Sunday, June 04, 2006

The next scandal: Robert McCallum and other administration malfeasance.

On Friday the WaPo reported:

"A federal judge ruled yesterday that Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum Jr. must undergo questioning in a lawsuit by a nonprofit group seeking records about the Justice Department's conduct in a landmark case against the tobacco industry." [see smokey history]

The nonprofit group in question, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) explains:

"Last June, CREW submitted a Freedom of Information Act {FOIA) request to DOJ asking for records relating to the proposed penalty in United States v. Philip Morris, Inc. As a penalty for the tobacco industry's violations of racketeering laws, DOJ had initially sought $130 billion, at a rate of $5.2 billion per year over 24 years, to fund a smoking cessation program. Suddenly and without explanation, in June 2005 DOJ drastically dropped the amount to only $10 billion, at a rate of $2 billion per year for five years."

At the time the WaPo reported that even the tobacco lawyers were surprised:

"'We were very surprised,' said Dan Webb, lawyer for Altria Group's Philip Morris USA and the coordinating attorney in the case. 'They've gone down from $130 billion to $10 billion with absolutely no explanation. It's clear the government hasn't thought through what it's doing.'"

Or maybe they had. After all, McCallum, besides being an old school buddy of W.'s at Yale, worked for a law firm that represented Big Tobacco before going to the DOJ. But I'm sure it's all on the up-and-up, right? That's how this government operates; they get the most qualified people from industry into important positions in the regulatory agencies who know what's best for their clients.

Like Philip Cooney, for instance, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmenmental Quality. He, as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, who took government reports about global warming and altered them to reflect big oil's concerns about all the "uncertainies" about climate change. OMB Watch says that in one instance he crossed out "a section on ice and snowpack melting, noting that it strayed 'from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'"

It's all just such crazy speculation!

And what about Wal-Mart? I'd love to know they have in their pocket at the Department of Labor. In a child labor case last year the NYT reported that:

"Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest retailer, has agreed to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it violated child labor laws in Connecticut, Arkansas and New Hampshire. Labor Department officials said most of the 24 violations covered by the settlement involved workers under age 18 operating dangerous machinery, including cardboard balers and chain saws. In the agreement, Wal-Mart denied any wrongdoing."

Gosh, $135,000, how will they ever stay in business? But not so fast, that wasn't all, the Department of Labor wanted to let Wal-Mart know that they were sorry for even bothering them about such a trivial matter and added a provision to the final settlement that promised to "give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before the Labor Department investigates any other 'wage and hour' accusations, like failure to pay minimum wage or overtime." Because it's so unfair to just show up unannounced and expect them to be following the law.

It's not as if Wal-Mart has a history of violating child labor laws or anything, you can trust them. According to the Child Labor Coalition:

"In 2004, Wal-Mart conducted an internal audit of time cards in 128 stores covering a one-week period. The audit revealed 1,371 instances in which minors worked either during school hours or for too many hours in the day. In recent years, Wal-Mart has also been accused of other serious labor law violations - including employees forced to work off the clock, locking employees into stores overnight, and using undocumented workers." (Imagine that!)

But it's all good, if there's any kind of wrong-doing going on, Robert McCallum at the Department of Justice will sort it out. He's on the job for you!


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