GAO Investigation Uncovers Political Meddling by Four Top Interior Officials

Brian Ertz posted a related article about this on May 21.

“As Chairman of this Committee, I am forced to conclude that not only has the endangered species program been sorely politicized, but effort after effort supposedly designed to correct the mishandling of the program by this Administration and its agencies has also been badly bungled. At this point, the best hope for endangered species may simply be to cling to life until after January when this President and his cronies, at long last, hit the unemployment line. . . .: Chairman Nick Rahill.

Rest of the story from the House Natural Resources Committee.

Update May 26. Editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune. Hungry bears: Bush policies are endangering species.





  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    it’s a great quote !

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    A brighter day is coming. I predict 2008 will be land congressional/presidential landslide like 1932 and 1964.

    Public opinion research results, campaign enthusiasm, campaign contributions and disgust with the the incumbent (that’s like 1932, not 64) point to tremendous defeats of the Republicans across the board. The Republicans have now lost three special elections (for the House) in a row, and they were in Republican districts, including Denny Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the U.S. House until 2006.

    Democrats are by no means guaranteed salvation. After the election, there will be strong competition for influence; and for wildlife friendly, defeated Republicans there will be the opportunity to move their party back onto the course exemplified by many great Republican conservationists of the past — away from the Julie McDonalds, Dick Cheneys, George Bushes, Gale Nortons and Dirk Kempthornes.

  3. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Hopefully, the pressure from the GAO and Chairman Rahall, will prompt these four political appointees to resign. with a little luck, Kempthorne will also leave. With these people gone, perhaps the ESA will be used as it was intended; rescue endangered species from extinction.


  4. Jon Way Avatar

    Why doesn’t this make the national media more often? These people should be in jail. Or would Bush just pardon them?
    Since they don’t believe in science (apparently) maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to use all of the medicines and various treatments that help us live longer. Most of our standard of living in the U.S., in my opinion, can be credited to scientific advances in the past 100 years. Let’s shut them out of our great scientific achievements if they aren’t willing to give science its due respect…

  5. JB Avatar

    Need a bit of help here. I’ve read the entire GAO report ( and I just searched the pdf and I can’t find any of the 4 people named in this article. Does anyone know where I might find the report that named these individuals?

  6. timz Avatar

    I have no doubt a Democratic administration could produce a more eco-friendly Interior Department. But the Democrats now control both houses of congress and it seems to me they could be doing a whole lot more than “clinging to life until Bush leaves.” Why not act now, or a year ago or two years ago? Sorry I’m not convinced the Democrats are all that much better than the Republicans on these issues.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The thing about Congress is the difference between a formal majority and a working majority. Then there is crucial matter of who controls the executive branch.

    In Congress and state legislatures, the party with the majority of seats almost always gets to elect the majority leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the House (or Assembly). They usually also get to chair all the committees and hold at least a slight majority on each committee.

    This is important, and that is what the Democrats currently have in Congress; but it is vastly insufficient to change the policies of an executive of a different party.

    A working majority actually moves new policy through and out of the Congress or legislature. This takes more than half the seats. The Democrats don’t have this.

    The reason a working majority takes more seats is due to lack of party unity and the rules.

    The Democrats have a just a one seat majority in the U.S. Senate and that is solely because Senator Joe Liebermann, who used to be a Democrat, chooses to vote with them to retain a Democratic majority, but he is an independent and often more like a Republican.

    More important, is the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate. It takes 60 votes to defeat a filibuster (called “invoking cloture” — end of debate). Nowadays almost every major piece of legislation is filibustered. This means for either party to beat a filibuster, they must retain all of their members and pick up at least 10 of the other party in a vote to end the filibuster.

    The day any party wins 60 or 60+ seats in the U.S. Senate will be like an enormous logjam breaking (or protective barrier, perhaps).

    To overcome a chief executive of the opposite party, the congressional majority has to be able to overturn a veto. This requires 2/3. I think this large a majority has been held only for 2 years in the last 100 years, but of course the veto usually disappears if a President of the same party as Congress is elected.

    In sum then, there isn’t much the Democrats can do except investigate; and even then Bush often refuses to respond to a lawful order to have his people testify. This should be an impeachable offense, and the Democrats clearly don’t have the taste for that battle, especially now with the election just down the road. I do fault the Democrats for not moving to impeach as soon as they gained control of Congress in January 2007. They probably would not have been successful, but it would have disrupted Bush’s policy making and probably exposed even more crimes, corruption, and subversion of the Constitution by the doctrine of the unitary executive (imperial presidency).

