Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
- On Rising Seas: Groundwater Discharge, the Missing Factor - April 22, 2018
- Tax Reform Delivers Cheaper Electricity - April 19, 2018
- U.S. Energy Markets: The Real Russian Meddling the Media Ignores - April 18, 2018
President Obama and the cronies in his administration (with his tacit support) continue to violate laws, rules and regulations. Obama and his friends evidently believe the rules don’t apply to them.
Let’s review just a few examples:
* President Obama, who promised to run the most transparent presidential administration in history has instead arguably run the most secretive and opaque administrations. In March, the White House announced it was removing a regulation subjecting its office to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – in other words the White House was exempting itself from public scrutiny and oversight. An Associated Press investigation showed that secrecy had increased dramatically under the Obama administration. The AP analysis showed the government censored or denied outright 244,675 of the 704,394 requests made, that’s 36 percent of the time, more than any previous President. On another 196,034 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper. Requests for NSA records were censored or denied 98 percent of the time. In addition the administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers for leaks and reporters for not revealing their sources than any administration in history.
* Obama’s Justice Department, against the recommendation of its career prosecutors, dropped charges against and refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling station.
It has steadfastly refused to uphold the nation’s immigration laws by prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S. Regardless of how one feels about current immigration laws, the Justice department’s job is to enforce the laws we have not ignore them until the President gets a law more to his liking – the Attorney General is the peoples prosecutor, not the President’s private attorney.
The same justice department, under former Attorney General Eric Holder, aided and abetted gun runners in delivering firearms to Mexican drug cartels and then tried to use the fact that Mexican drug lords got firearms from the U.S. to call for stricter gun laws that it had been pushing for before the ATF let the guns walk, and implement new firearm sales reporting requirements. A number of the agents at the ATF that reported their agency’s wrongdoing were transferred, demoted or forced out, while those in charge of the pernicious program dubbed “Fast and Furious,” were promoted. When Congress wanted to know more botched law enforcement effort, Holder stonewalled, fighting in court Congress’ attempts to obtain e-mails and documents relating to the program to determine, who knew what and when.
* The administration used the IRS as its own personal partisan attack dog, denying or delaying non-profit status for conservative foundations and tea party related groups, and launching tax investigations into critics of the administration that already had non-profit status. When caught out on this, the executive in charge of the IRS office that administers non-profit applications, Lois Lerner, denied targeting the groups, then later admitted the groups were targeted. Lerner was found in contempt of Congress for refusing a subpoena to testify. But, the Obama justice department came to her rescue by refusing to prosecute her for contempt of Congress. Lerner later claimed that her computer crashed resulting in the loss of her e-mails, and remarkably, for a government computer linked to the IRS server, there were no backups. In the months since Lerner was relieved of duty, tens of thousands of these missing e-mails have been found and released; 6,400 of them just last month (more than five years after Lerner’s wrongdoing).
* And then there is the State Department. Under former Secretary of State, now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, it ignored requests from the diplomatic compound in Benghazi to beef up security, it ignored warnings that an attack was planned, and then after the attack took place and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed, blamed the attack on riots in response to a film that almost no one had seen or heard of. Subsequent investigations showed the attacks were planned, coordinated acts of terrorism, having nothing to do with a movie and the State Department knew this fact, when it falsely claimed the film was the instigating factor. In the aftermath, it has been revealed that in violation of State Department rules (and federal policies for conducting official business in general) Secretary Clinton conducted official business through a private e-mail account (all official business is supposed to be conducted through an department employees’ government accounts) and rather than preserving those e-mails for the public record, once again as required by department policy, she destroyed them.
I have rehashed these myriad instances of malfeasance, to show a pattern, and by way of revealing how unsurprised and not-shocked I am by the revelation that one more agency in the Obama administration has been found violating the rules that are meant to keep it honest.
The New York Times has revealed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ginned up support for its proposal to expand its control from navigable waters in the United States to basically all waters of the U.S. through grassroots lobbying, in violation of federal law but with the full support of the Obama administration.
The controversial WOTUS rule intended to skirt limits the Supreme Court has placed on the EPA’s control over wetlands, has many critics, but you wouldn’t know if from the comments received by the EPA. Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and more than 87 percent favoring the agency’s proposal.
Why so popular? As the Times reports:
The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final. Test[ing] the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to … enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.
While federal law permits the president and political appointees, like the E.P.A. administrator, to promote government policy, or to support or oppose pending legislation, the Justice Department, in a series of legal opinions going back nearly three decades, has told federal agencies that they should not engage in substantial “grass-roots” lobbying, defined as “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”
Late last year, the E.P.A. sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups.
The results were then offered as proof that the proposal was popular.
At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. “The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process,” said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book “A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking.”
“I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period,” he said.
Obama’s EPA has a long history of pushing ethical boundaries and skirting the edges of the law.
In January of this year I reported on a PR move the EPA tried to hide that was discovered through a FOIA request. Recognizing public opinion polls consistently showed the public was not buying the administration’s global warming hype, a memo discovered through a FOIA showed the EPA convince the public that children and minorities faced special health risk due to human caused climate change. As I wrote at the time:
EPA’s decision to shift the debate from concerns about melting ice caps and declining caribou and polar bear populations, to promoting the idea global warming poses a direct threat to public health, especially children’s health, and air and water quality.
Most Americans will never see a polar ice cap, nor will [they] ever have a chance to see a polar bear in its natural habitat. Therefore, it is easy to detach from the seriousness of the issue. Unfortunately, climate change in the abstract is an increasingly – and consistently – unpersuasive argument to make. However, if we shift from making this issue about polar caps [to being] about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue home to many Americans
The problem for EPA is, there has been no serious research linking global warming or greenhouse gas emissions to human health problems or air or water pollution.
More recently, as detailed in story in the forthcoming July Environment & Climate News, on March 2, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blasted EPA for first saying it had conducted a thorough search for the requested documents and then retracting its claim years later in a footnote to another document. Lamberth wrote, “[T]he recurrent instances of disregard that EPA employees display for FOIA obligations should not be tolerated by the agency at large.”
Lamberth accused EPA of foot-dragging on the FOIA requests until after the 2012 presidential election. A February 2014 Environment & Climate News article reported the Energy & Environment Legal Institute had obtained emails showing the Starbucks located in the J.W. Marriott Hotel near EPA’s Washington, DC headquarters served as a an “off campus” meeting place where EPA officials and environmental activists regularly met to plot strategy. By not meeting at EPA headquarters, the activists avoided signing in at the agency. Absent the FOIA request, their meetings would have remained secret.
“Either EPA sought to evade Landmark’s lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark’s request,” Lamberth said. “Either scenario reflects poorly on EPA and surely serves to diminish the public’s trust in the agency.”
With those two scandals as background, and new Obama administration misdeeds being discovered almost daily, I was frankly more surprised the New York Times reported on the EPA’s illicit lobbying efforts than I was by the EPA’s acts.
Sometimes the paper whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” actually publishes news fit to print.