Obama cronyism: Going after AmeriCorps IG on behalf of contributor; Update: A Michelle Obama connection?
posted at 8:47 am on June 12, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
David Freddoso tried to explain that the only change Barack Obama would bring to the Beltway would be an introduction of the Chicago Machine politics that made him successful to the Beltway. The Inspector General of AmeriCorps, one of Obama’s pet projects, has discovered this the hard way. The independent investigator got fired for peeking too closely at an Obama contributor:
President Barack Obama says he has lost confidence in the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs and has told Congress he is removing him from the position.
Obama’s move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star, into the misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group that Johnson headed.
Walpin was criticized by the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled an investigation of Johnson and St. HOPE Academy, a nonprofit group that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants from the Corporation for National Community Service. The corporation runs the AmeriCorps program.
Initially, the White House called Walpin and told him he had an hour to resign or get fired, as Byron York reported. Senator Charles Grassley shot back a warning to the White House last night:
After last night’s call, Walpin got in touch with Congress, and it appears the White House has backed off, at least for now. This afternoon, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who is something of a guardian angel for inspectors general, fired off a letter to the White House about the affair.
“I was troubled to learn that last night your staff reportedly issued an ultimatum to the AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin that he had one hour to resign or be terminated,” Grassley wrote. “As you know, Inspectors General were created by Congress as a means to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuring that federal agencies were held accountable for their actions. Inspectors General were designed to have a dual role reporting to both the President and Congress so that they would be free from undue political pressure. This independence is the hallmark of all Inspectors General and is essential so they may operate independently, without political pressure or interference from agencies attempting to keep their failings from public scrutiny.”
Grassley said he was “deeply troubled” by the Walpin matter and closed by asking the president “to review the Inspector General Reform Act you cosponsored and to follow the letter of the law should you have cause to remove any Inspector General.”
In fact, regardless of the commentary from the US Attorney, Congress gave IGs this level of protection precisely to avoid this kind of action by the White House. Obama doesn’t want IGs investigating his cronies and political allies, and the evidence for this is rather clear from the way the White House handled it. Instead of going to Congress, which the lawyers in the White House should have known was the correct procedure, they attempted to intimidate Walpin out of his job first. Apparently they didn’t have a good enough case for the proper procedure.
Gee, does that sound (cough-cough Chrysler) at all (cough-cough GM) familiar (cough-cough AIG)? It’s more of the madman theory of the Presidency — and once again, it involves abuse of power.
Will Congress stand up to the executive branch and protect the Inspectors General? Or will they roll over and allow Obama to accrue even more power to protect his buddies and to allow corruption to run rampant?
Update: The boss has much more on this, including a connection to the other Michelle
First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Jackie Norris, is being sent to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in what is both a White House shake-up and an indication of the first lady’s sway over the corporation that oversees AmeriCorps, Serve and Learn and the Senior Corps.
Observers believe Norris, whom Obama came to know early in the Iowa caucus campaign, was forced out of the White House so that long-time Obama friend Susan Sher could take over. But those same observers see her appointment as senior adviser to the corporation as an overall win for CNCS, believing that Norris still will have a straight line to the White House.
CNCS remains without a CEO after the withdrawal last month of Nike vice president Maria Eitel, even before her nomination went to the Senate. Although the corporation’s CEO must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Michelle Obama reportedly has taken the lead in selecting the nominee.
And in Youth Today, a hint of what may really have triggered the IG’s termination:
The inspector general (IG) of the Corporation for National and Community Service is being removed by President Barack Obama, a week after the IG questioned the eligibility of the largest and most expensive AmeriCorps program, and while the IG was contesting the “propriety” of a settlement made with a mayor for alleged misuse of AmeriCorps funds.
…Funding for the largest AmeriCorps program – the Teaching Fellows Program, run by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York – is in abeyance pending resolution of widespread problems identified in a recent audit. Although Walpin recommended that funding be curtailed and that previous funds (perhaps as much as $75 million) be repaid to the corporation, the corporation has said it will take no action on that matter.
Walpin concluded that nothing was being gained by the grants to CUNY and that the money was simply being used to subsidize an existing and funded program.
The boss says this looks a lot like Travelgate. When will the show trial of Walpin start, so that the Obamas can take political cover?
Update II: Don’t forget the RAT in the stimulus.