28 Apr 2009, 4:54pm
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

Obama Installs Political Apparatchiks in the USDA

President B. H. Obama has orchestrated the appointment of political campaign operatives to newly created posts in the upper hierarchy of the US Department of Agriculture.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on April 17, 2009 the appointment of 14 “key staff positions” in the U.S. Department of Agriculture [here].

The 14 staff positions are “Confidential” and “Special” assistants to Under Secretaries who themselves have not been appointed yet! As Jerry Hagstrom of the Congress Daily (a subscription news service [here]) put it:

Former Obama Campaigners Filling Many Slots At USDA

by Jerry Hagstrom, Congress Daily, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Only one Agriculture Department undersecretary and one assistant secretary have been confirmed by the Senate, but when the holders of many USDA sub-Cabinet positions get to their desks they will find that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has already put their confidential and special assistants with proven Obama campaign experience in place.

The 14 new positions are not subject to Congressional approval. The appointments are based on political campaign efforts on behalf of Obama. For instance, the new Undersecretary for the USFS, who has not been appointed yet, already has a “Special Assistant” (from the USDA Press Release):

Meryl Raymar Harrell, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary, Natural Resources and the Environment. Most recently, Harrell served as the State Political Outreach Director for the Obama Campaign for Change in Wisconsin. Harrell previously worked as the Public Lands Associate at The Wilderness Society.

The Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Under Secretary, whomever that might eventually be, already has a “Confidential Assistant”:

Elisabeth Reiter, Confidential Assistant to the Under Secretary. Most recently, Reiter was Deputy Director of Advance for the Obama for America campaign. She worked previously on the successful campaigns of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) in 2005 and Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) in 2006. She also worked on Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) 2004 presidential bid. Reiter is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

The peppering of the USDA with political apparatchiks is a slap in the face to the career professional civil servants in the USDA. More importantly, it taints with political bias every decision made by the USDA for the rest of Obama’s term.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed over a single Bush employee accused of political bias. Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald allegedly “interfered” with endangered species and habitat decisions by agency scientists.

There will be no “allegedly” about political interference in the Obama Administration. The cadre of political operatives are in place, even before the senior management. Even if the cadre do nothing but sleep on the job, the appearance of interference for political purposes will remain.

The cadre have been appointed for their partisan political loyalty and campaign efforts, not expertise with the agency or issues. Their expected work output is political oversight. That is their purpose within in the USDA.

Never before has there been a political apparatchik cadre in the USDA, at least not in such an open and blatant fashion. The new system smacks of political commissar tactics employed by Communist dictators in the former Soviet Union.

The outrageous politicization of the USDA by Obama is a profoundly bad step for America.

29 Apr 2009, 1:03pm
by bear bait

This is how the incumbent stacks the deck. They keep their campaign staff intact by political appointments. They won’t do dick for the agency they work for. The job is to keep them in a paycheck, allow them to network, find where the bodies are buried, and be vetting and hiring staff to run the 2012 campaign.

When the Democrats lost the Congress in 1994, all those staff people on congressional committees then out of work due to the Republican majority controlling committees and subcommittees, walked across the Capitol and immediately went to work for the Clinton Admin in the agencies their committees had dominion over. Never lost a step, dropped a beat. So the R’s should have had time, from 1994 to 2000, to build a staff for a Republican admin, which they got under Bush. But when the R’s lost the Congress, they also lost their farm team as they only had two years under Bush in which to work in the Administration, and those were tough times as the media and strident Democrat howling was incessant. Now the conservatives have no farm team, no place for young conservatives to go to gain experience, except business and that is not too hot a prospect at this time.

If you want to know the future of the Nation, when you get both the legislative and administrative branches from the same party, just look at Oregon. It means that in time the judicial will be all lefties, as well. With no farm team, the conservatives have little with which to defend themselves. Little money, little access to the media, few jobs in politics. Oregon is not a better place for it. In fact, Oregon is a whole lot worse off than they were during the last big recession when Republican veteran Vic Atiyeh was Governor. Most voters are not old enough to remember those days, nor were they living in Oregon. This is a place of pilgrims, seekers of the eco-chalice, and home grown lefties of ever increasing government at all levels. Some areas of Oregon the preponderance of the jobs are with some branch of government or public utility. Employment mimics the land ownerships, and some counties are over 75% public lands. And the urban areas are about government and control of every aspect of daily life. So why would we expect their savior and lord, Obama, to be different? Born to rule. Not lead. Rule. The US is not being led, but ruled. There is no diversity of political opinion operating at this time. A Republican can’t introduce a bill and have it get a hearing in the Oregon legislature, nor can a Republican introduce a bill and have it have a hearing in Congress. We have to live with it. It was the choice of the majority. Time will tell.

29 Apr 2009, 3:33pm
by Mike

My sense is that the political apparatus Obama has installed in the Civil Service is much more than a “farm team.” The political activists are there to do political activities, in places where politics should be held at arm’s length.

That’s not training for later. The purpose is to politicize (in a partisan way) right now the Executive Branch.

The methods are beyond anything ever seen: political hacks appointed as moles to undermine and subvert what should be the non-political management of Federal agencies. Party operatives have been openly infiltrated into a Civil Service nominally subject to the Hatch Act and other employee regulations and guidelines that discourage political activism in the ranks.

From now on everything the USDA does during Obama’s sorry term must be seen as tainted by backroom politics — not open, transparent, and done with scientific integrity.



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