The Constitution guarantees our right to a jury trial in “all criminal prosecutions.” Our commitment to this constitutional safeguard is tested when the government haughtily claims a trial isn’t necessary…
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Lee v. United States.
In 1982, Jae Lee came to the United States from South Korea as a child. Now 48 years old, Lee has lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for decades. In 2009, he pled guilty to a drug crime after his lawyer assured him that he could not be deported as a result.
As it turned out, Lee received bad legal advice. His conviction made Lee subject to mandatory removal, meaning that after serving several years in prison, he would eventually be deported to South Korea and essentially banished from the U.S.
When Lee learned of this mistake, he asked the court to vacate his plea, arguing that his counsel’s assistance was ineffective and he only pled guilty because of the recommendation from his lawyer.
He wants to take his case before a jury. The district court denied this motion because of the overwhelming evidence against Lee, ruling that his conviction at trial was so certain that his counsel’s bad advice didn’t actually harm him, particularly given the much longer prison sentence he would receive if convicted after trial.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed that a jury wasn’t needed to determine Lee’s guilt and that denying the “chance to throw a Hail Mary at trial is not prejudicial” and therefore doesn’t violate Lee’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.
Federal prosecutors say there’s no need for a trial because the evidence against Lee is strong, but our constitutional right to trial by jury doesn’t depend on the government’s assessment of its own case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reasoned that that the only chance Lee had was acquittal by “jury nullification,” which is the doctrine that says a jury can return a “not guilty” verdict even after it has concluded that the person on trial violated the law. Why order a new trial based upon an idea so irrational and antiquated, the Court reasoned.
Well, for one thing, there’s nothing wrong with jury nullification. The Framers of our Constitution believed that jury nullification was part and parcel of what a jury trial was all about.
The Supreme Court itself has noted that the jury is supposed to be the “conscience of the community” and should check the government when necessary to protect individuals from injustice or oppression. The jury cannot perform that function if it is told that it must always apply the law mechanically, without regard to justice.
Lee is now pressing the matter at the Supreme Court, which heard his argument earlier this week. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama has already broken all past records on creating federal regulations and red tape, and his new adds will boost the overall price tag to over $1 trillion.
President Obama, who this week has issued a flurry of environmental rules, is planning to unleash another set of “midnight regulations” right before he leaves office that will cost Americans $6 billion.
“These five measures alone could impose $5.1 billion in costs and more than 350,000 paperwork burden hours. In addition, three other rules in proposed form could add $898 million in burdens and 146,000 paperwork hours, for a cumulative total of nearly $6 billion in potential midnight costs and nearly 500,000 burden hours from the two agencies. Read the rest of this entry »
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
Kellan Howell report: The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service doesn’t seem like a Wild West sort of federal agency since its biologists mostly check on the human health impact of animal and plant species.
“Much of this spending on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment is redundant, inefficient and unnecessary.”
But it reported buying $4.7 million in high-powered weapons, ammunition and military gear during the last decade, including shotguns, night vision goggles, and propane cannons, according to federal purchasing records reviewed by the nonpartisan government spending watchdog openthebooks.com.
About $1.7 million of that spending occurred in 2014 alone.
The agency says it needs the equipment to protect its workers in the wild from feral swine, more commonly known as wild hogs. But spending critics like openthebooks.com see such purchases as part of a much larger trend toward militarizing federal civilian agencies and local police at taxpayer expense.
“Beyond automatic rifles, armored cars and hollow-round bullets, some agencies seemed to have expanded their purchases to the more sublime, even booking hundreds of thousands of dollars of paint ball equipment, the report showed.”
And the irony is such purchases have massively expanded over the last decade, even as President Obama has repeatedly pushed to limit access to high-powered gun and weapons in America, most recently after the Orlando terror attack last month.
“This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” the president said after the most recent mass shooting.
But on his watch, government agencies are arming themselves more than ever before.
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
In 2014, the latest year for which there are complete records, total militarized spending by civilian federal agencies dropped to $150 million, still much higher than the end of the Bush years.
