WASHINGTON - Senator Scott Brown denounced the federal agency regulating fishermen, saying yesterday that one of its divisions bought and used what he termed a $300,000 “fishermen-funded party boat for bureaucrats.’’
In a speech on the Senate floor, the Massachusetts Republican called on President Obama to fire Jane Lubchenco, the chief administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has jurisdiction of the country’s fishing fleets.
It was the Massachusetts senator’s latest salvo in his longstanding battle against the agency, which has had a contentious relationship with New England fishermen because of what some consider overaggressive enforcement of fishing rules.
“NOAA levied totally unreasonable fines against our fishermen. Then they used that money to buy themselves a luxury boat,’’ Brown said, unveiling an inspector general’s report on the boat.
“While fishermen in Gloucester and New Bedford are struggling to put off foreclosure or mourning the loss of their livelihood because of NOAA’s overzealous enforcement, the NOAA office was living the good life on their dime,’’ he said.
According to the report, which Brown’s office obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a law enforcement arm of NOAA’s office in Seattle used fines collected from fishermen to buy the 35-foot Boston Whaler cabin boat in 2008. Its manufacturer characterized the boat as “luxurious.’’
The inspector general, which launched its investigation in mid-2010 after a whistleblower complaint, said the agency manipulated the usual procurement process to buy the vessel.
According to the investigation, the boat was supposedly purchased for undercover investigations. Instead, it was mainly used by NOAA personnel for personal entertainment, including transportation of family and friends for excursions to dockside restaurants.
The report said employees lied, under questioning by federal investigators, about the use of the boat.
In a statement yesterday, the NOAA said it has prohibited further use of the boat and it is in the process of being “surplussed.’’ — BOBBY CAINA CALVAN
6 on ethics panel quit case against Calif. Democrat
WASHINGTON - All five Republicans on the House ethics committee and the panel’s ranking Democrat withdrew yesterday from a long-standing investigation of Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, to avoid further questions about their impartiality.
The development came more than two years after the panel began examining whether Waters improperly tried to steer money from the 2008 financial bailout to OneUnited, a minority-owned bank in Boston that included her husband as a shareholder and board member. — ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ohio AG switches support to Santorum over Romney
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing Rick Santorum’s Republican presidential bid, defecting from Mitt Romney’s camp.
DeWine said he had initially believed Santorum could not overcome the former Massachusetts governor’s financial advantage but now thinks he was wrong. — ASSOCIATED PRESS