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Con: Age demands policy directed by a scientist, not a zealot

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David A. Ridenour
February 21, 2009
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Will former EPA chief Carol Browner be effective in her new role as climate change czarina?

President Obama vowed to set a new direction of ethics and transparency in government and with his selection of Carol Browner as climate control czar, he has—the wrong direction.


An environmental zealot, Browner has so much baggage she could be an airline.


But then, maybe not! For despite Browner’s best efforts, some of her baggage simply won’t stay lost. The Washington Examiner recently discovered that she was one of 15 original members of the Commission for a Sustainable World Society, a branch of the Socialist International, an organization linking socialist and labor parties throughout the world. Among other things, its Declaration of Principles “demands compensation for … social inequities.” That’s another way of saying that if you’ve prospered because of ingenuity or hard work, be prepared to give a lot of it away to those who haven’t.


The issue isn’t that Browner is a socialist. We crossed the socialism bridge—a real bridge to nowhere—when we sent a man to the White House who promised to spread our wealth around.


The real issue is the attempt to hide this fact from the public. Browner’s photograph, which once appeared alongside that of close Vladimir Putin-ally Sergei Mironov, was quietly removed from the Socialist International’s Web site after the Examiner’s story broke. Much like the trillions of dollars in bailouts and economic stimulus, it’s as though Browner never existed.


This isn’t transparent government, but all too transparent politics. Browner has a lot more baggage, too.


Throughout her years as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration, EPA officials routinely violated the Anti-Lobbying Act, a law prohibiting federal employees from using agency money for “…telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress.”


In 1995, the EPA flagrantly violated that law when it lobbied against the Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act, a bill that would have curbed some of the EPA’s worst abuses.


As James F. Hinchman, comptroller general of the United States, noted, EPA officials “distributed EPA fact sheets to various organizations—directly lobbied the Congress.” Not only that, but an EPA regional administrator wrote a strong op-ed designed to stop the bill’s passage.


Four years later, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., accused the EPA of violating the Anti-Lobbying Act again. Byrd complained that the EPA’s Transportation Partners Program was coordinating and funding anti-road lobbyists against the law and his state’s interests. Browner was forced to terminate the program.


The next year, Browner was at it yet again. This time, her agency was accused of allowing special interests to improperly influence last-minute—so-called “midnight”—environmental regulations. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the EPA to preserve communications with such groups. Instead, Browner had her computer hard drive re-initialized, wiping it clean. Lamberth subsequently held the EPA in contempt for “contumacious conduct.”


As little respect as she’s shown for the law, she’s shown even less for science. During her years at the EPA, agency scientists who didn’t tow the party line were subjected to relentless harassment.


David Lewis, an EPA Science Achievement Award recipient, publicly criticized the quality of science used in crafting regulations. In response, the EPA charged Lewis with ethics violations and repeatedly denied him promotion. Although he won whistle-blower judgments against the EPA, he was eventually forced into retirement.


The term “czar” comes from the Latin word caesar—as in Julius Caesar, the Roman leader who proclaimed himself dictator perpetuo (dictator in perpetuity) and oversaw massive expansion of government bureaucracy.


If a czar actually is what President Obama was looking for, Carol Browner might have been the perfect choice, after all.


David A. Ridenour is vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. Readers may write to him at National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: www.nationalcenter.org; e-mail: dridenour@nationalcenter.org.

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