Inside Job: ‘Hate Crime’ Narrative Interrupted; Man Charged with Setting Houston Mosque Afire Turns Out To Be a Devout AttendeePosted: December 30, 2015
Carol Christian and Leah Binkovitz report: A Houston man has been arrested in connection with a suspected arson at a mosque on Christmas Day, but the motive for the crime remains a mystery, with the suspect maintaining he was a regular at the mosque.
“Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times.”
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the suspect, 37-year-old Gary Nathaniel Moore of Houston, was arrested early Wednesday. Moore appeared in court at 7 a.m., spokeswoman Nicole Strong said, and bond was set at $100,000.
According to a charging instrument released by the Harris County District Clerk, Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week.
“Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records.”
Moore said he had been at the mosque earlier on Dec. 25 to pray, and had left at about 2 p.m. to go home, according to authorities and court papers. Moore said he was the last person to leave the mosque and saw no smoke or other signs of fire when he departed, authorities said. He maintained he had returned to the scene after hearing about the fire from a friend.
“A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.”
MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which operates the mosque, said he was unfamiliar with Moore. “We are just looking into it ourselves,” he said Wednesday morning after learning of the arrest.
“We are really very surprised and saddened by this whole thing,” said Khan.
Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records. A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.
A team of 30 investigators worked around the clock investigating the cause of the fire, which was found to have multiple points of origin. Moore was even interviewed by investigators at the mosque the day of the fire. He had attended services there earlier that day, according to Ruben Hernandez, chief arson investigator with the city’s fire department. Read the rest of this entry »
“The award justification stated that the director ‘…took extraordinary initiative to assist the Acting Chief Financial Officer in a final decision to transition the EPA to a fully automated invoice processing system…’”
“On June 25, 2015—6 weeks later—OCFO gave the Director a second award for $4,500.”
The EPA intended to give the employee, a director at the Research Triangle Park Finance Center in North Carolina, a third bonus but decided against it after the inspector general began their investigation.
The investigation began after a complaint that the newly hired director was going to be paid $250,000 because they moved for the job. The relocation bonus was not paid, though one manager was “disappointed” the EPA did not spend a quarter of a million dollars to hire the employee.
“However, the Director did receive two individual cash awards of $4,500 each within [three] months of her start date,” the inspector general said.
“[The EPA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer] OCFO’s unprecedented award of $9,000 in bonuses to a director less than [three] months after being hired raises questions about the reasonableness of the awards and how the OCFO uses the awards process,” they said.
The investigation found that the director was given the first bonus worth $4,500 in May, within six weeks of being hired. Read the rest of this entry »
Kimberley A. Strassel writes: When a government official (think Hillary Clinton) uses a private email account for government work (think Hillary Clinton) and then doesn’t turn over records (think Hillary Clinton), the public has to wonder why. For an example of that why, consider Thursday’s federal-court subpoena of Phillip North.
“Government workers don’t use private email because it is ‘convenient.’ They use private email to engage in practices that may be unsavory, or embarrassing, or even illegal.”
The North story hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but it is a useful tale for clarifying exactly why we have federal records and sunshine laws. You see, government workers don’t use private email because it is “convenient.” They use private email to engage in practices that may be unsavory, or embarrassing, or even illegal. Let’s be clear about that.
“Records show that EPA officials, including Mr. North, had no intention of letting the process get that far. They set about to ‘pre-emptively’ veto the mine, before Pebble could even file for permits.”
Mr. North was, until a few years ago, a biologist at the Environmental Protection Agency, based in Alaska. Around 2005 he became enmeshed in reviewing the Pebble Partnership’s proposal to develop a mine there. Mr. North has openly admitted that he was opposed to this idea early on, and he is entitled to his opinion. Still, as a government employee his first duty is to follow the law.
“But for the EPA to so flagrantly insert itself into the process, it needed cause. This is where Mr. North and his private email come in.”
In the normal course of law, Pebble would file for permits and the Army Corps of Engineers would get the first say over approval. The EPA has a secondary role. But records show that EPA officials, including Mr. North, had no intention of letting the process get that far. They set about to “pre-emptively” veto the mine, before Pebble could even file for permits. But for the EPA to so flagrantly insert itself into the process, it needed cause. This is where Mr. North and his private email come in. Read the rest of this entry »
The EPA rules in question regulate hazardous air pollutants and mercury from coal- and oil-fired power plants, known as the MATS regulations. The regulations went into effect April 16. The utility industry had argued that the rules cost them billions of dollars to comply and that EPA ignored the cost issue in putting the regulations into effect.
“EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost,” Scalia wrote in agreeing with the industry.
The decision will have repercussions for other EPA regulations that are key to Obama’s climate change agenda. The EPA will now have to examine the cost of compliance for the Clean Power Plan, which is at the heart of the president’s environmental agenda. Read the rest of this entry »
Health care, Wall Street, the Internet—by the time President Obama leaves office, there may not be much of the economy left for his successor to take over. The better news is that his attempt to do the same to the energy industry is meeting heavy resistance in the states.
The Environmental Protection Agency is finishing a rule—expected in June or July—that requires the states to meet carbon-reduction targets by reorganizing their “production, distribution and use of electricity,” as the EPA puts it. This is an unprecedented federal usurpation of what has been a state responsibility since the invention of the modern steam turbine in the 1880s.
States are normally allowed as much as three years to comply with EPA mandates that are far less complex than this one. But the EPA will instruct them to submit implementation plans by summer 2016 and make interim progress as soon as 2020. The rule is intended to impress the greendees of the Paris climate conference this year, so Mr. Obama can announce a global climate deal.
The plan hangs on an obscure section of the 44-year-old Clean Air Act. That law’s section 111(d) was well understood but the EPA has published a new interpretation of these several hundred words that runs 1,200 pages. No less a dean of legal liberalism than Harvard’s Larry Tribe is stunned by this attempt to nationalize U.S. electric generation.
States will be told to meet the targets using four “building blocks.” The first is uncontroversial: improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants and installing pollution-control technology like smokestack scrubbers. But for the first time the EPA is also telling states to roam “outside the fence line” of power plants to force coal and eventually natural gas to shut down, mandate quotas for renewables like wind and solar, and impose energy conservation.
The problem is that the federal government has no legal power outside the fence line. Last year the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals slapped down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s bid to claim authority over “demand response” on the electric grid.
Thus the EPA is trying to coerce the states into doing what it can’t do itself. Read the rest of this entry »
MADISON (WITI/AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is using his inaugural address to tout his record in Wisconsin, and draw a contrast with the federal government, as he considers a run for president.
Walker said in his inaugural speech Monday that the nation’s founders looked to states, not the federal government, as the source of hope for the country. He says, “We will not let them down.”
Walker also says that “in contrast to the politicians along the Potomac, we get things done here in the Badger State.”
Walker also says in his speech that he is dedicated to reducing the size of government and building the needed infrastructure to support a thriving economy.
Below are Governor Walker’s complete remarks:
Today, I thank God for His grace; for the privilege of living in such a remarkable country; and for growing up in the greatest state in the nation. As the son of a small town pastor and a part-time secretary in Delavan, it is quite an honor to serve as your Governor. Thank you for that cherished opportunity.
I want to thank my family: Tonette—who is my rock and an amazing First Lady; our sons, Matt and Alex—who have done an outstanding job serving as our masters of ceremony here today; my parents, Llew and Pat Walker—who always set a powerful example of how to serve others; my brother, David, sister-in-law, Maria, and their girls, Isabella and Eva; and to all of my other family members—I am grateful for all of your tremendous love and devotion.
Thanks go out to all who are participants in our ceremony today. I am particularly grateful to the members of the 132nd Army Band and all of the other members of the Wisconsin National Guard—not only for your services today, but for the ongoing support of our many brave men and women who are deployed even as we speak. Our prayers go out to each and every one of you.
And a special thank you as well to all of our outstanding veterans who served our country so faithfully. We salute you.
And thank you to all of the people across Wisconsin who have offered your support and prayers to my family. We are so very grateful. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Bastasch reports: Want to earn money while on vacation? Go work for the Environmental Protection Agency, which paid eight employees more than $1 million while they were on administrative leave, in some cases for years, according to a government watchdog report.
