A significant number of Bush administration political appointees have converted to career civil service jobs in recent months — raising the question of whether they can impact policy in the incoming Obama administration ... or even sabotage it.
"Burrowing," as the phenomenon is called, is nothing new; it has happened in other transitions. But a spate of recent news coverage suggests that an unusually large number of Bush's political operatives are not going away, quietly or otherwise.
A significant number of these "burrowers" work in areas covered by environment, energy, resource, science, and health journalists. The WatchDog offers some tips and tools for any reporters hunting "burrowers."
The "Plum Book," as it is informally known, is supposed to be a list of all the executive branch jobs subject to presidential appointment (only a subset of all the politically appointed jobs, but including most of the highest-ranking ones). It is published every four years, at the end of an outgoing administration; the latest one came out in December 2008. It is printed by the Government Printing Office and published for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. The information comes from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. It is not currently available in database form.
- "U.S. Government Policy and Supporting Positions," Senate Print 110-36, Nov. 12, 2008.
Although numerous political appointees jumped ship before November, the Plum Book still offers a useful baseline to account for politicals at the end of the Bush administration. Most who moved to non-appointed or ongoing jobs in 2008 might be evaluated as possible "burrowers."
- "Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees; Political Positions Shifted To Career Civil Service Jobs," Washington Post, November 18, 2008, by Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig.
- "Senators Urge Bush To Halt Job Shifts; Officials Deny Sheltering Appointees," Washington Post, November 19, 2008, by Carol D. Leonnig and R. Jeffrey Smith.
- "Inside Washington: Appointees Find US Government Jobs," Associated Press, January 16, 2009, by Brett J. Blackledge.
- "A Global-Warming-Denying Bush Official Burrows in at the NSF," Climate Progress, January 27, 2009. Blog is headed by Joseph Romm.
- "Feinstein Wants Pentagon Investigation of Alleged Gitmo Burrowers," Talking Points Memo, February 6, 2009, by Elana Schor.
- "Bush-o-crats Burrow In," Mother Jones, November/December 2008, by Daniel Schulman.
- "Top Scientist Says Bush's 'Burrowing' of Political Appointees Will 'Leave Wreckage Behind'," Think Progress, Novermber 22, 2008, by Matt Corley.
- "Political Appointees 'Burrowing In'," Washington Post, October 5, 2007, by Christopher Lee.
- "Personnel Practices: Conversions of Employees from Noncareer to Career Positions," U.S. Government Accountability Office, May 2006, GAO-06-381.