Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Julie Macdonald resigns

Another day, another partisan hack is forced to resign from the Bush administration.

Julie Macdonald, a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior, resigned a week before a House committee was scheduled to look into her handling of science and staffers at the agency, as well as whether she violated the Endangered Species Act.

It also came a month after she was rebuked in a report (pdf) by her agency's inspector general, which concluded she broke federal rules for leaking internal documents to private groups.

But the final straw may have been Sen. Ron Wyden, who was holding up another Interior Department nomination until action was taken on the IG's report.

All this without even getting into how entirely unqualified she was for the position, holding a civil engineering degree while doing a job that involved overseeing and editing Endangered Species research. She was a perfect example of the Bush approach to governance: value loyalty over competence, ideology over data, and hold no one accountable.

To illustrate those points, a few choice tidbits from the IG's report:

Her politicizing the science:

The Assistant Director for External Affairs [said] MacDonald would not accept the field [office's] scientific findings and would apply science from alternative outside sources [which she would label] as "the best science" and insist field employees revise their findings to fit what she wanted.

It further notes that her meddling took up scarce time ahead of court-appointed deadlines, producing rushed, legally indefensible rulings that mired the agency in constant (and losing) litigation.

It described her approach to listing species as endangered or threatened: she would only do so when sued by environmental groups.

It describes her combative, confrontational management style.

It describes her open door policy for favored lobbyists.

It describes her sending internal documents to outside groups, notably the Pacific Legal Foundation, which exists to challenge the Endangered Species Act:

The e-mail search revealed that MacDonald had sent an FWS document ... to a PLF attorney... the [document was] nonpublic information and classified as internal DOIIEWS documents. Jones stated that these documents were for "FWS eyes only" and should not have been disseminated outside of DOI.

She also sent internal documents to a variety of other sources, including ChevronTexaco and, more amusingly, her kid and a person she had met online.

MacDonald confirmed that she also sent the Delta Smelt document to an on-line game friend through his father's e-mail account. MacDonald said she is acquainted with the on-line friend through internet role-playing games. She said she engages in these games to relieve the stress created by her job; however, she said she has not played while at work. When asked why she would e-mail an internal DO1 document to a private citizen, MacDonald replied, "I was irritated [with what was
happening regarding the subject of the document] and tried to explain my irritation over the phone; however, I sent it to him to read for a better understanding."

MacDonald could offer no explanation as to why she sent her child an e-mail containing an internal DOI/FWS document other than she feels frustrated at times and likes to have third party reviews of these documents. MacDonald opined that she sent FWS documents to the on-line game friend and her child to have another set of eyes give an unfiltered opinion of them, negative comments included.

So according to MacDonald's own words, she was seeking policy feedback from what appear to be minors. Outstanding.

I don't think she'll be much missed.

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