Asleep at the Switch

So it turns out that there is a “culture of ethical failure” in the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. The Inspector General’s reports “portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.” It’s all there: sex, drugs, cash–just the sort of thing that makes a good scandal.

Wow–just the sort of thing that would have called for vigorous Senate oversight during this time. If, say, the chair of one of the committees with jurisdiction over all this didn’t uncover it, then you might say that such a person would be unfit for national office. You certainly wouldn’t call him a candidate for change. If he was also getting millions from energy companies, you might suspect that any claim to be a change candidate might stink like fish in a newspaper–or even look like lipstick on a pig.

And who was the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee during most of this time, which has jurisdiction over (among other things) pipelines, interstate commerce, and coastal zone management?

You peeked, didn’t you?

PS Commerce obviously isn’t the only committee with jurisdiction, but the MMS sells oil and gas on the open market. That’s an interstate commerce issue if there ever was one. And last I checked, oil goes through pipelines.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.