In a few instances these appointees “burrow in” meaning that they find permanent career civil servant positions. When this happens the individual may remain in the government for decades instead of serving for a short period of time. As political appointees typically share the ideology of the president who appoints them, when they stay in office beyond the president’s term they are essentially extending part of that president’s influence beyond the term.
During the George W. Bush Administration there was much hand-wringing about the possibility that his staff might take career positions. Mother Jones published a piece with the subtitle, “Some of Bush’s political appointees aren’t about to give up their jobs over a mere presidential election.” Unsurprisingly, that publication, along with most others, haven’t felt the need to publicize now that many Obama appointees are burrowing in.
As such, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain and publicize the information. The results of this FOIA show that the practice continues. Also, not only is the practice continuing, but in many instances the personnel who are burrowing in are going into high-level positions. Even though the records we received had the names redacted, a little detective work has revealed the names of the personnel who burrowed in.
Consider, for example, the case of Alan D. Thornhill, PhD. Dr. Thornhill in 2011 was serving as a Schedule C appointee in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement when he was appointed to be the “First-Ever” Chief Environmental Officer in the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. He later took a position at the U.S. Geological Survey.
Dr. Thornhill was previously the “initial creator and longtime webmaster” of a website of New Tribal Ventures, an organization advocating ideas such as “aboriginal tribal life offers a model for us in our attempts to ‘make a living’ in a meaningful and enjoyable way.” The site is highly critical of efforts to increase food production because doing so will lead to more humans. As stated by Dr. Thornhill, “more food (more plants or larger plants) just means more people will be born as a result of the more food and there will be more mouths to feed in the future.”
An article from Wired captured more of Dr. Thornhill’s thoughts on the issue of population control and curtailing food production in order to achieve this objective. He stated, “controlling food production could be one way of controlling the population.” He complains, “every year we produce more than we did last year, and every year the population gets larger. In any ecological system, more food equals more individuals.” This gets him to the real gripe, humans are the problem:
“I would suggest that these are all appropriate responses to the ailment, but what we need is to deal with the agent of the disease: humans. This doesn’t make me a very popular ecologist, but humans are turning the biomass of the planet into human mass, and in so doing, depleting the diversity of the planet.”
He also dislikes energy production and consumption, stating, “with a fraction of the population of China, the two countries consume virtually the same amount of energy, food, and water.” Thinking like this explains the Obama Administration’s war on energy.
After reading this, it’s obvious why Mother Jones and the others who complained about Bush’s appointees don’t complain when people like Dr. Thornhill burrow in. Thornhill clearly shares their ideology, so they overlook how he obtained the position.
This is a guest post by Nathan Mehrens President of Americans for Limited Government Foundation. Check out Americans for Limited Government Freedom of Information Act requests and responses at http://algfoiafiles.com.