascist,” it is an extremely ironic use of that term because the Bush Administration itself exhibits most if not all the characteristics of fascism. A quick look at Wikipedia, for example, gives the following definition of Fascism:

Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it

. The blatant efforts to eliminate personal freedoms in the name of national security are the aspects of fascism that are most obvious, but even more insidious is the extent to which this administration has come to represent economic corporatism, or “Corporate Statism.”

Hundreds of U.S. military and government officials routinely leave their posts for jobs with private contractors who deal with the government, a process that has eroded the lines between government and the private sector, according to a report released by a watchdog group.”There is a revolving door between the government and large private contractors where conflict of interest is the rule, not the exception,” said the report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington-based group that monitors military expenditures.”The revolving door has become such an accepted part of federal contracting in recent years that it is frequently difficult to determine where the government stops and the private sector begins,” adds the report, titled “The Politics of Contracting.”

At a House subcommittee hearing this week, the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl Devaney, gave testimony that points out the extent to which the Bush Administration has converted the Interior Department into a tool for oil and mining interests. The New York Times has an editorial this morning entitled “Interior’s Internal Messes” that discusses Devaney’s testimony.

We knew that bad things would happen when President Bush filled many of his important environmental posts with right-wing activists and industry lobbyists who had spent their careers criticizing the laws they were now being told to uphold and representing industries they were now being told to regulate. Just how bad became clear this week in the course of some pointed testimony from the Interior Department’s inspector general, who accused top officials at his agency of fostering a culture of “managerial irresponsibility” that tolerated conflicts of interest, cronyism and other lapses.

At a House subcommittee hearing, the official, Earl Devaney, said that “short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”

On the broader subject of departmental ethics, Mr. Devaney expressed particular frustration at what he described as the kid-gloves treatment of J. Steven Griles, a former industry lobbyist who was deputy secretary during Mr. Bush’s first term, before returning to the lobbying game. Regarded by many environmentalists as the Svengali behind Gale Norton, Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior until earlier this year, Mr. Griles brought a pro-industry bias to nearly every big decision made during the Norton regime. He was an architect of the administration’s relentless search for oil and gas in fragile areas of the Rocky Mountain West. He was also involved in an agreement between Ms. Norton and the state of Utah that opened millions of acres of potential wilderness to commercial exploitation, and was instrumental in rolling back environmental regulations governing the mining industry.

Beginning in 2002, Mr. Devaney conducted an 18-month investigation into a whistleblower’s complaints that Mr. Griles had behaved improperly by meeting with former business partners and with industries that stood to benefit from departmental decisions. The office of government ethics eventually ruled that Mr. Griles had not violated any laws. But Mr. Devaney has made clear his belief that Mr. Griles, who was allowed by Ms. Norton to stay on the job after simply confessing to bad judgment, should have been severely reprimanded, if only to send a much-needed message to the department that even the appearance of impropriety cannot be tolerated.

The Times editorial concludes by pointing out that it is now up to new Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, to clean up the mess in that Department. Those of us from Idaho who have lived under Dirk’s brand of leadership know there is little hope of that happening.

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