“EPA claimed that John Beale’s fraud was an anomaly, but EPA has allowed a number of employees to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in the last few years through lax internal controls and substandard management.”
The EPA’s inspector general found that “eight employees totaled 20,926 hours and cost the government an estimated $1,096,868” while on paid leave. Each employee “was on extended administrative leave for four or more months,” the IG reported, adding that “four of the eight employees” were on leave for more than a year.
Not only that, the employees who took huge amounts of leave time also got automatic raises — despite their being paid to do no work.
“The EPA’s major time and attendance issues and management failures are no longer surprising, just pathetic. Reforming their policy will be top of our agenda with the new conservative majority.”
— Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter
The EPA IG’s report comes after an October 2014 Government Accountability Office report that estimated the “salary cost for EPA employees on administrative leave for fiscal years (FYs) 2011 through 2013 was $17,550,100.” GAO found that 69 EPA employees used a month or more of administrative leave — 50 of these employees were on leave for more than three months and two were on leave for over a year. These 69 agency employees took 4,711 days of leave from 2011 to 2013. Read the rest of this entry »
EPA Employees Not Fired For Watching Pornography, Theft.
“This individual spent four consecutive hours on a site called ‘sadism is beautiful’. You are running an organization from which no one can get fired.”
— Rep. Darrell Issa
For The Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch writes: The Environmental Protection Agency has not been firing employees for watching pornography and falsifying federal documents, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.
“How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose his job?”
Issa asked EPA officials, including the agency’s second-in-command, testifying before the House Oversight Committee. Issa chairs the committee.
Issa was pressing EPA officials to answer his question on whether or not falsifying documents is a crime. It is a crime, but Issa wanted an answer from the panelists. The EPA officials testifying before the House Oversight Committee struggled to answer Issa’s questions about agency employees falsifying federal documents by saying they are working while they were not.
An EPA employee has been viewing pornography while at work, and has even received performance awards for his time at the agency. The employee was even watching porn when inspector general agents visited his office. The employee had 7,000 porn files on his computer and had been watching porn for two to six hours per day since 2010. This employee still works at the EPA. Read the rest of this entry »
‘It’s Not Science, it’s a Cheap Chinese Restaurant’: EPA Accused of Blocking Independent InvestigationsPosted: May 6, 2014
Dina Cappiello reports: A unit run by President Barack Obama’s political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a “rogue law enforcement agency” that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA’s inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress.
“Under the heavy cloak of ‘national security,’ the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG’s ongoing requests for information or cooperation.”
— Assistant EPA inspector general for investigations Patrick Sullivan
The assistant EPA inspector general for investigations, Patrick Sullivan, was expected to testify Wednesday before a House oversight committee about the activities of the EPA’s little-known Office of Homeland Security.
Not directly related, but the title is too good to pass up. Good wisecrackery from Sarah Hoyt:
NOT SCIENCE. IT’S A CHEAP CHINESE RESTAURANT: Let’s Call It ‘Climate Disruption,’ White House Science Adviser Suggests (Again). Like
liberalism, socialism, progressivism, this things keeps changing names when people catch on. Also, and for the record “climate disruption” was something all my New Agey friends talked about back in the nineties. If Al Gore starts chanting Age of Aquarius, I’m going to really freak out.
The office of about 10 employees is overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s office, and the inspector general’s office is accusing it of impeding its independent investigations into employee misconduct, computer security and external threats, including compelling employees involved in cases to sign non-disclosure agreements. Read the rest of this entry »
Or..Not So Much. Anti-Science Bill Nye: ‘Big Oil’ To Blame For Climate Change Doubt
From this morning’s National Review Online:
Meet the Press hosted a discussion about climate change between Bill Nye of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” fame and representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican. During their conversation, Nye argued that Big Oil is responsible for doubt in climate change.
“This is unscientific, it is not logical,” he said. “It is a way, apparently, that the fossil fuel industry has dealt with our politics. And this is not good.”
Representative Marsha Blackburn responded by arguing that warming is “very slight,” but that even if Nye’s arguments were all correct, that wouldn’t mean progressive policy proposals would fix the identified problems.
