Federal Government Often Selfish, Not Selfless

April 25, 2014

A new Rasmussen poll finds that just 19 percent of voters think that the federal government “does the right thing nearly all the time.” The poll also finds that two-thirds of voters think that the government “looks out primarily for its own interests.”

These public perceptions about the federal government are correct, as frequent stories in the Washington Post confirm. Today, the newspaper has front-page stories about how the Navy’s Blue Angels may have been a “hotbed of hazing, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination,” and how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been apparently acting corruptly at the highest levels.

Regarding the Blue Angels, the Post reports:

… an internal military document that a Navy official inadvertently e-mailed to a Washington Post editor states that a former member of the Blue Angels filed a complaint last month accusing [Blue Angels commander Gregory] McWherter of promoting a hostile work environment and tolerating sexual harassment. The complaint described an atmosphere rife with sexually explicit speech, the open display of pornography and jokes about sexual orientation. The Navy officer is the latest in a string of senior military commanders to come under investigation for sexual misconduct or other misbehavior.

It does sound like top Pentagon officials are taking a harder line than in the past against such bad behavior, no doubt due to all the negative press these sorts of incidents have been generating.

That’s why I find the new DHS revelations more disturbing. The Post story indicates that rather than trying to stomp out bad behavior, top DHS officials were collaborating in the appalling rule-breaking of its former inspector general (IG), Charles Edwards.

IGs are the internal watchdogs that the public counts on to keep the massive $3.5 trillion federal government operating with at least some degree of propriety. But, as the Post reports, the DHS IG was apparently working with top DHS officials to selfishly undermine the public trust for narrow political ends.

The top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report from a Senate oversight panel.

Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations, according to the report from an oversight panel of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee.

A year-long bipartisan investigation by the panel also found that Edwards improperly relied on the advice of top political advisers to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about the wording and timing of three separate reports.

… Edwards was particularly close to members of Napolitano’s inner staff and often communicated more with them than with his own senior leadership team, the Senate inquiry found.

… Federal law requires inspectors general to remain independent of the agencies they oversee and to seek legal advice only from their own counsel or another IG’s counsel …  [But] the Senate report said Edwards conferred regularly with both [DHS general counsel John] Sandweg and Noah Kroloff, Napolitano’s chief of staff, at the same time he was allegedly pushing to delete embarrassing information from the Secret Service report.

So if the new bipartisan report is correct, the DHS IG was an enabler of bad behavior in the DHS, rather than an investigator of it. He aided top officials in pursuing their selfish political ends, rather than calling them to task. To me, that’s corruption and it’s disgraceful. Too often, federal officials work against the public interest, not for it, and that is one reason why we should downsize the government.


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