One of the hallmarks of the Donald Trump administration is the most shameful unprofessionalism and naked bias that organs of the federal government have ever shown. Whether it’s the State Department promoting an extremist religious agenda, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration firing its chief scientist for insisting on scientific integrity, or the Justice Department acting like the president’s personal legal team, the government has been filled with Trump sycophants from top to bottom, and it shows in their behavior.
The Press Secretary of the Interior recently came under fire from President Obama’s Interior digital team chief, Tim Fullerton, for using government resources to produce and promote an outrageous pro-Trump propaganda video extolling his extremely tenuous accomplishments for the environment.
The @realDonaldTrump Administration has accomplished historic feats for conservation, securing the largest investment in our national parks and public lands, opening 4 million acres to new hunting and fishing opportunities, and recovering a record number of endangered species. pic.twitter.com/LoOuCPqJXm
— Secretary David Bernhardt (@SecBernhardt) October 27, 2020
The official line is that the president created “investments in natural parks” and increased funding for conservation; to hear Trump tell it, he has brought us “the cleanest water and air that we have ever” had despite having rolled back as many protective regulations as he possibly could have. On top of that, he’s taken at least 159 separate actions to “to scale back or wholly eliminate climate mitigation and adaptation measures,” according to Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
Just this morning, Trump stripped the Tongass National Forest of its protections and opened up its 9.3 million acres to plunder and despoilment by greedy corporations.
BREAKING: Trump is exempting Alaska's entire Tongass National Forest from the roadless rule, making more than 9.3 million acres eligible for logging and other development. It is one of the biggest public lands rollbacks of his presidency. By @eilperin https://t.co/rtcxp4Wj4C
— Brady Dennis (@brady_dennis) October 28, 2020
Fullerton took to Twitter to slam Secretary David Bernhardt for using taxpayer dollars to produce and promote this wildly misleading propaganda video, rightfully calling it out as an outrageous violation of ethics and the Hatch Act, which forbids civil service employees from engaging in overtly political activity.
“These are government resources that are meant to promote the work of the department or public lands. It shouldn’t be used this way. It’s really upsetting to think about the thousands of people at the Interior Department who are being subjected to this. They shouldn’t have to deal with this,” said Fullerton to the Washington Post.
I ran the @interior digital team during President Obama’s re-election in 2012. I would have been fired for doing this.
This is a propaganda video created with your tax dollars meant to bolster the President’s chances of being re-elected. This is way outside the lines. https://t.co/tRw1MpmUnr
— Tim Fullerton (@TimFullerton) October 27, 2020
In response, the official Press Secretary’s office account directly quote-tweeter Fullerton and publicly trashed him, saying that thankfully their tweets were “no longer” overseen by him and had “removed the rotten stench” of the previous administration, which they claimed had “failed” to invest in the ethics program.
Our tweets are approved by career ethics attorneys and thankfully no longer overseen by you.@Interior increased the number ethics staff by 250% to remove the rotten stench from the blatant failure of the prior administration to invest in the ethics program. https://t.co/v3aFjYobbS
— Interior Press Secretary (@DOIPressSec) October 28, 2020
The declaration is by the Interior Press Secretary’s office is absolutely ridiculous. Secretary David Bernhardt himself is an oil lobbyist who Trump placed in charge of managing our nation’s pristine wilderness and millions of acres of public lands, which is about as flagrant as an ethics violation as you possibly can get.
Multiple Trump officials have been criticized for violating the Hatch Act, including Secretary Pompeo, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, former presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway, and the President himself, who regularly holds campaign events at the White House. The attitude of the Trump administration towards ethics was made clear when White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows snarked that “nobody outside of the Beltway really cares” about the incessant violation of federal law.
At this point, it’s just disappointing to see the official organs of the United States government being used to wage petty internet feuds against former officials. The whole debacle is a grim reminder that the preservation of the environment and taking an aggressive stance against climate change is one of the most important reasons to vote for Joe Biden — not to mention his promise to restore a moral and ethical compass to the United States government.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.