“Even director McCarthy from the EPA in answering questions from Congressman Pompeo before our committee said reaching all of the 26 U.S. goals is not going to have an impact globally,” Blackburn said. “And David, what we have to look at is the fact that you don’t make good laws, sustainable laws, when you’re making them on hypotheses or theories or unproven sciences.”
Perry Chiaramonte writes: When the last bullet-producing lead smelter closes its doors on Dec. 31, it will mark a major victory for those who say lead-based ammunition pollutes the environment, but others warn ‘green’ bullets will cost more, drive up copper prices and do little to help conservation.
The bid to ban lead bullets, seen by some as harmful to the environment, started slowly more than a decade ago. But with two dozen states, including California, banning bullets made of the soft, heavy metal, the lead bullet’s epitaph was already being written when the federal government finished it off.
First, the military announced plans to phase out lead bullets by 2018.
“Whatever the EPA’s motivation when creating the new lead air quality standard, increasingly restrictive regulation of lead is likely to affect the production and cost of traditional ammunition.”
Whether by state or federal regulation, or by market forces, lead bullets will be all but phased out within a few years in favor of so-called green bullets, experts say. While many believe that this will help the environment by keeping lead from contaminating groundwater, others say switching to copper-based bullets will cost hunters and sportsmen more and have little effect on the environment.
Michael Isikoff reports: The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.
John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a “crime of massive proportion” that were “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.
Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.
“With the help of his therapist,” wrote attorney John Kern, “Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.” Kern also said Beale was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities.”
The two sentencing memos, along with documents obtained by NBC News, offer new details about what some officials describe as one of the most audacious, and creative, federal frauds they have ever encountered.
Agency Power Abuse : EPA Preparing to Unleash an Avalanche of Agenda-Driven Property Rights-Crippling RegulationsPosted: December 10, 2013
Is Isn’t Our Land. It’s It isn’t made for You and Me.
Happy holidays from the Obama administration
Federal agencies are currently working on rolling out hundreds of environmental regulations, including major regulations that would limit emissions from power plants and expand the agency’s authority to bodies of water on private property.
On Tuesday, the White House released its regulatory agenda for the fall of 2013. It lists hundreds of pending energy and environmental regulations being crafting by executive branch agencies, including 134 regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency alone.
Allen West writes: As a former combat commander, I have been trained to look for trends. And I believe we’ve found a very disturbing one. It seems that backdoor gun control is in full effect in the United States. Why? Thanks to Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we can no longer smelt lead from ore in the United States.
The first contact the EPA made with The Doe Run Lead Smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri (population 2,800) was in 2008, but it was in 2010 that the EPA finally forced Doe Run to plan a shutdown. This plant has been in operation since 1892 but will finally close its doors this month. It was the last primary lead smelting plant in the U.S.
The closedown is due to new, extremely tight air quality restrictions placed on this specific plant. President Obama and his EPA raised the regulations tenfold, and it would have cost the plant $100 million to comply.
Environmental Protection Agency officials have from the beginning of President Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office “pursued a path of obfuscation, operating in the shadows, and out of the sunlight,” according to a Senate report. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ann E. Marimow and Lenny Bernstein
Over the past 12 years, John C. Beale was often away from his job as a high-level staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency. He cultivated an air of mystery and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses that he was doing top-secret work, including for the CIA.
Now, Beale is charged with stealing nearly $900,000 from the EPA by receiving pay and bonuses he did not deserve. He faces up to three years in prison.
Is Fracking Green?
By Michael Bastasch
Is natural gas the Obama administration’s new tool for tackling global warming?
Trillions of cubic feet of shale gas have been safely extracted using hydraulic fracturing all while reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
“It’s been a big contributor to our carbon reduction,” Moniz told the New York Daily News editorial board in an interview.
When President Barack Obama goes on holiday to the seaside things can get complicated.
By Nick Allen
Rooms have to be found for dozens of Secret Service agents, someone has to carry a selection of presidential basketballs, and of course the family dog needs his own state-of-the-art aircraft.
Arriving in the idyllic coastal retreat of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Mr Obama left behind him in Washington DC high profile debates over the budget, government surveillance and his health care reforms. Instead, he will spend the next eight days playing golf, going to the beach, and buying books from the Bunch of Grapes bookstore.
