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Hastings wonders if anybody at Interior is minding the ethics store

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House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-WA, isn't happy that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar refused to provide documents his panel requested last September on how aggressively the department is enforcing federal ethics laws and regulations.

Hastings' committee staff got an oral briefing from Interior's Office of Ethics, but he was even less happy when the briefers said only eight ethics cases had been referred to the department's Inspector-General, and only one of those involved a career senior executive and none involved Obama administration political appointees.

So Hastings renewed the request for documents in a letter made public today in which he pointedly noted to Salazar recent media coverage has "raised serious questions about whether the Department and the IG are, in fact, aggressively pursuing allegations of wrongdoing and whether current and former senior Obama Administration officials are being held accountable for complying with federal ethics and conflict of interest laws."

In his letter, Hastings noted media reports on three issues that concern him:

* A Los Angeles Times report that Steve Black, a politically appointed Salazar counselor, was involved in a romantic relationship with a lobbyist for a renewable energy firm that is developing solar projects on federal lands.

* A Las Vegas Review-Journal story that a consulting firm owned by a former director of the federal Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Department could gain $528,000 in fees involving the sale of government lands to a private developer.

* Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta's resignation from his presidentially appointed position following news stories reporting questions about his role in awarding grants.

The full text of the Hastings letter to Salazar, including a detailed list of all documents sought by the committee, is available here.

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