Why Aren’t BLM Honcho’s Ethics Violations Being Investigated?

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In August, we brought you the story of Steven Henke, a former Bureau of Land Management field manager and ethics probe target who recently landed a new job as head of an oil and gas industry advocacy group. Henke took gifts like golf tickets, lodging, and meals from an oil company, and also took money from the same company for his kid’s baseball team.

The Department of Interior’s inspector general found these to be clear ethics violations after a General Accounting Office report that found he was “too close to unnamed oil and gas industry officials and made decisions to benefit companies based on personal relationships, rather than the good of BLM.” But the district attorney general declined to prosecute the case. Now, the Project on Government Oversight wants to know why.

The watchdogs sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey asking why these violations were not investigated. The group argues that “ethics officials failed to exercise due diligence” in approving Henke’s move to his new job as president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, a classic example of the much-criticized revolving door between regulatory agencies and the industry.

While the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (now known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) has been subject to an ethics overhaul since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, the department’s other offices need similar scrutiny, POGO argues.

“It’s shocking that BLM wasn’t concerned with the misconduct of one of its managers, nor his turn through the revolving door to represent the companies he was supposed to have been overseeing,” said POGO executive director Danielle Brian. “Henke’s new position could present a significant conflict of interest. This should be a no-brainer.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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