Can you spell A-$-A? How about 'incestuous'? | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Can you spell A-$-A? How about 'incestuous'?

Posted By on Sat, Jun 17, 2006 at 4:02 PM

The NY Times with some very Arkansas-relevant reporting:

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WASHINGTON, June 17 — Dozens of members of the Bush administration's domestic security team, assembled after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now collecting bigger paychecks in different roles: working on behalf of companies that sell domestic security products, many directly to the federal agencies the officials once helped run.

At least 90 officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House Office of Homeland Security — including the department's former secretary, Tom Ridge; the former deputy secretary, Adm. James M. Loy; and the former under secretary, Asa Hutchinson — are executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars' worth of domestic security business.

More than two-thirds of the department's most senior executives in its first years have moved through the revolving door. That pattern raises questions for some former officials.

"People have a right to make a living," said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the department, who now works at the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center. "But working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work in an area where you were just setting the policy — that is too close. It is almost incestuous."

The article goes on to provide many gory details about Republican gubernatorial nominee Hutchinson -- how he hired former government aides not subject to a one-year lobbying ban (as he was) to do lobbying; how he arranged "discussions" for private clients with public officials before his year expired, meetings which he insists were not "lobbying"; how he's made unprecedented amounts of money on his public service.

Remember, it's not only the letter of the law that counts.

What troubles Mr. Amey of the Project on Government Oversight are not the lucrative paychecks earned by former officials like Mr. Hutchinson, but what he sees as an effort to disregard the spirit of the lobbying ban in pursuit of those rewards.

"It is a dirty way to get around the conflict-of-interest and ethics rules," Mr. Amey said. "It is legal. But is it appropriate? I don't think so."

No kidding. Another episode on this subject is scheduled in tomorrow's Times.

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