“Does That Work For You?”

Isaiah J. Poole

Another Bush administration official has been caught fixing scientific reports for the benefit of White House cronies and ideological soul mates. The culprit this time is one Julie MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior.

This is no surprise except in the brazenness of her behavior, as documented in a report released by the Interior Department’s inspector general. As noted in The Washington Post, in 2004 MacDonald sent a confidential report on the department’s habitat policies to a lawyer she later identified as “a personal friend” at the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right-wing group that bills itself as a “foe” of “government regulators and environmental extremists.” The e-mail message to the friend that accompanied the report stressed that the report was a draft subject to revision but “the fundamental legal/policy approach will not change. Does that work for you?”

That was one of several violations listed in the inspector general’s report of federal statutes that prohibit federal employees from giving “preferential treatment of any private organization or individual” and allowing the “improper use of nonpublic information” for the benefit of a private entity.

The Fish and Wildlife Service under MacDonald’s leadership certainly was working hard for friends of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which, as the Environment News Service reports, is a “self-proclaimed “national leader” in the effort to reform the Endangered Species Act [that] has successfully mounted a number of legal challenges to critical habitat reviews on behalf of their clients such as the California Farm Bureau, the Washington Farm Bureau, and the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association.”

MacDonald was “heavily involved in editing, commenting on and reshaping” many of the Endangered Species Act-related scientific reports that were generated by Fish and Wildlife field scientists, the inspector general found. It quotes one high-ranking agency official as saying that MacDonald “is more interested in political views than in getting it ‘right.’”

The report is being forwarded to MacDonald’s boss at the Fish and Wildlife Service, but don’t hold your breath waiting for MacDonald to lose her job over this. Many of the allegations in the inspector general’s report have been public since October, when The Post published a front-page article on MacDonald’s manipulation of agency findings to benefit private landowners. From the standpoint of the property owners who help bankroll the Bush administration and its Republican enablers in Congress, MacDonald is doing what she was put there to do—not let any efforts to protect the environment and its fragile ecosystems get in the way of a handful of selfish zealots who want to make a short-term buck at the expense of the long-term public good.

Does that work for you? Absolutely not. That is why MacDonald, and those like her who are evangelists for the fix-the-facts-to-fit-the-conservatism way of running government, must go.

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