Filed under: Chaos Theory
A report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) says Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. used his congressional staff to mount a “public campaign” to be appointed by then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Barack Obama’s open U.S. Senate seat.
The Department of Justice has asked the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct, which made the report public, to defer its ongoing investigation of Jackson’s possible role in the Blagojevich “pay-for-play” scandal until after federal officials have tried Blagojevich and completed “related investigations.”
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich told committee members in a letter that their probe of Jackson and the Blagojevich matter “would pose a significant risk of interfering with pending criminal proceedings and ongoing investigation.”
Jackson has denied any wrongdoing since his name first surfaced in the Blagojevich scandal and did so again Thursday.
Earlier this year, federal investigators released transcripts of recordings of Blagojevich’s phone calls as governor, including his discussion of an “emissary” for Jackson, whom he said offered to raise campaign cash for the governor in exchange for the appointment to Obama’s Senate seat.
The House committee also released a previously confidential recommendation from the OCE that the House further investigate Jackson’s actions. The OCE has an independent, eight-member board of private citizens that makes initial inquiries into ethical complaints about House members and then recommends action to the House’s official investigatory committee. House rules say if the committee defers an investigation at the request of law enforcement, the recommendation from the OCE must be made public.
On the Jackson matter, the OCE report said, “In the course of conducting this review, the OCE learned that staff resources of the Representative’s Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Illinois, offices were used to mount a ‘public campaign’ to secure the Representative’s appointment to the U.S. Senate.”
It is against House rules for members of Congress to use official resources, including employees, in campaign activities. The OCE concluded that Jackson may have violated federal law and House rules, but did not conclude that he did. That decision would be up to the House committee and federal investigators.
In a statement, Jackson said he is cooperating fully with the ongoing probe. The statement also said, “Everyone knew that I was interested in the Senate appointment. I was deeply honored and humbled to receive the support of public officials, organizations and citizens from across the state. My efforts and actions were all public, ethical and legal.”
Leo Wise, a spokesman for the OCE, told Politics Daily that his office cannot reveal more details of its investigation until the Department of Justice has completed its investigation, or the House committee moves forward.
If you want to see glaciers in Glacier National Park, you had better hurry. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that within 20 years, the park will be empty of glaciers. As temperatures rise and politicians debate how to respond to climate change, the national parks already seem to be feeling the effects.
At hearings in April, Jonathan Jarvis, the Obama administration’s nominee as director of the National Park Service, called the national parks “the proverbial canary in the coal mine.” He noted that the parks are both largely undisturbed and closely monitored, so the effects of the changing ecosystem can be more easily documented.
Recent changes at the parks are hardly encouraging. Rocky Mountain National Park is battling an unprecedented infestation of bark beetles that threatens large swaths of trees; Joshua Tree National Park is counting fewer and fewer of its namesake trees; and in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, ranger Adrianne Freeman notes that staffers have seen fewer days of snow as well as plant and animal migration to higher altitudes, where temperatures remain cool.
Like most national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon is taking steps to depend more on alternative energy sources and to reduce its carbon footprint. Still, a single park, particularly one like Sequoia and Kings Canyon that’s close to a major city (Los Angeles), can’t make much of a dent in climate change. “It falls to us to be the trendsetters,” said Freeman, “but because of where we are it also falls to us to see the effects of others who are not following [these principles].”
Nationwide programs to stem carbon emissions could be on the way, with efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill. But a bill only barely emerged from a fight in the House this summer and now faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where sponsors recently announced they would delay introducing a measure, possibly until next year, while they try to line up votes and solidify the details.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who chairs the House subcommittee on national parks, emphasized the importance of passing a cap-and-trade bill in an interview with Politics Daily. He said the measure is “not as strong as it should be; we gave up too much early on. But, absent this bill we do nothing on what is potentially the social and economic issue of our time.” For the national parks in particular, he called cap and trade “essential,” adding that “the problem so far is that everyone has dealt with the issues of the parks in divided situations.”
On Monday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced plans for a more coordinated response to climate change. Due to “the unprecedented scope of climate change impacts,” his department will work “to develop landscape-level strategies” on land that the department administers, currently more than one-fifth of the nation’s acreage, by addressing migration patterns, droughts and the increase in wildfires.
Still, some parks are taking action on their own. Besides reducing their environmental impacts and tracking changes to the environment, they are looking at ways to help species adapt to the changes the parks are experiencing.
Jack Potter, who heads science and resources management for Glacier National Park, notes that staffers are already looking at how they can use adaptive management, responding to a changing climate by altering their own strategies. “We’re trying to understand better what types of vulnerabilities are out there, and doing research on specific species to see what we can do to help them survive,” said Potter, citing recent efforts to preserve native trout populations, as the melting glaciers throw off the delicate balance of the park’s lakes and streams.
David Graber, the National Park Service’s chief scientist for the Pacific Northwest, notes that discussions of adaptive management are a significant break with past park strategies. “In the professional, scientific community there are very few doubters about climate change,” said Graber. “In the National Park Service, the push-back is going to be philosophical. We’re talking about going in and doing ecological engineering. That’s a real change from the previous idea [for the national parks] of do-not-disturb.”