Pride of place probably goes to this interview of SIGTARP (and Obama ’08 supporter) Neil Barofsky by Jake Tapper (via Hot Air). Barofsky engaged in a strong pushback to the White House / Treasury Department’s attempt to contradict his release of numbers indicating that the administration was planning to spend 23.7 trillion dollars to repair our financial system; the best quote from that was probably “Perhaps their criticism is that we dare to do math.” Barofsky was also very firm about the fact that he has no intention of going back on the administration’s own stated ideals of transparency. Listen to the whole thing, and contemplate that this all started with a 700 billion dollar bailout, with a review period in the middle. Funny how this balloons, huh? – And Barofsky doesn’t even think that there’s particular amounts of skullduggery going on.
You may remember Gerald Walpin. He was fired from his position as AmeriCorps Inspector General a few months ago for either: pushing an investigation against one of the President’s cronies; no particular reason; or diminished mental capacity. These three possible answers are, respectively: an assumption based on an acquaintance with objective (if cynical) reality; what the White House went with before Senator Grassley reminded them of the law; and what the White House went with after Senator Grassley reminded them of the law. Well, Mr. Walpin didn’t particularly care for the last answer, and he’s decided to get satisfaction:
Gerald Walpin, the AmeriCorps inspector general who was summarily fired in June amid controversy over his investigation of a politically-connected supporter of President Obama, has filed suit alleging that the firing was “unlawful,” “politically driven,” “procedurally defective” and “a transparent and clumsily-conducted effort to circumvent the protections” given to inspectors general under the Inspectors General Reform Act of 2008.
Walpin’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is against the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps. Also named are Nicola Goren, the acting CEO of the Corporation, Frank Trinity, its general counsel, and Raymond Limon, the Corporation’s “chief human capital officer.” The suit asks the court to declare Walpin’s firing unlawful and restore him to his position as the Corporation’s inspector general.
Via The Rhetorician. Note that Walpin isn’t suing for damages, merely reinstatement and an admission that the firing was improper in the first place. Whether or not he gets either will depend in large part whether the administration can outwait him; as Ed Morrissey points out, Walpin is 77 years old. On the other hand, this is hardly the only IG controversy going on, and right now the White House doesn’t need any more negative scrutiny than what it’s already getting…
“We’re not there yet,” one Democratic source on Capitol Hill said last week, when asked about the prospect for hearings on the Obama administration’s firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin. Congressional investigators are still conducting interviews in the case, so the question of whether to “pull the trigger” on a full-blown inquiry — with subpoenas for witnesses to testify under oath at committee hearings — has yet to be decided.
The fact that both Democrats and Republicans are involved in investigating the Walpin dismissal is, however, highly significant. With Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, bipartisanship is absolutely necessary to getting the truth about the AmeriCorps case, as with the other cases in the smoldering “IG Gate” scandal.
The Democratic party’s quandary here – as Stacy notes later in the article – is that while they don’t want to go up against the administration they also don’t want to have to explain to the voters why they participated in what the GOP will call a cover-up, and for good reason. In fact, pushing for an investigation would probably be beneficial for Democratic Congressmen looking to burnish their reputations for being ‘independent’ and ‘principled.’ That doesn’t mean that they’ll participate, but it’s not a trivial consideration, either. The President’s approval rating is currently somewhere between 53% and 59%, depending on who you ask: which is good, but not good enough to make going against his wishes the act of a fool.
[UPDATE] In honor of Troglopundit’s request for respect for the KISS principle, here goes:
Fred Weiderhold quit rather than tell Congress he was under Biden’s thumb.
If you don’t have time to read the report that apparently triggered the Weiderhold matter (said report is also available via Senator Grassley’s office, as part of his ongoing investigation) – or even Stacy McCain’s article – here’s a quick timeline.
June 18, 2009: Fred Weiderhold, Inspector General for Amtrak, receives a report from a third-party legal firm indicating that Amtrak’s Law Department’s oversight of the Office of the Inspector General resulted in a situation where (as Grassley’s letter put it) “Amtrak’s policies and procedures have systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act.” The firm recommends that Congress be notified, either at the next semiannual report or immediately.
As a senior member of the United States Senate and as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance (Committee), it is my duty under the Constitution to ensure that Inspectors General, which were created by Congress, are permitted to operate without political pressure or interference from their respective agencies. Inspectors General were designed for the express purpose of combating waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuring that federal agencies were held accountable for their actions. I understand that Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, Jr. has retired today.
Based on contacts that my staff had with Mr. Weiderhold on two recent occasions (April 2, 2009 and June 4, 2009), I understand that the OIG has suffered from repeated and continuous interference from the agency. After the most recent discussion, it was agreed that the OIG would provide, among other things, a White Paper and specific examples of agency interference with OIG audits and/or investigations. To date, the OIG has not yet provided any documents. As you know, any interference such as that was described in these previous discussions is a direct violation of the Inspector General Act of 1978.
In light of Mr. Weiderhold’s unexpected retirement, please provide the previously requested documentation immediately.
Actually, when you look at this passage about the Gerald Walpin situation something else should be highlighted. It’s the little things that are revealing about this administration:
In one exchange, according to the GOP aide, the White House lawyers explained that inspector general Walpin was not working well with the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, and the administration believed that IGs should work well with the leadership of their agencies. Eisen said he knew that removing Walpin might be seen as an action that would raise questions. “But [Eisen] said that what they did in trying to fix the situation was an act of political courage — and ‘political courage’ is the phrase they used,” says the aide.
The last time I checked, the goal of an Inspector General was “be a revolving son-of-a-bitch on wheels.” Not “play well with others.” And that should explicitly include leadership; there’s a reason why the saying “A fish rots from the head” exists in our culture. Admittedly, everyone knows that Norman Eisen was just making something up on short notice when he said that, but I do find this instinctive desire to have the government and its watchdogs in close accord to be quite interesting.
Guess I have to go read this book after all. Time to add it to the Wish List…
Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.
– Ian Fleming, Goldfinger
Being an inquisitive sort, Dan Riehl went looking for other instances where the White House may have been interfering with the Inspectors General, and lo! – he found some. Two more, both of which are involved executive branch officials allegedly interfering with investigations and one of which involved a sudden Walpin-like abrupt termination.
The second example (Gerald Walpin being, of course, the first) was Neil Barofsky, TARP IG, and while it’s the less immediately worrisome of the two newly-publicized incidents it’s also the more sensitive. There aren’t many details on this available yet, but the dispute seems to be over how much oversight Treasury should have over the IGs assigned to monitor specific functions of the department – and how quickly and easily IGs should be given the documents that they need for their investigations. The answer should be ‘almost none’ and ‘as quickly and easily as can be arranged’… at least, that’s my opinion. More importantly, it’s also Senator Grassley’s. Barofsky apparently hasn’t lost his job over this, though. Yet. The third firing was of Judith Gwynn (often noted as Judith Gwynne, which should tell you how well regular journalism is covering this story), and it’s… very interesting, as well. She was an acting IG for the International Trade Commission (expect that to be brought up, usually with the table being pounded) who abruptly had her contract terminated right after Sen. Grassley”s letter inquiring about an alleged physical assault* on her by an ITC staffer (expect that to be ignored for as long as possible) went to the White House. Continue reading Did the White House interefere with more Inspectors General?