All administrations make political appointments to executive agencies, generally at the highest level. These appointees often bring more political than technocratic knowledge with them, and they can have a serious impact on agency operations.
It doesn't take very much imagination to understand the implications of political interference with an agency that relies on its scientific credibility in advising on the design, implementation and enforcement of laws that affect everyone. The Bush-appointed Administrator of the EPA has been called to testify on his "interference" with EPA scientists, which the Union of Concerned Scientists has condemned:
On numerous issues—ranging from mercury pollution to groundwater contamination to climate change—political appointees have edited scientific documents, manipulated scientific assessments, and generally sought to undermine the science behind dozens of EPA regulations.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee chairman, said depositions provided by senior EPA staff members suggest that Johnson had been overruled or heavily influenced by the White House on recent EPA decisions on the smog standard, its rejected of a waiver for California on global warming regulations, and the EPA ongoing deliberations on whether to regulate carbon dioxide.
''You have essentially become a figurehead,'' Waxman told Johnson. ''... In each case, you backed down.''
He said in each of the EPA cases ''the pattern is the same. The president apparently insisted in his judgment and overrode the unanimous recommendations of EPA scientific and legal experts,'' said Waxman. ''You reversed yourself after having candid conversations with the White House.''
And those of you who want to watch Rep. Waxman trying to get an answer on "guidance" or "steering" out of Johnson (and yelling at Rep Issa (R) for trying to stop the questions) should check out this video:
Bottom Line: Political interference with the EPA is undermining its current operations and weakening its future credibility. If the Bush administration manages to discredit the EPA now, who is going to trust the EPA in the future?