StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

The Bush Administration's Teapot Dome

25 May 2008
Posted by Stan Collender

Discussions about the federal budget like the ones we often engage in here at CG&G, typically focus on "formulation," that is, on the process and politics of putting the budget together and getting it enacted.  That's the part we all generally agree is broken, not working properly, overly politicized, get the picture.

But this story from Friday's Washington Post, which talks about $15 billion in spending on Iraq that can't be accounted for properly, or in some cases at all, shows that the other stage of federal budgeting -- implementation -- is similarly broken, not working properly, certainly get this picture as well.

In fact, it appears as if virtually every procedure and law designed to prevent just this type of malfeasance was circumvented.

This spending was done in the midst of a national emergency and some of the usual safeguards couldn't be followed in the interest of national security and getting the job done quickly, right?

Nonsense.  The Pentagon's own inspector general confirmed that this lack of concern for procedural safeguards was blatant and commonplace.  That makes it hard to come to any conclusion other than that they were ignored rather than expedited or poorly executed.

It's also hard to come to any conclusion other than that the spending of taxpayer funds in Iraq bordered on, or actually was, simple and straightforward corruption. 

Given the magnitude of the spending involved, Iraq may be the Bush administration's contribution to the biggest public corruption scandals of all time like Boss Tweed in New York, James Michael Curley in Boston, and Teapot Dome.

My question is whether any one, that is, any individual, will be prosecuted for their actions.  The hearing at which the Pentagon IG testified was designed to put the focus on the Bush administration's despicably bad implementation of the Iraq spending.  That obviously had political overtones but was also, and very obviously given the IG's finding's, completely deserved.

But the laws and spending rules were broken by individuals and there are three reasons why they should be cirninally prosecuted.

First, we need to know whether they were ordered to ignor the laws and regulations.  If they were ordered to break the law, we need to know who was pulling the strings.  In sopite of the OJ-like spectacle that might occur, if a criminal investigation is what's needed to get them to reveal that information, so be it.

Second, these individuals almost certainly broke a variety of laws.  At least one of these, the Antideficiency Act, actually calls for civil penalties and jail time for the individuals involved if they are convicted.

Third, not prosecuting the individuals and instead allowing this situation to be nothing more than a political scandal will encourage others to do this again, or keep doing it now, because they will have no fear of suffering personally from their actions. 

There would have been widespread outrage and anger if this were a domestic department or agency.  The fact that this was the Pentagon and the spending was related to activities in Iraq doesn't make this more acceptable.

Very helpful, thanks!!

Very helpful, thanks!!

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