    In short, we can hardly judge the Democrats on the issues because it is impossible for them to move very many of them (with a few exceptions).*
    – – – – – – –

    * It doesn’t take a supermajority to cut funding or defeat a Bush Initiative. They could have cut funding for the war. Their slowness in stopping Bush from spying on all of us is inexcusible in my opinion.

  8. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I think that the Democrats are better in that they lack the malicious intent of the Republicans against wildlife and wild-places. I wonder whether they’re self-motivated to advance wildlife-friendly policy – but really, all that means is that activists will have to work to put that pressure on – and Democrats are a lot more malleable to that pressure than the Republicans are. Remember, we’ve got the science to legitimize. And, kind of in a sick way, we’ve got a hell of a lot more leverage than we had during the Babbit days when things like range reform got smacked down by the good ol’ boys. Bush’s refusal to list has kicked all of that down to this point. We’ve got a lot of legal leverage that can turn into political capital. I don’t think a lot of people realize how big this sage grouse listing is. That potential listing will give anyone in Interior a lot of political room in a Democratic era in ways it wouldn’t in a Republican dominated Interior. There are so many other now ‘not directly political’ efforts that will have the potential to bear political fruit into the future. So many efforts now that have been simmering on the back burner for fear of rider or other political backlash.

    We’ll be given that space, which is vastly better than the past couple decades. I’ve heard good names concerning a potential Secretary of Interior appointment – better than Babbit – but all that’s speculation at this point.

    The Republicans are finding that their same old tired attempts at wedge, divide & conquer politics are failing (think the guns in national parks stuff). The Democrats will have the opportunity to seriously advance the well-being of our natural world, wildlife, and wild-places — if they choose to — or if we choose to.

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Ralph, IMO – Democrats should not have impeached Bush right away – but should have “kept it on the table” – or perhaps more properly: “Hanging over his head” and leveraged that threat at every turn.

    It was such a weak political move to take impeachment “off the table” …

  10. timz Avatar

    I think a big problem with eco-issues is if you look at/believe
    polling data enviromental issues always seem to be well down the list of issues that people care most about. There probably is not a lot of political points to be gained/lost with the electorate fighting against or pushing for these issues. Especially at the national level.

  11. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    A story in the Missoulian said, “The GAO report showed that the Yellowstone grizzly population had only partially met recovery criteria when it was proposed for delisting and when it was delisted.” (5/22/08, Report criticizes Interior over delisting decisions, by Noelle Straub)

    I wonder if an enterprising reporter will ask US Fish & Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen about his role in bamboozling the public about the Yellowstone grizzly situation? “This whole thing is based on a very firm foundation of science,” Servheen told MSNBC back in back in 2005. “We feel we’re ready to delist the grizzly bear,’ Servheen says. All ‘recovery parameters’ established for the bears also have been met or exceeded: the number of females with new cubs; the distribution of moms with cubs throughout the Yellowstone area; overall mortality in the bear population of less then 4 percent.” (8/18/05, Uproar over plan to delist Yellowstone grizzlies by Mike Stuckey)

    Which of the recovery criteria had not been met when grizzlies were delisted? Has the recovery criteria been met now? Even if Servheen claims the recovery criteria has now been met, why should the public trust that he’s telling the truth this time?

  12. ranch hand Avatar
    ranch hand

    Ted Nugent for president!

  13. JB Avatar

    “Ralph and all you other idiots need some common sense?”

    You mean like Ted Nugent? Don’t waste people’s time. If you have something constructive to say, then say it. If you’re just going to call names, then please just bugger off. We all have better things to do with our time then read such drivel.

  14. Buffaloed Avatar

    Bye Ranch Hand.

    This is the same type of thing that happened with the buffalo listing petition. According to reports none of the information that FWS had could be used to list a species, only the information provided in the petition could be used. This is not good government and even though it is painfully obvious that buffalo should be listed they weren’t. Kudos to the gentleman for actually taking the initiative himself but when you have and administration that doesn’t like government then you are going to get an administration that doesn’t know how to conduct good government.

  15. Buffaloed Avatar

    P.S. It will be interesting to see how well the threat to veto the G.I. bill will go over. It is unconscionable that Bush would even consider vetoing veterans benefits during a time of war. But what do you expect from a fascist like him?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan