Monday, June 25, 2007

Bush administration Conflicts of Interest continued

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on June 28th 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

In addition to the convictions I cited in last week’s column, there exist numerous other examples of Bush administration political appointees abusing their positions of government power.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will probably lose his job eventually, but will never be charged regarding the politically motivated firings of 8-9 US Attorneys last December. Likewise, Bush’s former Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has admitted to conflicts of interest in arranging for a huge raise for his girlfriend (and may yet be forced out as head of the World Bank) but will never face any charges.
Monica Goodling, the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) White House liaison officer, ‘took the fifth’ and invoked her right to avoid giving ‘self incriminating’ testimony, in response to subpoenas to testify before Congressional panels investigating the aforementioned US Attorney firings. This must be construed as an admission of guilt on her part or else why does one need to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights?
A US federal judge recently granted Goodling ‘limited immunity from prosecution’ so she can tell the House Judiciary Committee what she knows about White House involvement in the firings of the aforementioned 8-9 US Attorneys. The grant of immunity wasn’t meant to apply to Goodling’s hiring, promotions and firing practices at the DOJ, but was to compel her to talk about what she knows about the firings of those 8-9 specific US Attorneys last December. Unless she commits perjury, whatever Goodling says to Congress cannot be used in the future to prosecute her.
That grant of immunity was necessitated by the fact that Monica is also under investigation by her former employers at the DOJ in a separate case involving her violating Federal laws governing US Civil Service hiring practices. It is against Federal law and DOJ regulations to consider a person’s political affiliation when hiring them for Civil Service positions. However, Monica did subsequently testify about her hiring practices, admitting she had crossed the line in questioning job candidates’ political affiliations but didn’t know that doing this was illegal.
Numerous DOJ employees have stepped forward as witnesses to Goodling’s blatant disregard of these laws and regulations in both refusing to hire anyone she considered to be a Democrat (or that she thought was disloyal to conservative Republican Party social ‘values’) and by denying promotions and or firing any existing DOJ attorneys she felt were guilty of the same ‘offences’.
Monica Goodling’s practice was to review all hiring of assistant United States attorneys and to hire less qualified or experienced lawyers who graduated from conservative Christian law schools like her own alma mater Regent University School of Law, which was founded by conservative Christian TV evangelist Pat Robertson.
She would also hire less qualified members of the conservative Federalist Society and reject more qualified and competent applicants who had interned for Democratic legislators or worked on behalf of ‘liberal’ causes. Goodling’s reviews resulted in delaying hiring decisions for weeks or months, creating problems for busy US Attorney offices around the country.
I must agree with what former Republican US Attorney for Eastern Arkansas Bud Cummins said about Goodling's hiring practices at the Justice Department; “A more experienced person would understand you don’t help the party by trying to put political people in there. You put the best people you can find in there.”
Monica Goodling is representative of the scores of other ideologically correct Bush appointees who were placed in positions of power despite their dreadful lack of experience and in many cases, their total ignorance or lack of knowledge much less any prior demonstration of managerial competence.
Monica Goodling's Justice Department hiring methods were either consciously illegal (despite her assertions to the contrary), but she figured she wouldn't be caught, or reflect her complete ignorance of US laws and regulations (as she claimed in her testimony before Congress). Either way she was a totally inappropriate choice for her respective positions of power in the US federal government.
Philip Cooney, an oil industry lobbyist before he became White House Chief of Staff for the Council on Environmental Quality, has admitted changing government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming before he resigned to go to work for Exxon Mobil in 2005. Likewise, the Interior Department Inspector General accused Julie MacDonald of changing recommendations of Fish and Wildlife Service scientists regarding endangered species and improperly leaking internal information to industry lawyers and lobbyists. She finally resigned on May1st. Conflicts of interest yes, but legal charges? I doubt it.
Bush appointees currently under investigation include Robert W. Cobb, NASA's Inspector General, who is under investigation for ignoring safety violations and tipping off space agency officials about internal investigations. Matteo Fontana is a Department of Education official who is now under investigation for conflicts of interest involving the student loan industry. Dr.Eric Keroack abruptly resigned as the head of the US family planning program, after the Massachusetts Medicaid office launched a fraud investigation of his private practice last month. Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, is now under investigation for violating a federal law that restricts Bush appointees from using their positions for political purposes.
Last but not least we have the convicted J. Steven Griles’ girlfriend, Sue Ellen Wooldridge. First, she, Griles and ConocoPhillips oil lobbyist Donald R. Duncan bought a million dollar beach house on Kiawah Island. Then 9 months later in her capacity as the top Justice Department prosecutor in the environmental division, she approved a deal giving ConocoPhillips 3 additional years to install a half a billion dollars worth of pollution control equipment at one of its refineries just days before she resigned from the Justice Department. Hopefully she will soon get to join her boyfriend in prison, only not for conjugal visitations.
Speaking as a lifelong Republican, let me now apologize for Monica Goodling and the scores of others like her, such as Philip Cooney, Julie MacDonald, Lurita Doan, Steven Griles and Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who the current Republican administration appointed to important government positions. Their actions as government officials have disgraced a great political party and I hope that they will all get what they deserve, jail time and a permanent bar against them ever working for or holding a position in US, state or even local government. These people are a disgrace to the government, themselves and the Republican Party they claim to serve.

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