December 16, 2008

New Inspector General Report on Julie MacDonald et al.

By New Inspector General Report on Julie MacDonald et al.

Yesterday, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney issued a 147-page report detailing his staff's findings as to the alleged misconduct of former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald.  The theme of the document basically is this:  MacDonald had one conception of Interior Department ESA policy, and Fish and Wildife folks another, and when MacDonald pressed her view, the Service folks didn't like it.  If you think we're exaggerating, read the cover letter.  E.g.,

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that our investigation revealed an enormous policy void, which MacDonald was able to readily exploit.  While the ESA affords the Secretary great discretion in several areas—exclusions of habitat being one example—the absence of policy in excercising that discretion has resulted, in MacDonald's case, a wholesale lack of consistency, a process built on guess-work, and decisions that could not pass legal muster.  This dearth of policy and guidance seems less than coincidental.  For many years, through several administrations, this appears to be an area of intentional failure to clarify, in order to maximize the agenda du jour.

(Cover letter at 2, emphasis added).  So, MacDonald becomes the scapegoat because she attempted to bring to bear a certain policy to ESA decisions.  And for that, she is villified.

To be sure, MacDonald and her bosses had a vision of the ESA and how it should be implemented that was not congruent with the environmental community's.  But, during the Clinton administration, the views of Babbitt et al. were not the views of the property rights movement, and yet there was no character assassination approaching what has been done here.

Let's hope that the Obama administration moves on from this sorry episode of manufactured "gotcha."

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