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Salazar Steals White House Reporter's Seat

By Ed O'Keefe

No, Helen Thomas has not been replaced by Ken Salazar, but the Interior Secretary did take possession of her high-profile front-row seat in the White House Briefing Room this afternoon, becoming the first Obama administration cabinet secretary to appear at a press briefing. It's the first time anyone can remember a cabinet official sitting in the press seats during a daily White House news briefing. (See the video above.)

Salazar's playful move followed a serious announcement: he will travel tomorrow to the Lakewood, Colo. offices of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to unveil plans to reform the entire Interior Department.

“Over the last eight years, the Department of the Interior has been tarnished by ethical lapses and criminal behavior that has extended to the highest levels of government," Salazar said, noting that "It is the department that the American people associate with Jack Abramoff."

MMS has been the home to most of the high-profile ethical lapses. It manages the leases for natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf and last year it collected roughly $23 billion in revenues. Three separate inspector general reports released last September revealed cases of wrongdoing among current and former staffers. The reports found that staffers accepted gifts from oil and gas industry representatives, including tickets to concerts and sporting events. They also allege sexual misconduct between MMS employees and industry representatives and found that a program manager bought cocaine from a subordinate.

Ken Salazar
Following a statement to the press, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took a front-row seat in the White House Briefing Room Wednesday afternoon.

“The Lakewood, Colo. office of the Minerals Management Service is tasked with making sure that taxpayers collect their fair share from oil and gas development on our public lands," Salazar told reporters.

“Yet during the last Administration, some of the employees of that office violated the public trust by accepting gifts and employment contracts from the oil and gas companies they are supposed to be holding accountable."

The secretary said tomorrow's announcement “is only the first step of our long-term effort to enact comprehensive, top-to-bottom reform of the Department of Interior."

Following his remarks, Salazar plopped down between CBS' Chip Reid and ABC's Jake Tapper, in the seat normally occupied by Thomas. The famed newspaper columnist and author has worked the White House beat since the Kennedy administration. No word on her whereabouts today.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 28, 2009; 3:55 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments  
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Next: Eye Opener: Jan. 29, 2009

Comments

What an eye opener. The Post and other Media would do well to follow Salazar's actions to clean up the Interior. Specifically, I hope to see wholesale firing of everyone who took a bribe, used drugs, and participated in the seduction efforts of the oil industry and others. Probing corruption deep within the ranks of government employees and dismissing all involved, may cause some scarring, but will improve efficiency and eliminate waste by ending the graft.

Posted by: CVal | February 2, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

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