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More Scandals: Department Of Energy Faces Claims Of Wrongdoing

US Republican Representative Darrell Issa

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman
US Republican Representative Darrell Issa

Yet another Obama administration scandal has emerged. President Barack Obama and his staff have been chipping away at our constitutional rights since he claimed the Oval Office. The NSA, IRS, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi scandals have sadly not been enough to wake up the majority of the populace to the tactics of the most freedom-infringing administration in the history of the republic. Perhaps the emerging US Department of Energy (DOE) scandal will finally force the eyes of all Americans to open wide, vigorously consume the facts, and stand against tyranny.

In 2012, the DOE was very publicly embarrassed when a group of anti-nuclear activists was able to sneak inside the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The protestors included an 83-year-old nun. If such a group could manage to thwart security at the facility, gaining entry should be a piece of cake for terrorists.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman GOP Representative Darrell Issa maintains that Department of Energy officials ordered staffers not to speak with congressional investigators about whistleblower retaliation claims and illicit employment practices. Issa has consistently voiced opposition to constitutional wrongs by the Obama administration, but little to nothing has been done to unearth all the facts or punish the wrongdoers. Maybe this time will be different, maybe Americans from throughout the political spectrums will apply and maintain the pressure necessary to provoke true governmental accountability. A girl can only hope.

A letter written by Darrell Issa and shared in the Washington Free Beacon stated the DOE secretary issued a gag order after a critical inspector general report was issued last week. The Bonneville Power Administration, a division of the Department of Energy, has been accused of violating the hiring guidelines of the federal agency. According to the inspector general report, disadvantaged military veterans were hindered by the Bonneville Power Administration’s employment policies.

DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman allegedly instructed Bonneville Power Administration Manager Elliot Mainzer to tell workers not to discuss the discrimination against military veterans’s claims with anyone, even investigators sent by Congress. Daniel Poneman reportedly chose Elliot Mainzer to serve as the acting administrator of Bonneville Power Administration.

Issa correctly noted in the letter that obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime. Unfortunately, many of the government employees who have testified in front on Congress in the past year for various improprieties and possible crimes have gone unpunished. The lack of consequences for violating the public trust and misspending taxpayer money appear to have created an atmosphere which leads federal officials and senior staffers to believe they are above the law. Congress seems to be impotent and Nancy Pelosi’s famous, “drain the swamp” comment has produced no results. When those in a position of authority have been proven incapable or unwilling to protect the constitutional rights of citizens, chaos and crooked behavior will reign supreme.

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National Whistleblower Center Executive Director Stephen Kohn had this to say about the Department of Energy scandal:

“Any attempt to gag employees from communicating with Congress represents a gross violation of law. It is highly illegal for any federal agency to attempt to prevent employees or contractors from communicating whistleblower concerns with members of Congress or an inspector general.”

The inspector general’s Department of Energy report stated that employees who cooperated with the investigation were suspended, fired, or “otherwise sanctioned.” The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman also noted that it is illegal to interfere with an employee’s right to furnish information to Congress. Darrell Issa asked Daniel Poneman to respond to claims that he was instructed by the Department of Energy to tell staffers not to cooperate with the inspector general. It is currently unknown if a response has been received by the Republican committee chairman.

An excerpt from Issa’s letter to Daniel Poneman reads:

“BPA employees have the right to talk with Congress and to provide Congress information free from interference by the Department of Energy. These employees also have a right to be free from fear of retaliation for sharing information with Congress.”

Barack Obama promised to govern over the most transparent administration in at least recent history. His tenure in office has been anything but upfront and crystal clear. During a recent congressional hearing, signs of a bi-partisan approach to the problem tentatively took shape. Both Democrats and Republicans voiced their grievances with the management record of the Department of Energy and noted their hopes for a reorganization plan announced by Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The flurry of Obama administration scandals focused on a lack of oversight and mismanagement does not instill confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage our healthcare. House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee chairman Tim Murphy remarked that the reorganization plan looks good, but only time will tell if the changes will actually spur productive change. The Pennsylvania Republican’s comments paint a disheartening picture for those of us who have been paying the salaries of DOE officials and employees.

GOP Representative Tim Murphy had this to say about the problems at the Department of Energy:

“On paper, these changes look like positive steps to help DOE address the tremendous challenges and opportunities before the agency.”

Murphy also stated the DOE has had trouble cleaning up “legacy nuclear waste” and monitoring contractors for quite a long time. Inspector General Gregory Friedman also seemed cautiously optimistic about the Department of Energy’s ability to clean up its act, but his comments also revealed some troubling issues about the federal agency. Friedman stated that the widespread new initiatives will help address “management challenges” at the DOE.

The inspector general also noted that an attempted fix loses its power over time and the Department of Energy gets “lethargic.” The lack of confidence in a permanent solution to the mismanagement woes at the federal agency illustrates once again how our burgeoning government does not respect or feel accountable to the taxpayers. Friedman has been attached to the Department of Energy since 1998, so his words of guidance and chastising of failures has had virtually no impact, considering the state of the DOE today. Ongoing criticisms cited by Friedman include a failure to “right-size” the national laboratories network, lack of contractor oversight, and duplicate activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration. The laundry list of problems at the Department of Energy likely means that millions,if not billions, of taxpayer dollars have been wasted for far too long.

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