It was recently announced that a former member of the Bush cabinet, Gail Norton, is the subject of a corruption probe. As Secretary of State, Ms. Norton awarded some lucrative oil shale leases to a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that hired her a few months later.
The focus of the investigation is whether Norton violated a law that prohibits federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in dealings that could benefit the firm. Its also possible that she broke the federal “denial of honest services” law, which permits a government official to be prosecuted for violating the public trust.
I have no idea if Ms. Norton is guilty. Her actions certainly give the appearance of guilt. But shes certainly not the only former member of the Bush administration who appeared guilty of some impropriety.
How about former EPA chief Stephen Johnson who found ways to avoid regulating greenhouse gases? How about former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson who authorized billions to former colleagues in financial institutions without restrictions? How about former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who fired US attorneys for what appeared to be political purposes? Or how about John Yoo who found questionable justification to approve torture? Scooter Libby was convicted of outing a covert CIA operative, but what about those above him who likely encouraged him to release the information?
How about Don Rumsfeld who was responsible for awarding no bid military contracts to the corporation that was previously headed by former Vice-President Cheney? Finally, how about the former president who usurped power from Congress and seemingly ginned up information to justify an unwarranted invasion of Iraq?
As long as there are reasonable suspicions that these people committed illegal or unethical actions, there is a great likelihood that this kind of unethical behavior will continue.
And why limit the investigations to former government officials? The Bush administration was especially egregious. But the problems with our government go much deeper.
While were at it, lets investigate the links between all elected officials and lobbyists. After all, when a political candidate receives tens of thousands of dollars from an industry, corporation, lobbyist or individual expecting special access or treatment, is that not as unethical as what Gail Norton is accused of?