A Dirty Dozen

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Jim Hightower’s newest book,Let’s Stop Beating Around The Bush, is scheduled for release next month. Until then, Utne will be running a series of excerpts from the title.

Wheeze! Hack! Gasp! Gag! Bleeeeecch!

If America’s air, water, global warming, and other enviro policies seem to you like they’re coming right out of a corporate smokestack, that’s because they are.

Bush has not merely put our government in service to polluters and plunderers, he has put it directly into their hands. It’s not just a matter of the corporate-hugging, cabinet-level sparklies at the top of Washington’s environmental pyramid — Gale Norton (Interior), Mike Leavitt (EPA), Spencer Abraham (Energy), Ann Veneman (Ag). Rather, the daily dirty work is being done by dozens of industry no-names, trusted lobbyists, and ideological hacks whom Bush has installed in key positions deep inside the innards of the pyramid, where they quietly but zealously are re-engineering the flow of national policy from pure public protection to poisonous private profits.

It’s these sub-cabinet policy operatives that actually run government. Meet a Dirty Dozen of them:

1. JAMES CONNAUGHTON, chairman of the president’s council on environmental quality. A former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters, Connaughton, represented the likes of General Electric and ARCO in their effort to escape responsibility for cleaning up toxic Superfund sites. Now he heads up pollution-policy development for the administration and coordinates its implementation. He has led the charge to weaken the standards of getting arsenic out of our drinking water, and he has steadily advised Bush to ignore, divert, stall, dismiss, and otherwise block out all calls for action against the industrial causes of global warming.

2. JOHN D. GRAHAM, administrator of regulatory affairs in the White House budget office. Graham is the de facto boss of all regulatory programs for the entire government — any change in enviro rules must pass through his strangling hands. An avowed enemy of pollution regulations, he previously headed a quasi-academic front group that consistently issued reports claiming that environmental protections are too costly for industry — not a surprising stance since he and his “risk-assessment” center were financed by more than 100 corporate entities, including the American Petroleum Institute, Dow, Dupont, Exxon, Monsanto, and 3M.

3. J. STEVEN GRILES, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. A disciple of the infamous James Watt, for whom he worked in the Reagan years, Griles went on to be a lobbyist for the National Mining Association, Edison Electric, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and other energy giants. Appointed the overseer of America’s 500 million acres of public lands, Griles was hailed by the NMA as “an ally of the industry,” and the mining association welcomed him as “a breath of fresh air” — for polluters, of course, not for us air breathers! Even though he is a public official now, he still draws $284,000 a year from his former lobbying firm, which represents corporations he supposedly regulates. Also, he has continued to meet behind closed doors with his former (and perhaps future) industry clients. The inspector general is investigating him for the blatant conflicts of interest posed by these meetings, which he had pledged to avoid in a “recusal agreement” he signed to get his government job.

4. JEFFREY HOLMSTEAD, assistant EPA administrator for air quality. Previously a lobbyist with the firm of Latham & Watkins, Holmstead represented electric utilities trying to fight air pollution restrictions, and he represented the Farm Bureau conglomerate in its fights against pesticide controls. Now inside, he’s a key player pushing Bush’s Clear Skies initiative, which will allow a 520 percent increase in toxic mercury pollution, a 225 percent jump in carbon dioxide pollution (a global warming contaminant), and a delay in the enforcement of smog and soot pollution until 2016. In charge of writing a new rule to limit mercury poisoning of children by electric power plants, Holmstead embraced a watered-down rule that essentially was written by his old lobbying firm of Latham & Watkins.

5. WILLIAM HORN, chairman of the fish and wildlife commission. In charge of charting policies governing America’s priceless National Wildlife Refuge System, Horn’s background is not as wildlife protector, but as a corporate lobbyist representing interests wanting to exploit our public refuges for their profit. He has lobbied for Florida Power & Light, Yukon Pacific Corporation (which wants to build a gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to the port of Valdez, then export the gas to Asia), and the Nuclear Energy Institute. For a hint about his attitude toward preserving pristine wildlife areas, note that he has been the lead attorney for such outfits as the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, and Sun Valley HeliSki company.

