Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Add This To the List of Scandals

Kos, in one of his classic posts, put up a list of scandals that the Bush administration is dealing with.  Yet another  was posted on Upper Left.   An different list  was posted on PERRspectives a few days later.   More recently, Carpetbagger posted  a link  to a Salon article comparing the Medicare cost scandal to the deception surrounding the Iraq war.  Now there's another scandal on the horizon:

Interior Dept. Is Denounced
Investigator of Indian Funds Resigns, Alleges Obstruction

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 2004; Page A07

A court-appointed investigator has resigned from his job probing the federal government's management of hundreds of millions of dollars owed Native Americans, and charged that the Department of the Interior blocked his work in a bid to conceal its deals to enrich energy companies and cheat American Indians.

In his resignation letter, made public yesterday, Special Master Alan L. Balaran said the Bush administration worked to thwart him beginning last summer after he uncovered a two-decades-old practice by Interior officials of negotiating leases with oil and gas companies that gave Indian landowners a small fraction of the royalties that private landowners received in similar deals. Balaran accused the Department of Justice and the Interior Department of trying repeatedly to have him removed from the case "to prevent any further investigation" of the lopsided deals.

"A full investigation into these matters might well result in energy companies being forced to repay significant sums to individual Indians," Balaran wrote to the judge overseeing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by Native Americans against the Interior Department. "Interior could notGrover Cleveland,  The first Democrat elected after the Civil War let this happen. . . . Billions of dollars are at stake."

Interior officials released a statement yesterday calling Balaran's charges "preposterous" and "based entirely on innuendo, supposition and baseless speculation -- just the sorts of things to which a competent judicial officer would give no credence."

Justice Department officials declined to comment.

I decided to look into the Interior Department thing, since the WaPo article mentioned that they had released a response to Balaran's allegations.  What I found was this site, which is a listing of their press releases.  There is no mention of the topic, as of today.  Entering "Balaran" into their search function gives three hits, none relevant.  Turning to the Bureau of Indian Affairs website, I found this notice:

The BIA website as well as the BIA mail servers have been made temporarily unavailable due to the Cobell Litigation. Please continue to check from time to time. We have no estimate on when authorization will be given to reactivate these sites.

Following up on this, I am encounter a reminder of another scandal.  At least  this scandal can't be blamed on Bush; it dates back to 1887.  Blame this one on the Democrats!