Showing posts with label Inspector General scandal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inspector General scandal. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Michelle Rhee and the Kevin Johnson Sex Scandal

If you were going to write a trashy sex novel you could do worse than look at the Gerald Walpin story for ideas.

Byron York continues to expose the White House shenanigans that the majority of the media won't report. Today he explains the role Michelle Rhee, head of the Washington D.C. school system and the fiancee of Kevin Jones, played in the scandal:

At the time, Walpin was investigating a California private school known as St. Hope, which was founded by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star and friend of Rhee's who was running for mayor of Sacramento. St. Hope had received about $850,000 in AmeriCorps money, and Walpin's investigators were looking into charges that Johnson had misused those funds by assigning paid volunteer tutors to run errands for him and wash his car, as well as making them take part in political activities.

In the course of the investigation, some young female AmeriCorps volunteers also charged that Johnson had made inappropriate sexual advances toward them and offered one of them $1,000 a month to keep quiet.

Rhee, who later became engaged to marry Johnson, had been on St. Hope's board of directors before taking over as chief of the District of Columbia system. Her apparent goal, as she visited Walpin, was to vouch for Johnson.

What a tangled web we weave...Rhee trying to vouch for Johnson?

Now cut to Stacy McCain's story today in which he digs up from WorldNetDaily this treasure regarding the sexual misconduct charges against Johnson:

About 11:00 p.m., Mr. Johnson arrived at St. Hope and instructed [her] to gather her things and come with him. Mr. Johnson drove to [her] apartment, which is managed by St. Hope Development and houses its AmeriCorps members, purportedly so that they could review the students' grades. While in [her] apartment, in which another AmeriCorps member had a separate bedroom, Mr. Johnson laid down on [her] bed. [The woman] sat on the edge of the bed to show him the grades, at which time Mr. Johnson "layed [sic] down behind me, cupping his body around mine like the letter C. After about 2-3 minutes or so, I felt his hand on my left side where my hip bone is."

Since sex sells, I guess we can expect to hear about this in all the major newspapers, right? I mean, if Sarah Palin had acted the way either Johnson OR Rhee had, wouldn't we hear about it? Wouldn't the ethics charges be gargantuan? What's the difference?

More at Memeorandum.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Transparency Sinks to a New Low in the Walpin Case

Via Memeorandum, Byron York reports in the Washington Examiner, on the Gerald Walpin case this morning, specifically, on the White House cover-up regarding Walpin's firing.

Remember, Walpin was told on June 10 to either resign or be fired. The next day, Senator Grassley objected because this violated the new law that says Congress must be given 30 days notice before an inspector general is fired.

York reports:

Pressed for the reason Walpin was fired, [Norman] Eisen told House and Senate aides that the White House conducted an "extensive review" of complaints about Walpin’s performance before deciding to dismiss him. According to the new report, Eisen told Congress that "his investigation into the merits of removing Gerald Walpin involved contacting members of the Corporation for National and Community Service [CNCS] board to confirm the existence of a 'consensus' in favor of removal." But Republican investigators later discovered that during that "extensive review," the White House did not even seek the views of the corporation's board -- the very people whose "consensus" purportedly led to Walpin's firing.

According to this new report, the only person on the CNCS board who objected was "Democratic mega-donor and Obama supporter" Alan Solomont. York says that "Only one other board member, vice-chairman Stephen Goldsmith, was even called by the White House, and that was on June 10, a few hours before Walpin was fired. According to the report, Goldsmith told investigators that 'the White House had already decided to remove Walpin and wanted to confirm [Goldsmith's] support for the action.'"

The day after Walpin's firing, a conference call was held, talking points were distributed and Walpin was toast.

The bottom line here is that the Obama administration was unhappy with Walpin's aggressive investigation of Kevin Johnson and the misuse of AmeriCorps funds so they figured out a way to get rid of him. Then they had to cover it up.

Adding insult to injury, the excuse initially was that the 77 year old Walpin was becoming "senile" or addled in his responses to the board. Since Walpin didn't appear senile or addled in any subsequent interviews, another cover had to be developed and suddenly he was fired for unspecified "performance issues."

York points out in his conclusion that "Through it all, the White House and top management of the corporation struggled to keep the story straight. By June 18, a week after the firing, with news coverage dying down -- it had never been very intense in the first place -- they felt they had succeeded."

To me, besides the smear on Walpin, the travesty of this story is that as York says, "it wasn't very intense in the first place." The media should have been all over this if they'd been doing their jobs.

Have we heard the last of this story? I hope not.

