I recall an interview with journalist John Stossel in which he said that early in his career he was assigned to report on cases of fraud by private businesses. After awhile on the job, however, he found that fraud in the business world was rare. Most businesses operated honestly because they had to retain customer loyalty. In contrast, Stossel found that fraud was much easier to find in government.
And yet, we don’t see a lot of media reports about the rampant fraud in government. The media seem to report the few cases of private sector fraud with gusto, but are far more reticent to report on government.
Consider, for example, the Volkswagen ’emissionsgate’ scandal that broke back in 2015. This scandal got wall-to-wall coverage on every major media outlet. At this point, even the most superficially informed person must be aware that Volkswagen rigged emissions tests on diesel vehicles during a period of about seven years.
In contrast, how many people know about the data manipulation scandal at the U.S. geological survey? Most people would probably imagine USGS to be a sleepy outpost of government, staffed by geeky but diligent scientists. But apparently, at least two USGS scientists committed data fraud spanning a period more than twice as long as the VW scandal.
Data was manipulated by USGS employees at the USGS lab in Lakewood, Colo., for nearly it’s entire existence, starting in 1996 — just a year after the facility opened — until 2014. The lab stopped taking new work then and was permanently closed in March 2016. The USGS is part of the Department of the Interior.
The lab analyzed a variety of energy-related topics such as uranium deposits and coal reserves. The data was relied upon by decision-makers and analysts in the energy and financial industries, among others. Officials said projects affected by the data involved $108 million in funding.
Even more infuriating is the fact that, nearly a year after the scandal broke, Congressional investigators don’t seem to have many answers due to foot-dragging by the agency. There’s also no evidence that anyone has been fired, punished, or even named.
Officials with the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have yet to tell Congress they’ve punished a pair of scientists behind nearly two decades of data manipulation at a federal lab or what’s been done to prevent more of it, according to a key congressman investigating the scandal.
“We haven’t received assurance that the agency has taken the necessary steps to prevent future, intentional misconduct or that any employees were truly held accountable for these indefensible actions,” Rep. Louie Gohmert told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
The Texas Republican is chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is investigating the data manipulation.
The USGS has repeatedly refused to say if any person has been punished or fired for the manipulation. Gohmert’s panel has investigated the issue since June 2016, but hasn’t uncovered many answers. The USGS gave the subcommittee a batch of documents, but many were completely redacted, making them useless. “The more we dig in, the more questions arise,” Gohmert told TheDCNF. “We’re not talking about just a few fudged numbers, we’re talking nearly two decades of continuous data manipulation. We are still trying to understand the entire scope of the problem. Is this isolated to just one lab? Is similar misconduct happening elsewhere?”
Yeah, I too would like to know the answers to those questions. But I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it. In contrast, there doesn’t seem to be much we don’t know about the VW scandal. But then the media were much more interested in reporting on that one. As far as I know, the only media organization actively following the USGS scandal is the Daily Caller, an ‘alternative’ news source.
Maybe this just reflects my personal bias, but I’m far more outraged by the USGS fraud than by VW’s. Since I am a taxpayer, USGS employees are supposed to be working for me. As a consequence of their malfeasance, they abrogated their fiduciary responsibility to me. But in contrast, I had no relationship with VW, and don’t feel the company had any fiduciary responsibility to me personally. Moreover, in the wake of the scandal, VW seems to have been far more forthcoming with answers, whereas USGS has responded with evasion and cover up.
If the public knew just how much fraud and corruption exists in government, and just how poorly taxpayer money is managed, they would demand something be done about it. Maybe that explains why the media does not want to report on it.
Beware the government-media complex.