Bushies Burrowing Into Career Posts At Interior, Other Departments

November 18, 2008 10:51 a.m.

The Bush administration’s days may be numbered, but some loyal Bushies are taking steps to worm themselves or their subordinates into the federal bureaucracy, so that they can’t be dislodged by the incoming Obama administration.

The Washington Post reports:

Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants.

In one example of what some Washington veterans call the “headless nail” phenomenon — in which political appointees quietly move into career jobs ithin their departments, making it hard for the incoming administration to remove them — David Bernhardt, the top lawyer for the Interior Department, has shifted six of his deputies into senior civil service positions. One of these, Robert Comer, was found by an internal DOI report to have struck an agreement on grazing with a Wyoming rancher “with total disregard for the concerns raised by career field personnel.” Another, Matthew McKeown, has attracted criticism from environmentalists for promoting grazing and logging on public lands.

Bernhardt told the Post: “I believe these management decisions will strengthen the professionalism of the Office of the Solicitor and result in greater service to the Department of the Interior. However, the next solicitor and the department’s management team are free to walk a different path.”

But a career DOI official disagreed: “It is an attempt by the outgoing administration to limit as much as possible [the incoming administration’s] ability to put its policy imprint on the Department of Interior.”

Two Labor Department political appointees have also secured civil service jobs there.

This strategy is hardly unique to the Bush administration. In its final year of existence, the Clinton administration, says the Post, made 47 such moves, “including seven at the senior executive level.”

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