They Wouldn't Wait in the Lobby
By Al Kamen
Friday, June 11, 2004; Page A23
Folks at the National Park Service were buzzing this week over an effort to have the superintendents of the national parks lobby Congress on a bill that funds improvements in roads and bridges in the park system.
Apparently, some of the nearly 400 superintendents -- all of whom are career employees -- were unhappy with a June 4 "Dear Superintendent" letter from Jeffrey K. Taylor of the NPS legislative and congressional affairs office here.
"As you may or may not know, the Highway Re-Authorization Bill (SAFETEA) will be coming up in conference, possibly within the next week," Taylor wrote. "I ask you to call your Congressman and have he or she urge" House members from "your state to strip the section, marked on the attachment, from the bill." (The section involves a formula for allocating the money.)
Apparently some superintendents didn't feel they should be lobbying Congress. A conference call was arranged Monday afternoon with NPS Deputy Director Donald W. Murphy.
We all know how sensitive Murphy is about employees' lobbying Congress. NPS officials quickly suspended -- and are trying to fire -- U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers in part for violating a federal rule against using her position to lobby Congress.
Chambers's "lobbying" consisted of talking to The Washington Post about budget shortfalls and staffing shortages. Murphy said a federal rule bars an official in her position from such "lobbying."
In a follow-up letter to the superintendents on Tuesday, Murphy recapped the conference call.
"As I stated in the conference call," Murphy said, "I apologize for any confusion created by [Taylor's] letter regarding the role superintendents should play regarding the passage of legislation." But, he said, "both the NPS and [Interior] Department solicitor's offices confirmed that the June 4th letter requesting you to contact your House member regarding the [bill] was legal and does not fall within the lobbying restrictions" of the federal anti-lobbying law.
"However, it remains our policy and practice not to engage in this type of activity irrespective of its legality," he said, and Headquarters was going to take care of the lobbying. "Therefore, please disregard the June 4th letter . . . and do not contact your individual House member regarding the Department's position on the SAFETEA bill."
So maybe if Chambers had gone up to the Hill and "urged" House members to increase her budget -- instead of talking to the press -- she would not have been in such violation of that rule.
Right Story, Wrong Name
Where does the press come up with that stuff? CNN's legendary Larry King interviewed former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, Wednesday and asked them about a story in the New York Times that Mrs. Bush wanted Donald T. Regan, President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, fired. Mrs. Bush quite rightly denounced that as inaccurate.
Actually, the Times article was about then-Vice President Bush, not his wife.
"What they had in there was totally inaccurate in terms of fact," said Bush I, who noted that he had seen the article.
"Where does a story like that come from, then?" King asked.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company