“Burrowing” — a practice by which political appointees are transformed into career civil servants near the end of a presidential transition — is a time-honored Washington tradition, albeit not a particularly good one. And as with all bad aspects of the American political system, George W. Bush seems determined to make things worse. The Washington Post had a good report on the subject today, “Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees: Political Positions Shifted To Career Civil Service Jobs.” Note, of course, that for key regulatory positions Bush usually gave his career appointments to folks who were either officially or de facto industry lobbyists. So basically we’ll have the top layer of the civil service filled with industry shills:

Robert D. Comer, who was Rocky Mountain regional solicitor, was named to the civil service post of associate solicitor for mineral resources. Matthew McKeown, who served as deputy associate solicitor for mineral resources, will take Comer’s place in what is also a career post. Both had been converted from political appointees to civil service status

In a report dated Oct. 13, 2004, Interior’s inspector general singled out Comer in criticizing a grazing agreement that the Bureau of Land Management had struck with a Wyoming rancher, saying Comer used “pressure and intimidation” to produce the settlement and pushed it through “with total disregard for the concerns raised by career field personnel.” McKeown — who as Idaho’s deputy attorney general had sued to overturn a Clinton administration rule barring road-building in certain national forests — has been criticized by environmentalists for promoting the cause of private property owners over the public interest on issues such as grazing and logging.

I’d like to keep track of these kind of hijinks, so it’d be appreciated if readers could send links and/or personal insights if they run across anything of this sort that isn’t getting play.