In the air he swapped his suit and tie for khakis and a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves, while Mrs Obama wore a yellow-and-white summer dress.
Bo, the president’s Portuguese Water Dog, arrived separately on one of two MV-22 Ospreys, a hybrid aircraft which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.
It was the first time the Ospreys have been taken on holiday by a US president.
EPA Covers Up The Safety Of Fracking
Energy Policy: The Environmental Protection Agency declines to have outside experts review its study claiming water contamination from fracking in Wyoming. Why confuse an analysis based on ideology with the facts?
As we noted in December 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from environmental groups, tried to manufacture a crisis in which hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was said to have contaminated test wells in Pavillion, Wyo. Those claims and others made in the six-decade history of the technology’s use have repeatedly proved groundless.
MARY KATHARINE HAM brings this:
1) The EPA gave an ethics award to fake employee, “Richard Windsor,” who was already just an unethically created e-mail alias for the agency’s former head, Lisa P. Jackson.
HotAir’s covered this story several times, but it really escalated to a point I don’t think I would have even concocted for a fictional account of government stupidity for fear it might feel like a reach. But government stupidity, undaunted by such a challenge and unbound by the limits of my imagination indeed awarded the “scholar of ethical behavior” award, among other professional recognitions, to a dude who does not exist and was created merely to unethically circumvent FOIA requests.
As the result of the persistence of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in pursuing their Freedom of Information Act requests, we found out late last year that Jackson had been using an epa.gov email account under the name of “Richard Windsor,” and that in practice it looked an awful lot like a deliberate attempt by Jackson to fly beneath the transparency radar when communicating about costly and publicly controversial EPA ideas and initiatives. Even better, it now looks like the EPA awarded the non-existent Richard Windsor with several of the oh-so-august bureaucracy’s required workplace certifications
As Erika wrote, this is real life.
2) The EPA makes conservatives pay a fortune for FOIAs to be granted while waiving fees for liberal groups.
Specifically, CEI asserts that the EPA is waiving FOIA fees for what it describes as left-wing groups – like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and EarthJustice – while it “systematically denies waivers for groups on the right,” according to CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner.
Horner said his research shows that from January 2012 to Spring 2013 the fees for “green” groups were waived in 75 out of 82 cases. Meanwhile, the EPA effectively or expressly denied his request for fee waivers in 14 of 15 FOIA instances over this same time period. Horner’s appeals of the EPA decisions to deny his fee waivers were rejected.
Further review, Horner said, established that “green” groups proved successful in getting their fees waived 92 percent of the time.
As Gabe notes, the EPA is kindly “considering” an investigation into this matter. Most transparent administration evah. More pressure, please, Congress!
3) EPA contractors are basically Gym, Tan, Laundrying in new, swanky rec rooms thanks to your tax money.
In a huge Environmental Protection Agency warehouse in Landover, enterprising workers made sure that they had all the comforts of home. They created personal rec rooms with televisions, radios, chairs and couches. On the walls were photos, calendars and pinups. For entertainment, they had books, magazines and videos. If they got hungry, they could grab something from a refrigerator and pop it into a microwave.
The crown jewel of their hideaway — which stored EPA office furnishings — was a 30-by-45-foot athletic center, cobbled together from “surplus” EPA gym equipment and decked out with a music system provided via “other agency inventory items,” according to a recently released inspector general’s report.
All of it was carefully hidden from security cameras by partitions and piles of boxes set up by the workers, employees of Apex Logistics, the contractor that ran the warehouse until the EPA severed ties after learning of the situation last month.
4) The EPA leaked confidential information on farmers and cattle facilities to environmental groups. No bigs.
According to a letter from a group of Senators to Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, the EPA “released farm information for 80,000 livestock facilities in 30 states as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from national environmental organizations. It is our understanding that the initial release of data contained personal information that was not required by the FOIA request for ten states including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio and Utah. This release included names and personal addresses.”
