Alleged Unauthorized Use of Appropriated Moneys by Interior Employees

CED-80-128: Published: Aug 13, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 21, 1980.

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GAO investigated the possible unauthorized use of appropriated funds by the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining (OSM). Also investigated were allegations that OSM misused appropriated moneys by conducting illegal lobbying activities to defeat pending legislation in the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation would: (1) postpone for 12 months the date for submitting state surface mining programs for federal approval; (2) postpone the date for implementing the surface mining control program on federal lands to coincide with the date for implementing the state program; and (3) add language to the act which specifies that a state program need only comply with the provisions of the act itself and not with the regulations issued by OSM pursuant to the act.

GAO found documents in the files of OSM indicating that OSM was actively involved in trying to defeat the proposed legislation. However, most activities did not violate the lobbying restrictions. The former Assistant to the Director for Congressional and Legislative Affairs memorandums indicate that OSM was directly lobbying Members of Congress to defeat the legislation, action that is not considered to be in violation of federal law. The memorandums also indicate that OSM met with interested groups. This also does not constitute a violation of federal law. Some information suggested that OSM urged interested groups to lobby their Representatives to prevent the legislation from going any further in the House. However, while some of the records reviewed and some interviews conducted tend to support the conclusion that some OSM employees may have engaged in unlawful activities to promote public opposition to the legislation, GAO did not believe that the information was sufficient to conclude that violative activities did take place.

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