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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, March 31, 2002

Early blemish for Bush: one-sided energy policy

It's still too early to know whether charges that the Bush administration gave special treatment to the energy industry in shaping national energy policy will have sufficient legs to create a real scandal.

It is clear, however, that the administration has been uncomfortably close to the industry, both in terms of campaign money gathered before the election and access granted after.

Whether we're looking at a scandal or not, however, it's dismaying to hear the Bush administration talk of its Energy Department almost as if it exists to serve the energy industry and no one else.

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said it should be no surprise that the energy secretary spends most of his time meeting with the energy industry. Consumer and environmental groups shouldn't take umbrage that they're denied access to the Energy Department, said Fleischer, because they have access to "others in government," including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Never mind that Bush is currently gutting the EPA. The notion that Cabinet departments exist to serve specific constituencies exclusively is patently absurd, not to mention dangerous.

Scandal or not? More will be revealed as a fiercely defensive administration is dragged, kicking and screaming, into telling us what it knew and when it knew it. But the pattern of campaign money buying influence with government officials who used to work for the industry is not a cause for optimism.