10 June 2005

Shrub's own Whitewater scandal

Remember the Republican histrionics over Whitewater? With such high sensitivity levels to government corruption and backroom deals, I wonder how the same people will react to hear of the Everglades land scandal. In 2002, the Bush administration offered to overpay a prominent Florida family of Bush supporters for oil and gas rights to Everglades land by as much as $80 million. Members of the Collier family gave more than $121,000 to Republican candidates in the last election cycle, including at least $5,000 to Jeb Bush, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations. The Interior Department's inspector general says that the deal was "at best, foolish and, at worst, complicit."

The facts reek of backroom deals and political quid pro quos. In a report to the Senate Finance Committee, Inspector General Earl Devaney said the department nearly tripled earlier estimates of the value of the mineral rights. President George W. Bush announced in May 2002 that the federal government would fork over $120 million in cash plus an undetermined amount in tax deductions to prevent the Colliers's privately held Collier Resources Co. from drilling for oil and gas on the 400,000 acres of land it owns in what he called the "critical parts of the Everglades.'' However, two previous government assessments valued the rights much lower, between $5 million and $68 million. Fortunately, it looks like the deal, receiving increased scrutiny, will be scuttled.

Devaney (attempting humor?) claims that "the intentions behind the attempted acquisition have always appeared to be firmly grounded in the department's righteous desire to protect the environmentally sensitive Everglades from potential harm." (Is the administration going to start buying mineral rights in Alaska next to prevent environmental harm?) The report says that Ann Klee, a Bush administration political appointee, helped reach an agreement with the Collier family shortly after Kell was named in January 2001 to administer the transition at the Interior Department between presidential administrations. Klee and two Interior Department lawyers, Barry Roth and Peter Schaumberg, relied on a private consultant's estimate that recommended the $120 million payment after soliciting several appraisals. What is odd is that all of the appraisals were lower. At least one career Interior Department official contested the high estimate.

As one would expect, everyone is suddenly being very tight-lipped about all of this. Tina Kreisher, communications director at the Interior Department, muttered something about how they "were trying very hard to protect the Everglades.'' Department spokesman Hugh Vickery wouldn't return phone. White House spokesman Taylor Gross said he was unaware of the report.

Devaney's report also says the government may have already owned the mineral rights because the Colliers sold the government surface rights for the same land in 1988. In addition, the report finds little evidence the rights had significant value.

So let's get this straight. The Bush administration has been caught redhanded giving away $70 or $80 million dollars of tax-payers' money to its wealthy patrons for overpriced mineral rights that it owned already, and then sweetening the deal with a tax deduction! And as a final slap in our face, it has used this as propaganda to offset its appalling environmental record.

Other blogments on this topic can be found at Slyblog and TalkLeft.

11 comments:

Glen Dean said...

You guys never give up, do you? Have you ever thought about trying to win an election on the basis of ideas? Well, come to think of it, I guess looking up dirt on your opponents really is your best strategy.

Fixer said...

I guess looking up dirt on your opponents really is your best strategy.

How quickly we forget the Clinton years. I'd rather my President lies about a blowjob than a war. The only thing sacrificed was a blue dress. Twit.

Glen Dean said...

Your right about that. The whole impeachment thing was silly. No argument from me there. Of course, I would never call you a Twit. That kind of thing is mostly reserved to liberals. I bet you learned that from Al Franken.

Karlo said...

We don't have to look up dirt. It's provided in truck-loads. As for ideas, which "ideas" do you refer to? The idea that the wealthiest one percent need more help? The idea that constitutional guarantees of a trial by one's peers is quaint? What great ideas did this president bring to the table?

Fixer said...

If you believe the Repub talking points, which is obvious you do:

You guys never give up, do you? Have you ever thought about trying to win an election on the basis of ideas? Well, come to think of it, I guess looking up dirt on your opponents really is your best strategy.

You are a twit. Either that or you were born yesterday. Either way, I have this bridge for sale . . .

Sanshinseon said...

I think it ought to be a major scandal, but this is the first i've heard of it... The Repubs can hardly complain about "digging up dirt" rather than running on ideas, can they, after the pointless 7-year Whitewater investigation Karlo modeled this on, what Bush did to McCain, etc. And this looks like a far more serious case of corruption than what the Clintons were even ACCUSED of in the Whitewater non-story!

Karlo said...

And here we have the media and even the Vice Prez hopping up and down about some remark (entirely accurate) that Dean made about the lack of diversity within the Republican Party. You'd think tghat pedophilic pop-stars and blurbs on party demographics are the only news stories worth reporting about.

Glen Dean said...

Man, you guys are pretty mean :) All I am doing is echoing what many Democrats have also said. And that is, the Democratic party needs to find some direction and put forth some ideas. If you don't like the Repub. ideas, then that is fine. The point is the Dems need to do more than just oppose everything and attack peoples character (which is easy because many Repubs like Delay lack character). They need to offer alternatives. This kind of thing might get rid of a bad apple but it won't win any elections.

Karlo said...

Perhaps. Although you have to love the irony. Giving away 80 million as a political favor by buying something you already own and then icing the cake with a tax deduction . . . Bush is going to disprove the old maxim that there's no honor among thieves.

Sanshinseon said...

Sure, better policyt proposals are needed -- if the Dems had put out a workable Health-care Insurance plan that got most of the US pop covered affordably, a year ago, they would have won that squeaker election. And how about a realistic exit from Iraq & the Gitmo prison...?

Karlo said...

Healthcare's a tough nut to crack though. I think the only realistic way to hold down prices while getting people insured is to place caps on prices and introduce regulation. Any realistic solution is going to come up against the inertia of entrenched self-interests.