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Press Releases :: October 26, 2004

Bush Administration May Have Violated Law in Scientific Panel Process

Rep. Baird, releasing GAO report, calls for Justice Department investigation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), a member of the Committee on Science, charged today that members of the Bush Administration may have violated federal law by asking scientific advisory appointees their political affiliations or voting records and excluding those who did not support the administration party or candidates.  Based on a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which determined such practices to be illegal and cited several reported instances, Baird called on the Justice Department to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations.

According to Baird, "This disregard for the tenets of scientific impartiality is unethical at best and may well be illegal.  At the very least, it underscores the Bush Administration’s disdain for the nonpartisan, objective nature of federal advisory committees and is, according to the GAO study, a violation of federal law."

In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Rep. Baird wrote, "The government must wrestle with many technically complex issues.  In doing that, we need to gather the best expert advice we can find.  When the advisory process is perceived to be dominated by political calculations, scientists and engineers begin to wonder whether it is worth their time and effort to even advise the government."

Rep. Baird has long been concerned about the Bush Administration’s efforts to undermine objective scientific analysis of issues such as stem cell research, global warming, and reproductive health.  In April 2004 Baird and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) released a GAO report, done at their direction, which was inspired by reports that the Administration had engaged in inappropriate manipulation of science advisory committees and had suppressed objective data in pursuit of political objectives.  GAO offered up best practices that the Administration could follow to eliminate such manipulation; the Administration has refused to endorse all those reforms.

"These latest revelations about the Bush Administration’s willingness to flout federal law, while pursuing a partisan agenda, demand full investigation.  Those found to be responsible need to be held accountable for their actions," said Rep. Baird.  "Scientific inquiry deserves better, our nation deserves better, and violations of federal law must be stopped."

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