Stimulus Watchdog Earl Devaney

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Earl Devaney

On Monday, President Obama tasked one-time cop and Secret Service agent Earl Devaney with his largest policing job yet: monitoring spending of the administration's $787 billion stimulus plan.

Obama announced his selection of Devaney, currently inspector general at the Department of the Interior, as chairman of the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. Devaney will work with Vice President Joe Biden to monitor for wasteful spending and issue periodic reports to the public. It's a familiar watchdog role for the long-time government servant. During his tenure at Interior, Devaney uncovered the shady dealings of disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, an investigation that eventually led to Abramoff's imprisonment and the resignation of Interior's no. 2, J. Steven Griles, for lying under oath about his own role in the scandal. Devaney previously worked as the chief of criminal enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he was responsible for heading up all the agency's criminal investigations. (See pictures of 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.)

Devaney won't have a lot of time to get situated in his new position; states will receive the first stimulus funds on Wednesday. Obama has already warned governors that the stimulus money is "not a blank check" and that he plans to treat misappropriations harshly. If Devaney's history is any indication, Obama has found a watchdog quite capable of letting him — and the public — know about any malfeasance.

Fast Facts

• Began his career as a Massachusetts police officer in 1968.

• Graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1970 with a degree in government, and started work as a special agent for the U.S. Secret Service after graduation.

• Retired from the Secret Service in 1991 as leader of the agency's fraud division in order to join the Environmental Protection Agency. He became the EPA's head of enforcement, responsible for the agency's criminal investigations.

• Earned the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award for his public service from President Clinton in 1998.

• Became Inspector General of the Department of the Interior in 1999.

• Headed the influence peddling investigation against lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who bragged to several American Indian tribes that he could land them political favors at the Department of the Interior, which oversees gaming on Indian land. Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy and is cooperating with a bribery investigation. Devaney's investigation also brought down several Interior Department employees, the highest ranking being J. Steven Griles, second-in-command at the department. Griles admitted to hiding his ties to Abramoff during his 2005 testimony before Congress.

• Headed a two-year investigation into the Minerals Management Service, a group which handles royalty payments tendered by oil companies in exchange for drilling on government lands. In his investigation, he found MMS employees were drinking and using drugs on the job and were having sexual relationships with oil industry contracts. In his report, he said the MMS had a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity."

• Led an investigation against Julie MacDonald, a one-time deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service. Devaney's report found MacDonald improperly leaked information and interfered with at least 13 decisions about the protection of endangered species, though it found no illegal activity on her behalf. MacDonald resigned in 2007.

Quotes By

After Griles' guilty plea in the Jack Abramoff influence peddling case: "I am most proud of the willingness of the many current and former department employees who told the truth about this top Interior official, sometimes at great risk to their own careers."
(Washington Post, March 24, 2007)

In his report on an investigation of Julie MacDonald, who served as deputy assistant secretary at the Fish and Wildlife Service: "MacDonald's zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity" of the Endangered Species Act programs "and to the morale and the reputation" of the Fish and Wildlife Service, "as well as potential harm to individual species."
(New York Times, Dec. 15, 2008)

Speaking to Interior Department employees after his investigation uncovered impropriety at the Minerals Management Department: "I want to make sure they understand that I believe in the integrity of 99.9 percent of the 70-odd thousand people who work in this department. There have been a few bad apples. My frustration is the way the department has dealt with those few."
(Federal Times, Dec. 8, 2006)

Quotes About

"Given the breathtaking arrogance with which you have conducted previous so-called investigations of me, I have no interest in any further discussion with your office,"
— Julie MacDonald, in a 2008 letter refusing to be interviewed by Devaney for his investigation into her actions with the Endangered Species Program. MacDonald, who hasn't commented on the report, had already resigned in 2007.

"[Devaney's reports] paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the Interior Department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another's misdeeds."
— Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, on Devaney's investigation into MacDonald and the Fish and Wildlife Service. (December 15, 2008, Washington Post)

"Earl has doggedly pursued waste, fraud and mismanagement [and] has the reputation of being one of the best inspector generals that we have in this town. I can't think of any more tenacious and efficient guardian of the hard-earned tax dollars the American people have entrusted us to wisely invest."
— Barack Obama (Feb. 23, 2009, CNN)


"He looks like an inspector, he's tough, you know he barely cracks a smile."
— Barack Obama (Feb. 23, 2009, BBC)

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