In a nutshell: Rove's traveling PowerPoint show in early 2002, revving up cabinet department and agency support for GOP candidates that fall, stressed Gordon Smith's re-election vulnerability. Some weeks later, the Dept. of the Interior apparently overruled and overrode science in hand to make sure Klamath River water would be available to area farms (part of the GOP base in Oregon), even at the cost of the endangered Coho salmon whose survival depended on the river running at full.
Over at Loaded Orygun, TJ does a nice bit of assembling a the suspects in the drawing room, and comes up with what I think might be the real dog that didn't bark in the night:
An investigation [by the Interior Department's inspector general, at the request of Senator John Kerry] was done into the possible influence of the White House--but the prime target's top aide can't even remember that there was one, and no pertinent emails outside of White House channels were ever reviewed.
Nobody ever said that an IG investigation has to feel like a full cavity search, but when its occurrence escapes the target's notice, it's fair to wonder if perhaps it might have been carried out with a little too much of the lace hanky touch.
LO's post features a nice document dump, linking to a lot of good background reading on the whole megillah.
Me, I'd love to see that IG report too. Especially in view of Earl E. Devaney's testimony last fall to a House Government Reform subcommittee:
Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior. [...] Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials -- taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias -- have been routinely dismissed with a promise "not to do it again."
Earl E. Devaney is the Interior IG who signed off on that March 1, 2004 report to Senator John Kerry concluding that there was "no basis" for claims that Rove was meddling in the Klamath Basin decisions.
"Short of a crime?" We'll see.