Independent counsel should probe whole Bruce Babbitt regime, says Cockburn

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

WASHINGTON D.C.– – Attorney
General Janet Reno in mid-February asked a
three-judge panel to appoint an indpendent
counsel to probe allegations that Interior
Secretary Bruce Babbitt improperly intervened
in 1995 to keep three Chippewa tribes from
converting a dog track into a gambling casino
that would have competed against casinos
operated by five other tribes. The opponents
were represented by well-placed Democrats,
including reputed longtime Babbitt pal Paul
Eckstein, who met with Babbitt shortly before
the Chippewa bid for a casino permit was
denied. The opponents in 1996 gave $230,000
to the Democratic National Committee.

But this incident was “a speck next
to the vast payouts that have occurred in some
of Babbitt’s weightier transactions on behalf
of corporate America,” syndicated columnist
Alexander Cockburn charged on February 23.
Cockburn first cited Babbitt’s 1993
firing of former Bureau of Land Management
director Jim Baca, who––besides opposing
Animal Damage Control trapping––was delaying
issuance of mineral leases worth $64 billion
for just $25,000 under the 1872 Mining
Act. “Mining companies such as Homestake,
Newmount, and Phelps Dodge had sluiced
over $100,000 into the Democratic National
Committee in 1992,” Cockburn continued.
“They were no doubt gratified,” when Babbitt
replaced Baca with Mike Dombeck, who sold
100 million acres of Alaska “to timber, mining,
and oil companies.”
Babbitt, Cockburn charged, also
engineered a $45 million federal buyback of
land near Yellowstone National Park for
which the mining giant Noranda had paid only
$375. Benefiting ARCO, contributor of
$245,000 to the Democratic National
Committee in 1992, Babbitt opened the 23-
million-acre Arctic Petroleum Reserve to
commercial drilling, Cockburn wrote, while
President Bill Clinton held a White House
lawn birthday party for ARCO chief executive
Lodwrick Cook and lifted a 30-year-old ban
on Alaskan crude oil exports.
Cockburn further described how
some 300 “habitat conservation plans” okayed
by Babbitt in lieu of enforcing the Endangered
Species Act allow “the corporate predator to
kill species without sanction or remit. An
independent counsel,” Cockburn suggested,
“might find rewarding coincidences between
political contributions and the corporate recipients
of the conservation plan permits.”
Cockburn also hinted that an independent
counsel should examine Vice
President Al Gore’s activities. “Given the
client-attorney privilege,” Cockburn said,
“perhaps Gore was farsighted in retaining as
his own personal lawyer George Frampton,”
former president of The Wilderness Society,
“who worked as one of Babbitt’s assistant secretaries
in the first term” of the Clinton administration.”
New York Times reporter Jill
Abramson earlier revealed that Babbitt “met at
least twice with a well-known Democratic lobbyist
and fundraiser, E. William Crotty, who
had been hired for $25,00 by officials in
Volusia County, Florida,” to kill a proposed
ban on use of motor vehicles on beaches
where endangered sea turtles nest. “The officials
chose Crotty not because of his expertise
in endangered species, documents show,”
Abramson continued, “but because of his connections
to important politicians, including
Vice President Gore. Crotty donated $62,000
to Democratic Party committees and candidates
in the 1996 election. With Crotty’s help,
the county won a permit” from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, which “in essence held
the county blameless for killing an ‘incidental’
number of sea turtles if officials would at least
impose some restrictions on beach driving and
make other conservation efforts.”
The Center for Public Integrity on
February 26 revealed that the food industry––
chiefly the meat, dairy, and egg
sectors––have given politicians $41 million in
campaign contributions during recent years,
of which a third went to members of the
House and Senate agriculture committees.
Despite much political talk about improving
food safety, no bill to crack down on animalbased
food processors has won passage during
the Bill Clinton administration.
Mouths racing to hitch a publicity
ride on the mid-March announcement from
the White House that President Bill Clinton’s
chocolate Labrador retriever Buddy will be
neutered, spokespersons for animal-related
organizations reportedly made quite a few
strange statements, but the three strangest
may have been reported by The Times of
London on March 12. Ted Chandler, president
of the British Veterinary Association,
issuing the standard advice of a century ago,
supposedly said neutering was not recommended
for happy, normal dogs. B r i t i s h
Labrador Retrievers’ Club secretary J o
Coulson worried that neutering would remove
some of Buddy’s “wonderful enthusiasm for
life,” raising question as to when she last
played fetch or tug-of-war. Responding,
Humane Society of the U.S. vice president of
companion animals Martha Armstrong
asserted that, “Pets don’t have any concept of
sexual identity or ego,” raising question as to
when she last was around any dog––especially
an alpha, of either sex, at any age.
Senators Diane Feinstein and
Barbara Boxer, both California Democrats,
on March 6 introduced a bill designating $330
million toward restoring the Salton Sea, an
important southern California migratory bird
habitat afflicted in recent years by pollution.
The Feinstein/Boxer bill came a week after
House Speaker Newt Gingrich ( R – G e o r g i a )
introduced similar but less environmentally
restrictive legislation called “The Sonny
Bono Memorial Salton Sea Restoration
Act,” in honor of the former Republican
Congressional Representative and entertainer.
Known for his bobcat fur vests, Bono was
politically aligned with wise-users, except on
Salton Sea restoration, but reputedly died
hugging a tree on January 16, when he
slammed into one while skiing.

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