Smelling a RAT

posted at 10:11 am on February 19, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Byron York smells a RAT.  Charles Grassley smelled a RAT right before the Senate vote on Porkulus, but couldn’t get his statement to the floor on time.  You’ll smell a rat, too, when you’re done reading this post, and it won’t just be the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, either:

You’ve heard a lot about the astonishing spending in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. But you probably haven’t heard about a provision in the bill that threatens to politicize the way allegations of fraud and corruption are investigated — or not investigated — throughout the federal government.

The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the RAT Board, as it’s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.

In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.” If the inspector general doesn’t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, he’ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.

First, let’s ask ourselves how this stimulates the economy.  Why include this in an emergency stimulus bill when it has nothing to do with stimulus or economics?  This rule change should have come in separate debate in Congress — like so many other portions of Porkulus.

It does, however, have everything to do with Hope and Change.  What the RAT Board can do, as York points out, is direct or quash investigations by Inspectors General throughout the federal bureaucracy.  Until now, IGs have had independence of action in order to avoid charges of politicization (remember that word?) and to conduct probes without interference from the Department of Justice, the White House, or Congress.  Now they will answer to Congress not on general performance, but on the specifics of their probes.

How did it get into Porkulus?  Grassley says it wasn’t in the original bill passed in the Senate, and it suddenly appeared in the conference version.  No one has claimed ownership of the RAT Board yet, but clearly the Democratic majority wants full control over oversight in the bureaucracy — which more or less means an end to effective oversight over the majority, which is the entire point of the IG position.  After all, if we could rely on politicians and bureaucrats to police themselves, we wouldn’t need Constitutional checks and balances at all.

The name of the RAT Board is Orwellian, as is its appearance in the administration that claimed it would have the most transparency in American history.  Putting IGs under Nancy Pelosi’s thumb eliminates transparency and accountability, and calling it an Accountability and Transparency Board is a grim joke.  It’s simply a mechanism to shut down potentially embarrassing (or worse) IG investigations while commanding others against political foes.

Put simply, it brings the worst aspects of the Chicago Machine to Washington DC — a result which we repeatedly warned would happen with Obama’s election.


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

with neo-cons everything Obama and the Democrats do is a conspiracy. People figured out neocon ideology and they voted the gop out. Why is this so hard for you people to accept. The American voters said “get out” what part of that message don’t you people get? Your party wasn’t wanted, they were despised. They were thrown out….get over it.

Hey dumbass,the dims won on lies and deception and an in-the-tank old media. What part of THAT message don’t YOU get. You and your constituancy are some of the most stupifyingly uninformed lemmings in modern history.

starman on February 20, 2009 at 3:33 AM

The dems and the current occupant of public housing at 1600 Penn Ave are openly crooked. 2010 and working to send a lot of them packing. Hitler had his action set to law also.

Col.John Wm. Reed on February 20, 2009 at 7:36 AM

The Democrats grab themselves an unknown cantidate out of the most corrupt political area of the US and now are working him, working him, working him.

I truley believe Obama will be a one term president and that this will be the last time we see a Dem controlled congress for a long time unless they are able to bastardize the system quickly enough to save their socialistic asses.

Ernest on February 20, 2009 at 8:40 AM

Why does Obama have a team of lawyers whose sole duty is to prevent access to his immigration, U.S. naturalization, passport and college records? Why has he sealed those records from all public access? Why has he spent over $800,000 in legal fees already to hide his personal records? What information is he so desperate to hide from the American public? THAT is the REAL question we need to answer. The RAT issue is way down in the little noise level.

searcher484 on February 20, 2009 at 9:59 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3