5 bureaucratic controversies of 2017

In a year rife with controversies — see: email, Russian and otherwise — it’s no wonder some of 2017’s bureaucratic dust-ups caused a stir.

While President Donald Trump and members of Congress usually get the most press, those in the usually staid halls of various federal agencies and departments learned the most important lesson of the modern age: Ask not whom the web trolls; it’s trolling you.

These were some of the moments and people that got people talking (and tweeting).

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

DeVos was a lightning rod for controversy several times this year, starting with her contentious nomination. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos — the first time in US history that such a vote was needed to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

In September, the Department of Education announced that it would review Obama-era Title IX guidance. Critics said the bar was too low for proving sexual assault allegations and, in the secretary’s own words, provided “a lack of due process.”

Add that to some of her other controversial quotes, and you’ve got one of the most talked-about secretaries in the Cabinet.

Pipelines and protesters

One of the first controversies Trump faced in office was handling the advancement of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The pipeline controversy was nothing new — Trump had talked about them before taking office and then-President Barack Obama’s administration had moved to block them — but it was the protest site at the Dakota Access Pipeline that generated a lot of buzz.

The striking visuals coming out of North Dakota didn’t end when Trump signed an executive action advancing the pipeline projects in January.

The Standing Rock protest camp was cleared in February.

Private planes, public woes

It was only a few months ago that Tom Price resigned as the secretary of health and human services.

Politico reported that Price had traveled on chartered planes at least 24 times.

Trump wasn’t happy. The Internet wasn’t happy. And it cost Price his job.

FCC chairman did the Harlem Shake

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a video called “7 Things You Can Still Do on the Internet After Net Neutrality.” You can go look at the whole list yourself, but the most notable was “You can still ruin memes.”

He then does just that, dancing in his own Harlem Shake video. He’s self-aware. He left non-extinct memes alone.

That video, a security evacuation shortly before the vote and the web-surfing public’s general outrage at the prospect of possibly slower or more expensive connections to popular content drove the FCC into the spotlight.

By the way, the FCC voted along party lines to repeal net neutrality.

America to CFPB: Who’s the boss?

Sometimes we all feel like we don’t know who is in charge of a given situation, but for a few days in November, it was a legitimate question at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

When Richard Cordray resigned as director of the CFPB, he announced that chief of staff Leandra English would become the acting director.

Not so fast. President Donald Trump also named an interim director: Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

A federal judge ruled that Mulvaney should not be blocked from the job the President selected him to do.

His bio is “coming soon” on the CFPB website. That’s when it’ll really feel official.