Boss Tweed Comes to Interior

William Magear Tweed, c. 1870, via WikiCommons

William Magear Tweed, c. 1870, via WikiCommons

William Magear Tweed (1823 to1878) – Boss Tweed – was a New York politician and arguably the most corrupt man in the history of American politics, Through his control of the New York state Tammany Hall political machine, he exerted iron-fisted control over political patronage in New York City through Tammany, and his ability to ensure the loyalty of voters through jobs he could create and dispense on city-related projects.

Tweed could make you rich and happy, so long as you gave him your personal loyalty. His name became a synonym for utterly corrupt politics. He died in prison. But he died a very, very wealthy man. His control of the New York political machine is an object lesson in those who set personal loyalty above civic duty.

Which provides some context for Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s comments questioning the integrity of the people who work for him.

On Monday, Zinke spoke to the National Petroleum Council, claiming that nearly a third of his staff was disloyal to President Trump, saying that workers in Washington are reluctant to relax regulations to permit increased mining for coal and drilling for natural gas and oil on public land. “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag,” the secretary said, according to participants.

“Not loyal to the flag,” pretty clearly, means “not loyal to me and not willing to violate the law to make resource extraction easier for the National Petroleum Council.”

Boss Tweed is running the Department of the Interior. Personal loyalty is valued. Not adherence to law and regulation. Following the law, rather than following orders, is bad. It’s “disloyal.” That kind of “disloyalty” is severely punished by Zinke. In June, Zinke ordered the reassignments of 50 Senior Executive Service employees, forcing many into jobs for which they had little experience and that were in different locations.

One reassigned staff member spoke with Salon and had a very disturbing story. Joel Clement is a scientist who had been working as the director of policy analysis at Interior. He had been working to help Alaska Natives whose homes face increasing danger of being washed into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas due to changes caused by global warming. Advocating for climate change is disloyal. It has to be punished. Zinke reassigned him Clement to a job collecting royalty checks from oil and gas leases.

Clement filed a whistleblower complaint and has been publicly speaking out against the reassignments, which he views as an effort to railroad dedicated public servants out of their jobs. WC shudders to think what retribution Zinke will inflict on Mr. Clement for such further “disloyalty.” At the same time as Secretary Zinke has illegally driving out or demoralizing civil servants, he’s been filling the political appointments at Interior Department with hacks and poltroons, a murderer’s row of oil and gas industry insiders.

Selling government resources to buddies. Demanding personal loyalty and punishing perceived disloyalty. Enriching himself and his friends at the expense of the public. Sure sounds like a 21st Century Boss Tweed wannabe to WC.