Thursday, July 20, 2006

U.S. Official Bribed With Texas Buffalo ?

Well, it looks like another Republican official has created a scandal for himself. However, this time the alleged payoff was not cash, but a buffalo! David P. Smith, a senior official in the U.S. Department of the Interior, resigned last week amid speculation that he had given favored treatment in exchange for the right to shoot a buffalo.

Smith has been with the Interior Department since Georgie took office in 2001. In December of 2004, Smith was at the 5000 acre ranch of Texas billionaire, Dan Duncan, when Duncan offered Smith a chance to "hunt" a buffalo. Smith drove to within 100 yards of the ranch-raised buffalo, and then shot him with a high-powered rifle. Smith then kept the buffalo's shoulder mount, skull, hooves, tanned hide, and 20 pounds of meat. He later had the hooves made into bookends.

A month later, the Interior Department designated Houston as an officially designated port to bring in exotic animals and trophies. Duncan just happens to be an importer of these items, and it was in his interest to have Houston as a designated port. Smith says the gift of buffalo had nothing to do with the port designation. Smith said, "Every time I've ever been on Dan's ranch, Dan has never asked me to do anything for him or for anyone else."

The Interior Department's Inspector General's report on this matter was obtained by the U.S. News & World Report through the Freedom of Information Act. The report says, "Smith's involvement, given his personal relationships with individuals who benefited directly from the port's designation, was inappropriate and violated the appearance standard."

Of course, nothing was done until the matter became public. It seems that in Georgie's administration, breaking the rules doesn't matter until the public finds out.

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