Vivek Kundra has returned to his post as CIO of the Obama administration. The New York Times reports on both his “quiet” reinstatement and the fact that the White House is finally acknowledging his “youthful indiscrection,” the conviction for theft 12 years ago:
Vivek Kundra, who was on leave from his new appointment by President Obama as the federal government’s chief information officer, has been reinstated, the White House said today. …
The reinstatement comes as word was swirling around the Internet about a youthful arrest of Mr. Kundra for a theft involving something of less than $300 in value. Asked if Mr. Kundra had revealed the arrest during the White House vetting process, officials said they would not discuss the process but pointed out that the reinstatement should speak for itself.
Katharine Seelye writes that Kundra’s arrest was “swirling around the Internet,” but apparently didn’t bother to credit the person who reported it … me. A Google search would have put my post at the top of the list before her report, and still shows it to be the original report of Kundra’s conviction for theft. I guess crediting sources is beneath the New York Times’ dignity.
Of course, I could be too hard on her. Seelye quite obviously heard this from White House press flack Nick Shapiro, who told her about it while trying to spin the issue:
Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman, said tonight: “Thirteen years ago, Vivek committed a youthful indiscretion. He performed community service and we are satisfied that he fully resolved the matter.”
So let me tell you about why Nick Shapiro called Seelye. I called the White House every day this week trying to get a response from the White House about Kundra. On Monday and Tuesday, their press office promised to get back to me. Yesterday morning, I asked them for the contact information for the responsible party, and they gave me Nick Shapiro’s name and e-mail address, [email protected] I sent him a message immediately and waited for a response, but he has yet to answer my e-mail. This was the message I sent Shapiro at 9:18 am ET in its entirety:
Josh Gerstein from Politico noted in an update on his blog that Vivek Kundra has ended his leave of absence following the raid on the DC CTO office last week and is back to work in the White House. Can you confirm that?
Also, I have called the press office twice to get a reaction to Kundra’s 1997 conviction for misdemeanor theft, reported by me and confirmed by the Washington City Paper. Does the White House have a statement on that?
That’s it. I sent a professional and friendly request in order to allow the White House to have its say on a post that was actually not terribly critical about the arrest and conviction. That’s the professional thing to do. How did Shapiro react? He ran like a schoolgirl to his friends at the Paper of Record so they could spin it for him.
Fortunately, friends at Business Insider knew to tip me off that the story had advanced. Eric Krangel picked up on the “youthful indiscretion” spin, and found out what Kundra did to get arrested in the first place, a topic that apparently didn’t interest the Times:
We’ve been wondering what happened with ‘America’s CIO’ Vivek Kundra’s 1997 misdemeanor theft conviction, the one the White House dismissed as “youthful indiscretion.”
Now we know: Vivek shopflited four shirts, worth $134 combined. From J.C. Penney.
At an average of $33.50 a pop, they weren’t even nice shirts, even in 1996 dollars. (The crime was 1996, the conviction 1997.)
And then, when Vivek got caught, he ran for it. He didn’t get away.
Krangel rightly credits the AP for getting the details, although the AP also didn’t note that Hot Air was the first to report the conviction — but the AP has a long history of failing to credit people.
My friend Kevin McCullough wondered on Monday’s show how no one else but a man who tried to run off with four dress shirts 13 years ago could be qualified to run an important government office. At 22, does that still count as a “youthful indiscretion”? I don’t know, but I’m beginning to believe that the entire White House is staffed by goofballs.
Update: I didn’t realize that part of this post got cut off. I’ve fixed it now.
Update II: Nick Shapiro finally got back to me at 9:35 am ET:
Sorry for my delay, I was travelling to California yesterday and missed your email.
On your first question, yes, Mr. Kundra has been informed that he is neither a subject nor a target of the investigation and has been reinstated.
On your second question, here is a statement you can use.
“Thirteen years ago Vivek committed a youthful indiscretion. He performed community service, and we are satisfied that he fully resolved the matter.”
Gee, I guess they must have missed my phone calls on Monday and Tuesday, too. What a coincidence that he happened to finally respond 80 minutes after I posted this.
Update III: HA reader J.B. points out this interesting nugget from the Washington Post:
It could not immediately be learned from court records what Kundra stole. Gary Cranford, supervisor at the Maryland District Court records center in Annapolis, Md., said the paper case file, which would contain such details, was not in the box that was supposed to contain it. Neither Cranford nor court officials in Rockville were able to locate the file Tuesday.
How … convenient. And the Post didn’t mention where the first report of the conviction came, either. Wasn’t this the same newspaper that had a columnist crabbing about how bloggers don’t report on the very day I posted about Kundra’s theft conviction?