Police in San Gabriel, California, just north of Los Angeles, have charged Commerce Secretary John Bryson with felony hit-and-run after the 68-year-old official apparently caused two separate car crashes on Saturday afternoon.
Bryson was found unconscious behind the wheel at the scene of the second accident, and is currently in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Three of the other people involved in the accidents are also being treated for minor injuries.
Politico provides a concise account of the incidents:
Bryson, 68, was allegedly driving a Lexus on San Gabriel Boulevard when he hit the back of a Buick that was waiting for a train to pass. There were three men in the Buick. The commerce secretary is said to have spoken to the men after hitting the car the first time and then, while leaving the scene, again hit the vehicle. The men in the Buick followed Bryson???s car while they called 911.
A few minutes later at about 5:10 p.m. local time, Bryson allegedly caused another collision ??? this one involving a Honda Accord with a man and a woman inside. According to the statement, Bryson was ???found alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle??? and was treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
Bryson???s departure from the scene of the first collision makes it a felony, because there were injuries involved. He reportedly passed a breathalyzer test, and provided a blood sample for a toxicology test, although the results of the latter will not be known for another few days.
Bryson is the former CEO of Edison International, approved with some reluctance by the Senate last October after his predecessor, Gary Locke, became ambassador to China. His nomination was delayed by a power struggle between congressional Republicans and the White House over free-trade agreements with Panama, Columbia, and South Korea.
However, there were also significant objections to Bryson himself. His critics, most notably Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), regarded him as an environmental extremist, citing his support for cap-and-trade legislation, service to the United Nations as a climate-change advisor, and involvement in founding the Natural Resources Defense Council. Also, Bryson???s connections to California politics led some to detect a whiff of crony capitalist foul play during the state???s energy crisis in 2001. ???To me, he???s not qualified to be secretary of Commerce at a time when we have 9.1 percent unemployment,??? said Barrasso.
The Washington Times editorial board added, ???Nominating an advocate for schemes that massively raise prices for struggling consumers and small businesses makes little sense in this economy,??? and concluded that President Obama ???ought to look for someone with a track record of creating jobs, not someone whose claim to fame is building an organization dedicated to destroying them.???
Curiously, Bryson was also an advisor to a private equity firm called Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company. President Obama normally regards such firms as festering pools of heartless evil, but presumably Bryson???s years of environmental activism, serving as a tireless advocate for greater government power, helped wash away the corrupting stain of private equity.