6. WILLIAM G. MYERS III, solicitor of the Interior Department. The government’s top lawyer for cases involving exploitation of our public lands by mining and agribusiness corporations, Myers previously was a lawyer and lobbyist representing mining and agribusiness corporations. At interior, he has pushed for new rules to allow more cattle grazing, to limit endangered species protections, to require fewer environmental impact statements for the lands under his stewardship, and to open public lands in five Western States to oil drilling. Myers is under investigation by ethics officials for meeting with his former corporate clients, despite having signed a conflict-of-interest agreement to avoid such contacts. Meanwhile, George W has nominated this possible law violator to be a federal appeals judge.

7. BENNETT RALEY, assistant interior secretary for water. A longtime, extremist “corporate rights” advocate who previously lobbied to kill our nation’s Clean Water Act, Raley now is the top official in charge of water issues at the interior department. In 2002, he teamed up with Karl Rove in a flagrant political maneuver to provide extra water for agribusiness from a federal water project in eastern Washington, even though agency scientists warned that this would be disastrous for wild salmon under federal protections in the Klamath River. Career agency professionals were forced to bow to White House political pressure, and thousands of fish died. When responsible officials tried to divert some of the Klamath basin water back to the endangered salmon populations, Raley again waved in Rove to apply top-heavy political pressure and back them off.

8. MARK REY, Agriculture Department undersecretary for natural resources. Rey, who now is caretaker of America’s 156 national forests, has spent his entire career as a timber industry lobbyist and congressional staffer hell-bent on fattening industry profits by letting corporations clear-cut the public’s trees. He headed the American Forest and Paper Association, the leading proponent of logging our national forests, prior to becoming a senate staffer and authoring an infamous 1995 act that suspended all environmental laws to give the green light for corporations to clear cut old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. He also wrote a bill that would have eliminated local citizen committees that oversee timber harvests. As forest chief, Rey has been the key force behind Bush’s “Healthy Forests” scam that would allow nearly unlimited clear-cutting in pristine national forests.

9. THOMAS SANSONETTI, assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. Now the public’s lead lawyer for defending our environmental protection programs in court, Sansonetti is a Republican Party political operative and a lobbyist from Wyoming who represented coal companies and other energy corporations in their efforts to undermine these same environmental protections. He previously was chief lawyer for the Republican National Committee, and, as a lobbyist, he pushed in Washington to let each coal company increase its mining on federal lands by one-third. Another of the far-right corporatists that Bush has put in charge of the machinery of government, Sansonetti, is a proud member of the government-hating, laissez-faire Federalist Society, which is amply funded by ultra-conservative, corporate foundations.

10. PATRICIA LYNN SCARLETT, assistant interior secretary for policy. This overseer of overall policy affecting our nation’s public resources is no fan of the public even holding resources and doesn’t like regulation of private efforts to exploit the public’s resources. She has written that “environmentalism is a coherent philosophy that rivals Marxism.” Most of Scarlett’s career has been spent with the Reason Foundation, a think tank that vigorously opposes government regulations and is funded by such corporations as Chevron, Dow, Enron, ExxonMobil, Phillip Morris, and Shell Oil, as well as by the American Petroleum Institute, American Plastics Council, and American Chemistry Council.

11. CARMEN TOOHEY, special interior assistant for Alaska. Cam, as he is known, is Gale Norton’s handpicked aid to oversee environmental policies affecting the vast federal landholdings in our nation’s largest state. For the Bushites, policy priority Number One in Alaska is, of course, to turn loose their oil buddies to build roads, move in drilling rigs, and extend pipelines across the majestic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Cam is well-versed on this priority and completely in tune with it, for he comes to his government job from having led Arctic Power, a lobbying group supporting corporate interests that want to open our public refuge to their private profit schemes.

12. REBECCA WATSON, assistant interior secretary for land and minerals. Directing the Bureau of Land Management, Watson is responsible for the rules and fees for gold mining companies, drillers, and other corporations wanting to profit on the wealth of minerals and other public resources within our federal lands. Her qualifications for the job are not as a public defender, but as a Montana lawyer representing mining and logging corporations that either wanted unfettered access to these public treasures or that didn’t want to pay for the environmental damage done by their exploitative procedures. Watson has represented Golden Sunlight Mines, Fidelity Exploration, Plum Creek Timber, and other companies regulated by the agency she now heads. She also worked on the litigation committee of the right-wing Mountain States Legal Foundation, a litigious, corporate-funded group of legal activists that tries to run over any environmental protection that pinches even a dime’s worth of ill-gotten corporate profits.

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