You might think that having the number two guy at Interior go to the slammer would serve as a cautionary warning to the Administration — but no. Instead, Bush is eagerly racing to make certain that it’s harder for these kinds of corrupt arrangements to be exposed. Over at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the Inspector General is facing a ten-percent cut in its program, even though Congress just gave the IG more money. Senior auditors and criminal investigators are being forced into early retirement; branch offices may be closed; technical specialists who retire or resign will not be replaced. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the group that released the internal documents, said “the cutbacks will reduce the ability of the IG to audit Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contracting, investigate EPA enforcement actions and review allegations of political manipulation of agency science.”
The EPA Inspector General exposed a whole series of internal agency scandals; but when Nikki Tinsley resigned from the position last year, the Administration attempted to replace her with Alex Beehler, a Defense Department official linked to attempts to exempt Pentagon operations from environmental laws. Congress blocked Beehler, but the position remains vacant, and now EPA Administrator Steve Johnson is moving to de-fang his watchdogs before a new IG can be put in place to defend the oversight function.