The Senators sent the letter Friday to express concern over the sensitivity of the data that was released to groups like Earth Justice, Pew Charitable Trust and Natural Resources Defense Council and to ask how the EPA plans to protect the data of farms and ranches that are also homes to families.
via Hot Air
If the news weren’t so saturated with scandals right now, the broadcast evening newscasts would have had a different segment each night this week on the EPA. As we were doing the podcast last night, Drew, Andy and I tried to recount them all and actually came up short on the first try. There’s just that many.
I’d really like to keep the EPA scandals in the spotlight because they run the gamut from basic bureaucratic waste, to malicious politically-motivated abuse, to direct malfeasance by the EPA’s highest appointee. Here they are:
(1) EPA awarded former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’salias, Richard Windsor, an ethics award.
Yes, a fake person — an alias created to avoid disclosure obligations and keep Lisa Jackson from having to read all the email in her actual email account — won an ethics award.
There’s two immediate take-aways to this scandal. First, it’s right at the top. None of the standard Obama Administration excuses — “it was a low-level employee; I was never informed” or “I do so many of these, I don’t even read them” — will work here. Jackson knew, she was complicit, and now she’s conveniently gone — the beneficiary of a cushy job at Apple just days after Democrats haled the company into hearings to browbeat it for obeying tax law.
Second, it demonstrates the empty “meritocracies” of the bureaucracy. Windsor’s name was on a list for completing a mandatory annual requirement, so of course “he” got an award.
…Like Avenging Bat-Men Who Have Dedicated Themselves to Goldbricking and Grabass
You know, Obama loves to praise Government Workers (e.g., his base), but Government Workers have a psychological profile, and it’s not “go getter” or “world beater.”
A warehouse maintained by contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency contained secret rooms full of exercise equipment, televisions and couches, according to an internal audit. EPA’s inspector general found contractors used partitions, screens and piled up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000 square-foot building located in Landover, Md. The warehouse — used for inventory storage — is owned by the General Services Administration and leased to the EPA for about $750,000 per year. … “The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the IG report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pin ups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.”
The EPA Administrator insists that “immediate, aggressive actions” be taken which means, per the Civil Service guidebook, “when we get to it, or thereabouts, circumstances permitting.”
Speaking of the psychological profile of the average government worker: these are people who seek security, not risk (and not hard work). I’m just curious, tangentially, about what could possibly impel risk-adverse, security-seeking, effort-avoiding Rogue Low-Level Frontline Employees in Cincinnati to make extra work for themselves and put their phony-balony jobs at risk.
A security-seeking employee only acts when his bosses tell him to.
Environmental Protection Agency officials are keeping mum today about a potential landmine of a lawsuit that claims senior executives there have used secret email accounts to conduct public business without being subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The suit was filed last week by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s senior fellow, Christopher C. Horner, Hans Bader, CEI’s counsel for special projects, and Sam Kazman, the conservative think tank’s general counsel.
In the suit, CEI asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order EPA to produce “certain records pertaining to ‘secondary,’ non-public email accounts for EPA administrators, the existence of which accounts Plaintiff discovered in an Agency document obtained under a previous FOIA request.”
According to the CEI suit, the internal EPA memo, which was referenced in a Government Accountability Office report in 2008, described the secondary accounts as known only to “few EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff.”
Many such officials would be either presidential appointees or politically appointed members of the federal civil service system’s Senior Executive Service. The agency’s current boss, Administrator Lisa Jackson, was appointed by President Obama.
Federal law requires all government employees to use only official email accounts. If they do use a private account to do official business, however, they are required to make that available to their employing department or agency.
A spokesman for EPA declined to comment specifically on the CEI suit, offering only a statement on behalf of the agency: “EPA is strongly committed to transparency and strictly complies with open government laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. We will review this lawsuit closely and respond as appropriate.”
The think tank sued after filing three separate FOIA requests in May for documents related to the secret accounts. The agency has yet to produce any documents in response to the FOIAs…
More >> via WashingtonExaminer
- Obama Cabinet Flunks Disclosure Test With 19 in 20 Ignoring Law (bloomberg.com)
- The Liberal War on Transparency (educationviews.org)
- CEI Podcast For September 13, 2012: CEI Sues The EPA (openmarket.org)