DOI Picked an Ethics Fight on Twitter. It Didn’t Go Well.
Earlier this week, the Department of the Interior released a campaign video it put together for President Trump. It is a federal crime for government employees or agencies to participate in political campaigns in an official capacity, according to the Hatch Act. When Twitter users pointed this out, the department’s deputy press secretary responded in a measured, mature way that demonstrated the level of respect he and his colleagues have for the American people:
Our tweets are approved by career ethics attorneys and thankfully no longer overseen by you.@Interior increased the number ethics staff by 250% to remove the rotten stench from the blatant failure of the prior administration to invest in the ethics program. https://t.co/v3aFjYobbS
— Interior Press Secretary (@DOIPressSec) October 28, 2020
As a recap, the Department of the Interior is run by David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist who, as a personal hobby, has conducted a two-decade-long war on the polar bear species. He’s continued to work in the interest of his lobbying clients while in office, prompting ethics investigations that began on the fourth day of his tenure. Those came after the former secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, was forced to resign due to multiple ongoing corruption scandals. Bernhardt was Zinke’s deputy. Those investigations into Bernhardt have gone nowhere, becuase they’re overseen by the department’s corrupt solicitor, Daniel Jorjani, a lawyer for the Koch brothers who has been blocking the release of virtually all DOI records to the public. I could go on, but you get the idea.
As Tim Fullerton notes, the deputy press secretary’s response has drawn a lot of attention. It also ended up highlighting a tweet from investigative journalist Adam Federman.
Noted: The @Interior account never tagged Trump in a tweet until this year. Then there was 1 in February, 1 in March, 1 in May, and 17 tweets starting in August.
— Aaron Weiss (@aweiss) October 21, 2020
Here's the full email: pic.twitter.com/nqfulXgdKc
— Adam Federman (@adamfederman) October 21, 2020
As Aaron Weiss, a public lands advocate, points out, this looks like a violation of the Hatch Act all on its own. This could provide more evidence in a possible criminal investigation into corrupt practices at the department, or lead to its own charges.
.@RepRaulGrijalva and @RonWyden have called for a criminal investigation into whether Interior Department staff orchestrated a cover-up to protect former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt during his confirmation hearing.https://t.co/3KAgz0lEoP
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) October 28, 2020
In short, this is a pretty good lesson in how social media works for the DOI press team. For more trolling, tune in to the entire thread.
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