The Washington Post reported this morning that between March and November, the Bush administration has “burrowed” at least 20 political appointees into career civil service posts, initially depriving President-elect Obama of the chance to install his own appointees in key jobs.
In today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino defended the “burrowing,” saying that Obama’s administration should want experienced Bush political appointees in his administration:
PERINO: But there are people in the federal government who — and you should want people who have worked in the administration who think that they might want to make their careers in government. We have a lot of smart people all across the government with a lot of expertise — in the financial sector, in the energy sector, in the environmental sector, the Labor Department, etc.
These people are political ideologues, who likely cannot be counted on to implement Obama’s agenda. Matthew McKeown of Bush’s Interior Department promoted private owners “over the public interest on issues such as grazing and logging” and sued to allow road-building in national forests. Interior’s Robert Comer used “pressure and intimidation” to produce a grazing settlement “with total disregard for the concerns raised by career field personnel.”
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made similar efforts, replacing political appointees with hand-picked career staff. The Wall Street Journal noted that the effort may be perceived as an attempt by Chertoff “to overextend his influence” into the next administration.
In 2006, the House Oversight Committee found that the executive branch had increased the number of political appointees by 33 percent since the Clinton administration, a move that had ramifications across the federal government.