Here we go again.
The Pentagon’s inspector general’s office said Wednesday it was opening an investigation into acting Defense secretary and former Boeing Co. executive Patrick M. Shanahan, over comments he made that seemed to puff up Boeing at the expense of its rivals in the military-industrial complex.
The investigation stems from media reports that Shanahan, as undersecretary to James Mattis, pushed for decisions in Boeing’s favor and disparaged Boeing’s competitors despite having signed an ethics agreement to recuse himself from matters involving Boeing.
Breaking that agreement is serious stuff, and reflects one of the main problems with a revolving door between government and industry. Such coziness makes corruption and insider-dealing much easier to get away with.
That’s quite a legacy.
Still, Shanahan’s transgression, if true, is kind of cute compared with some of the other conflicts and scandals that have embroiled current and former appointees of President Trump, whose administration already is one of the most scandal-plagued in U.S. history.
Beyond the personal scandals, the professional and political ones include:
- The abuse of government-funded travel by former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Pruitt, Zinke and Price all were forced out.
- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office, for which he blamed his wife. Carson’s decision to have his son, a Baltimore businessman, help with a HUD listening tour to Maryland also raised concerns that he was using his position to help his son’s business.
- Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s failure to divulge foreign contracts and his lies to the FBI about conversations with Russian agents, leading to his guilty plea.
And then there’s the Mueller investigation.
And Trump’s own conflicts of interest.
All in all, the Trump administration has amassed an impressively broad and deep list of alleged or admitted chicanery, criminal acts and questionable exercises of judgment.
And that doesn’t even get into the fundamental incompetence of the administration, which — fortunately for the environment — can’t figure out how to change regulations without getting slapped down by the courts.
In fact, the administration has lost at least 63 court challenges over its regulatory changes. By another count, it has prevailed in only 6% of the challenges, compared with a “normal win rate” for the government of 70%.
And in two years, turnover among “A team” members of the administration, defined as top White House staffers, is about 66%. Among the 24 Cabinet-level positions, 12 have had turnovers, a record for the modern era.
That’s quite a legacy.