From GSA to EPA, Bureaucrats Gone Wild

It almost as if the British comedy Men Behaving Badly has become the behavior model for government bureaucrats. First, we have Jeff Neely, former GSA official, being filmed in a Las Vegas bathtub with two glasses of wine behind him. Now, we have Al Armendariz, Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator.

In a video of a 2010 presentation released earlier this week, Armendariz boasts the agency’s “philosophy of enforcement” is akin to:

the Romans [who] used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

This disturbing revelation comes just weeks after the public learned of other GSA officials were filmed behaving badly and squandering taxpayer dollars. In 2010 when Armendariz was touting his Imperial attitude toward the U.S. energy industry, 300 General Services Administration (GSA) employees were spending $823,000 at a four-day conference in Sin City to enjoy $44 per person daily breakfasts, a comic, a clown, a mind reader, a luxury spa, and a myriad of other “over the top” entertainments.

These could be two isolated cases of another two “knuckleheads” but they also legitimize concerns that government bureaucrats play by a different set of ethical rules than those in the public sector. While Occupy protestors and politicians wield the term “profits” as if it were a four-letter word and lambast the success of the private companies that fuel our economy, too many Washington bureaucrats seem to be indulging in excessive taxpayer-funded habits such as $16 muffins and half-billion dollar trips to Spain.

With deficits as far as the eye can see a debt problem to the tune of $14 trillion, you would hope that “public servants” would be leading the war against waste, fraud, and abuse. Instead, they seem to be living the good life and wielding regulatory power with little regard for impacts on citizens and the economy.

That is especially true of EPA where the zealotry of Lisa Jackson has resulted in a tidal wave of extreme regulations aimed at fossil energy and its use. It is not surprising, therefore, that someone like Armendariz would feel empowered to send a message that he was going to “make an example” of oil and gas companies. The culture of an organization starts at the top.

Ms. Jackson’s hostility to fossil energy and indifference to the economic implications of excessive regulation in pursuit of the Obama Administration’s vision of our future economy sends a message—use power to pursue our goals. This might sound like a stretch. But the President is not shy about calling out those earn his disfavor. He has done that to the Supreme Court. And in her “The President Has a List” column, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel describes a campaign website that attempts to discredit some people who have given donations to Mitt Romney. Ms. Strassel makes the case that “He’s targeted insurers, oil firms, and Wall Street–letting it be known that those who oppose his policies might face political or legislative retribution.”

Some of this sounds like the Al Armendariz’s philosophy of public service.