Monday, June 25, 2007

Bush administration Criminal Convictions and Conflicts of Interest

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on June 21st 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

In a previous column I discussed “Scooter” Libby’s convictions for obstruction of justice and perjury as being the first felony convictions of a high ranking White House official since the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980’s.
Bush’s top political advisor, Karl Rove, and his Vice President, Dick Cheney, were also implicated at Libby’s trial for their roles in a “whispering” campaign to discredit former US Ambassador Joe Wilson. Ambassador Wilson had angered them by exposing the Bush administration’s use of discredited intelligence about Iraq’s WMD capabilities to help justify their decision to invade Iraq. Libby incidentally, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for those felony convictions.
It says something about the White House and particularly Vice President Cheney that, according to Cheney, he has not had a single conversation with “Scooter” Libby since his conviction almost three months ago. Cheney was, after all, referring to a man who was once his best friend, had served as his right hand and chief political advisor for many years, as well as his (Cheney’s) White House chief of staff since he first took office in 2001.
The crimes Libby committed were part of an unsuccessful attempt by Libby to do Cheney and Rove’s bidding, and then lying about it to avoid having them implicated for their roles in disclosing Ambassador Wilson’s wife’s identity as a covert CIA operative. Hmmm. One has to wonder; with friends like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, who needs enemies?
Or is there some reason why Cheney isn’t talking to a man he has spent more time with over the years than anyone else, including his own wife? Could it be that there is a Presidential pardon in the wind before Bush leaves office in January 2009? Soon to announce (potential) Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson has already flatly stated that he would pardon Libby if he was President. Stay tuned.
A reader recently asked me if any other Bush administration officials had been similarly accused of crimes or conflicts of interest. The short answer is yes, so I will now attempt to provide a summary of the charges and accusations against various Bush appointees. But first I want to note that the Bush administration has probably been no better, but possibly a bit worse in this regard, relatively speaking, than previous Republican and Democratic Presidential administrations.
Worse in that the current Bush administration has shown a knack for appointing other Republicans to positions of Federal government power who are either ill equipped or ill suited for their positions. Some of them came into government directly from their previous jobs as lobbyists on behalf of the industries they were then supposed to regulate. This is kind of like ‘putting the fox in charge of the hen house’ if you ask me.
Others lacked experience, any prior track record of managerial competence or even worse, they were ignorant of what their respective government job responsibilities entailed. The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Michael Brown, who led the US Government’s disastrous emergency response to Hurricane Katrina, is one of the more egregious examples of this lack of experience and managerial incompetence.
Worse yet were those with prior records of ignoring government ‘conflict of interest’ rules who then consciously acted in an illegal manner, thinking that they could avoid being caught doing so.
Unfortunately for me as a member of the Republican Party, it will take this and another follow-up column just to give you a brief overview of some of those Bush appointees who have either been convicted of illegal actions while in government or accused and investigated for ‘conflicts of interest.’
Those who have already plead or been found guilty include Darleen Druyun. She was a Defence Department procurement officer who recently served nine months in prison for violating federal conflict of interest rules. She approved a 23 billion dollar deal with Boeing to lease tankers for the Air Force to use for refuelling planes in the air and then quit her job and took a position with Boeing.
J. Steven Griles was the Deputy Interior Secretary who is now the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s influence peddling scandal. Griles was a coal, oil and gas industry lobbyist before Bush appointed him as Deputy Interior Secretary. He was forced to resign that position in 2005 after an 18 month investigation by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General of his violations of rules pertaining to conflicts of interest.
While he was never charged in that case, Griles recently pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee about his relationship with Jack Abramoff and his actions as the chief operating officer of the Interior Department on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
David H. Safavian was the powerful Chief of Staff of the General Services Administration convicted of lying to investigators about his relationship with Abramoff and is also awaiting sentencing. Safavian was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice regarding his efforts to support Abramoff’s purchase of two properties controlled by the GSA. He also lied about the expensive golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London.
Roger Stillwell was an Interior Department official who worked in the Insular Affairs Office, which handled issues involving the Northern Mariana Islands. Abramoff was the lobbyist for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who plied Stillwell with hundreds of dollars in face value (but thousands of dollars in market value) tickets to football games and concerts. He pleaded guilty and was fined and sentenced to two years probation for refusing to report these “gifts.”
Also, Bush's domestic policy adviser, Claude Allen pleaded guilty to theft charges involving fraudulent merchandise returns while he was working at the White house. He was fined and sentenced to two years probation for these thefts.
Next week I will summarize other cases in which high ranking Bush administration political appointees have been accused or are still under investigation, involving their ‘conflicts of interest.’

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