Opinion: The Prodigal Interior Department

By Michael McGrady

U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Trump’s pick to head the Interior Department, has a lot to do once he assumes his new position. For starters, let’s start with addressing the Interior Department’s massive corruption epidemic.

For far too long, Interior officials have been on record, abusing their power and status to advance personal agendas, make personal gains, and bullying innocent taxpayers into submission. And no, I am not just talking about the seizure and outright infringement of the private property rights of millions of Americans. I am referencing the aforementioned epidemic of corruption that has engulfed the agency since the beginning of the Obama Administration into the transition to the Trump Administration.

Usually, many of the cabinet-level agencies in the executive branch have independent auditors and watchdog organizations, known as an Inspector General, to focus on detecting fraud, waste, and abuse in the day to day operations of the agency. However, how can an agency rot with corruption trust an independent source if the entity is compromised itself? The simple answer is that it cannot fix corruption issues if corruption is at the top.

In the middle of last year, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert inquired into the department asking the agency’s acting Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, to address cases of “exacerbating corruption.”

Gohmert’s letter, signed in his role as the chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on oversight and investigations, mentioned that citing a recent corruption report from the DOI OIG, “These are troubling findings, and serve as further evidence of exacerbating corruption within the Department of the Interior.” The OIG report cited covered the findings and course of actions surrounding the case of corruption advertently committed by former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) head Bob Abbey.

Other instances that illustrate the level of corruption in the DOI can also be seen with the troubling investigation of Deputy IG Kendall herself, in 2013. The Congressional inquiry stated that the OIG, under Kendall as acting head, was mismanaged. “These [accusations] include: not pursuing investigations involving political appointees or Administration priorities; informing senior Department officials of problems without conducting formal investigations and not issuing reports to Congress and the public; not adequately documenting the management of IG investigations and operations; serving in an appointed policy role in conflict with the IG’s investigative duties; preventing an investigator from seeking information from a White House official; and providing inaccurate and misleading information to Congress,” a public release on the report stated.

Though Kendall still remains in charge of the watchdog and, according to an external perspective, holding agency employees and leaders accountable has been lackluster, at best.

One of the most recent cases of this can be attributed to the BLM official utilizing his position, and the power that comes with it, to get preferential treatment, use agency law enforcement officials as personal escorts, and score tickets to the 2015 Burning Man festival.

Another, more recent case, pointed to the corrupt usage of a government charge card by employees of the U.S. Geological Survey. In the end, the case concluded that over $12,000 of credit, charged by USGS employees, was abused and wasted. Plus, to no major surprise, the list of abuses keeps going and going.

Nevertheless, here is the real paradigm we are faced with: Trump and Zinke rooting out corruption…

One of the major challenges, once Zinke is confirmed, needs to focus his efforts on cleaning house in his immediate staff, working with the agency directors and the OIG to reign in unchecked power and abuse by employees and leaders of the agency, and to reaffirm the agency’s role. Sadly, it is not as simple as de-funding the agency; but, more or less a recovery period to streamline and shrink DOI’s presence.

Originally published on RedState

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Opinion: International Religious Liberty Is Vital, And Trump Needs To Advocate For It

By Michael McGrady

For the longest time, the world has watched in horror as thousands across the world have suffered at the hands of despotic governments due to oppressed peoples merely exercising their naturally endowed right to freedom of conscience.

We open our scene on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where thousands of people from of all faiths are unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs and forcibly submitted to horrendous live organ harvesting and torture so that the Communist-controlled government can assert their dominance over thought and culture.

Last year, a colleague and I wrote, in a column for The Blaze, on the importance of ensuring international religious freedom utilizing the faith of Falun Gong and the pain this group continuously suffers as an example, to illustrate need for Americans (especially) to lead the fight in promoting an international environment where religious freedom can flourish absent of despotic intervention.

We indicated that “while many groups in China and around the world are attacked for holding “strange” beliefs, Falun Gong members have been claiming for more than a decade the persecution against them has taken an especially dark turn.” This dark turn, obviously, is the egregious acts of the sitting Chinese government to forcibly extract organs for donation purposes from living “prisoners of conscience” – which includes groups like Chinese Christians and the Uyghurs, of whom are a Muslim majority.

The United Nations has investigated this overt violation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for these prisoners of conscience; but the Chinese government continues to provide organ donation services at relatively low prices and retrieval times, ergo citing some crooked practices in part of the public health officials. Thus, this only lends credibility to the already confirmed fact that the Chinese government is killing its citizens of whom disagree with the majority ideology of Maoist Communism. Simply put, the Chinese government remains unchecked.

American President Donald J. Trump is now presented with a new paradigm in conducting foreign affairs on behalf of the free world. With this, the Trump Administration needs to recognize the importance of protecting religious liberty and freedom of conscience, not just domestically but, abroad. Nevermore, the question remains: “What is the proper way for Trump to help support and affirm international religious liberty?”

For starters, Trump needs to put despotic governments, like the PRC, on blast for oppressing freedom of conscience amongst its citizens. One way of doing this is for the newly confirmed United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to challenge the very representatives of communist and fascist dictatorships, like that of Xi Jinping’s PRC, on the matters of human rights. Trump via Haley needs to leverage the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in favor of victims of despotic regime rule.

Article 18 of the UDHR directly states that, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

With America’s influence over the UN, President Trump must use such influence to rout out the dissidence of oppressive governmental intervention, no matter the country, on a human’s promulgated right to think and believe freely.

Trump also has the intuitive insight of the United State Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a federal commission committed to advocating for freedom of conscience and faith across the world, at his disposal. USCIRF and its commissioners provide a level of expertise from the private and the public sector on how foreign governments should recognize and protect religious freedom for their populace that is unmatched.

In the current case on religious liberty in China, USCIRF, in their 2016 annual report concluded that in this past year, “China’s severe religious freedom violations continued.” The report recounted for the Chinese government repressing on several precarious incidences including cases where Uyghur Muslims being prohibited from practicing Ramadan to Christians within the country facing regulations prohibiting sympathetic religious symbols in the public square. Moving away from the atrocities that people of all faiths face in countries like Communist-controlled China, USCIRF serves as the only credulous source on religious freedom across the world in place at the federal level.

Last year, though, the Republican-held House of Representatives even passed a resolution acknowledging the importance of addressing the forced organ harvesting horror for the Falun Gong and all faiths subject to such degradation.

The final argument, in the end, is simple: President Trump has the leverage and the tools to effect positive change for the international faith community. It should be in his Administration’s best interest to ensure that this happens. It is well overdue.

Originally published on The Daily Caller