Related - Get up to speed!:

Bob Belvedere's IG-Gate blog

On this Blog:
Let The Investigations Begin
This Story Has Legs

Stacy McCain's coverage is here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

IG-Gate is Plodding Along

Stacy McCain has an IG update at Am. Spectator, including a list of links to previous stories. It remains a complicated investigation, and it hasn't gone away:

"Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has tasked his staff to investigate the apparent pattern of pressure against inspectors generals, at Amtrak, Americorps, the International Trade Commission and "SIGTARP" Neil Barofsky, whose job is to watchdog the TARP bailout funds. Grassley's staff now have reportedly finished the main part of their investigation and are expected to prepare a report to be delivered later this fall. "

Check it out.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The AmeriCorps IG-Scandal

The Inspectors General scandal is getting interesting. It's been so complex and is tangled up on so many levels that it's been difficult for me to follow completely. Robert Stacy McCain and Byron York are both doing great work in keeping the story moving and keeping people informed; plus there is this new blog which helps keep up with all the developments.

This is really more than one story. I call it the Inspectors General scandal, but there are three that are of interest and the stories are not necessarily related. That's the thing - nobody knows for certain.

The one that has had my interest from the beginning is the case of Gerald Walpin. For those of you just catching up, Byron York breaks it down pretty easily in his latest Examiner article. Here is what happened in plain, simple terms:

Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento. Gerald Walpin was the Inspector General who scrutinized AmeriCorps, "one of Obama's favorite federal programs."

AmeriCorps gave an $800,000 grant to Kevin Johnson (who is also "an influential friend and supporter" of Obama).

Walpin investigated Johnson's misuse of that money, Johnson was suspended from receiving any more federal grants, and this put Sacramento in danger of not receiving stimulus money.

Enter Lawrence Brown, U.S. Attorney for Sacramento. Brown makes a sweetheart deal that gets Johnson off the hook which means Sacramento is eligible for stimulus money. Brown then denounces Walpin.

Walpin objects to said sweetheart deal; Obama fires him.

As York points out, anybody with common sense can see that is odd.

Now we find out that Rep. Doris Matsui, who represents the Sacramento district, had been in contact with the White House to ensure that Sacramento didn't lose any stimulus money. Did she lean on the White House?

York writes:

Within days of Matsui’s statement, a settlement was reached. Johnson was unsuspended, and in a particularly unusual move, acting U.S. Attorney Brown issued a press release hailing the arrival of stimulus funds. “The lifting of the suspension against all parties, including Mayor Johnson, removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented form receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds,” Brown wrote.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee want to know why a U.S. attorney was touting his own actions in bringing stimulus money to the city. That’s not the normal role of prosecutors. “We need to hear whether the settlement in this case was tainted in any way by political influence or political factors,” says the senior Republican aide.

Both Brown and the White House refuse to answer any questions by the Oversight Committee.

Odd, indeed.

This is but one thread in the Inspectors General scandal. And it's just beginning to unravel. Keep your eyes on this one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New IG-Gate Blog!

Thank goodness for Robert Stacy McCain and Smitty for helping to keep us informed on IG-Gate. They have linked to a new blog just to help keep up with it all.

Things have been happening so fast with that story, even though it seems like it's plodding along, and there are so many fronts to keep up with, this is a brilliant idea.

Bookmark it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

America is a Center-Right Nation - Has Obama Forgotten That?

There is much in the news this morning about the faltering Obama agenda. There is this Washington post story about Obama's falling approval ratings, this AP story regarding Obama's stall tactic in releasing his budget update, news that the nation's governors have concerns over the health care legislation, reports of the stimulus money being squandered, and now more news on the IG investigations. It can't be a happy Monday in the White House.

Fred Barnes points to the errors of the stimulus legislation as part of Obama's problems. It was passed too quickly. Nobody read it. It was crafted behind closed doors. Barnes calls it a "rookie mistake" for Obama to have let the congressional Democrats run that show.

And now the 2010 elections are beginning to loom.

Robert Stacy McCain has a piece at American Spectator on the progress of the Inspectors General Investigaton; he says:

"Timing is very important in politics, and both Republicans and Democrats are beginning to look ahead to the 2010 mid-term elections. Projections of double-digit unemployment and mushrooming deficits are already causing some Democratic jitters. The questions being asked about the IG investigations and Obama's promises of 'transparency' now dangle like a sword of Damocles above the heads of Democrats on the Hill."

Obama's rush to ram through as much of his liberal social agenda as fast as he can has always seemed suspect to me. Presidents usually take advantage of that "honeymoon" period to enact their policies, but Obama's policies have been such a radical departure from what we know to be American values, that people are beginning to get skittish.

Sure, he still has plenty of support and his numbers are not in the cellar. He's still relatively popular. But 22% of the moderate and conservative Democrats now see him as an old-fashioned "tax and spend Democrat," up from 4% in March, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll.

John Meacham, writing for Newsweek in October 2008, said that America is still a center- right nation, a fact that Obama should not forget. It may have come to that. People may be beginning to get the jumps at the idea of socialized health care, bailouts, frigtening deficit projections, radical cap and trade legislation proposals, and the practice of transparency only when it suits the White House; why are we spending $18 million to revamp the website?

Obama is pushing back on health care reform now by going on what Fox is calling a "blitz" to get health care reform passed before the August recess. What's the rush? Shouldn't something that important and something that affects so many Americans move more cautiously? Must we pass yet another critical piece of legislation in a rapid-fire way? Or is it that in Washington only the investigations move slowly while the legislation is quick?

The polls show that Americans are beginning to develop concerns about the Obama agenda. As more and more people lose jobs ("the stimulus has done its job!") and unemployment rises, as people continue to lose their homes, as the deficit grows and spending in Washington continues, people will notice and Obama's numbers will continue to fall. He'll retain some popularity of course, but the scope is changing. There is a shift underway.

As Obama heads off to Martha's Vineyard on vacation next month, he might revisit his agenda and consider those words of Meacham who said that "America a nation that is more instinctively conservative than it is liberal—a perennial reality that past Democratic presidents have ignored at their peril."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mr. McCain Goes to Washington

Stacy McCain went back to Washington yesterday to wear out more shoe leather; you can find some interesting tidbits of his trip on American Spectator Blog. Stacy is, of course, working on the Inspectors General scandal.

There's another post on The Other McCain as well. Reading that one is to learn how REAL reporters work! None of that sit behind a computer mess for McCain. Nope, he's out there knocking on doors and chasing sources all in the manner of old-fashioned reporting.

Related Posts:
Inspector General Story Plugging Along
The Inspectors General Case Just Won't Go Away
Where Are the Big Headlines?
Everybody's Talking About ... Neil Barofsky?
This Story Has Legs!
Let the Investigations Begin

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Inspector General Story Plugging Along

Robert Stacy McCain has an update this morning on the Inspector's General scandal in his American Spectator article. Things are moving along and the investigation is still ongoing, but it's not a "full-blown" inquiry just yet:

"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 "yet to be decided" phrase could be misleading in that some might assume this misdeeds here aren't serious enough to merit such an investigation, but as McCain points out, it's a sensitive, bipartisan investigation. When the President of the United States is involved in the firing of an Inspector General for the purpose of covering up for a political ally, one tends to tread carefully.

There is no question that the Obama administration is trying to muzzle and gain control over the Inspectors General. This story focuses on several fronts besides Walpin, as McCain explains.

USA Today has an article on the Amtrak angle of it:

Amtrak managers have improperly interfered with oversight of the railroad's $1.3 billion in economic stimulus funding, according to an independent report by a former federal prosecutor.

The report commissioned by Amtrak's former inspector general says the railroad's lawyers and financial managers interfered with the internal watchdog's ability to get stimulus-related documents and the $5 million Congress appropriated for stimulus oversight.

Note the phrase "former inspector general." That would be Fred Wiederhold who suddenly and unexpectedly retired immediately after meeting with the Amtrak board in June. Wiederhold does not say he was forced to retire, for the record.

And lets remember that Joe Biden's son, Hunter, was on the Amtrak board from July 2007 to February 2009.

The "most transparent administration" in history seems to have some explaining to do.

See Also:
IG-Gate: Chugging Along, The Other McCain

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Inspectors General Case Just Won't Go Away

Byron York is still on the trail of IG-Gate, reporting this morning that " the White House is hinting that documents concerning its actions in the Walpin affair may be protected by executive privilege."

Well isn't that convenient?

York points out several holes in the White House explanation of the Walpin firing, primarily that he was never actually investigated. He was simply fired because he dared to question the handling of the AmeriCorps case and Kevin Johnson, an Obama ally.

Senator Charles Grassley has been asking questions and attempting to obtain documents and information but is now being stonewalled by the White House in its use of executive privilege: “Your questions seek information about the White House’s internal decision-making process,” Craig wrote to Sen. Charles Grassley on June 30. “These questions implicate core executive branch confidentiality interests.”

Here is Stacy McCain's latest post on the IG-Gate story dealing partially with the Amtrak end of things. He makes the point "While Attorney General Eric Holder may get some scrutiny in the AmeriCorps IG case, it's the SIGTARP case that has the most potential to send a Cabinet member under the Obama bus. And trying to lie your way out of a scandal is a very dangerous thing, when it involves a federal investigation."

The story plods ahead and it certainly isn't going away. Questions will have to be answered. This would be a good time for that transparency thing to kick in, don't you think?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Are The Big Headlines?

Timing is everything. The Inspectors General story has been overshadowed this week by other events, most notably the Michael Jackson non-stop media fest, but also the cap and trade vote.

Robert Stacy McCain has a piece in The Green Room at Hot Air today about the investigation so far. The biggest question, it seems to me, is where is the MSM on this story? There are some fine people doing the legwork on this story but so far the big papers haven't picked it up. You've got to wonder why. It's not because there isn't a story there.

Back in April there was a piece in the New York Times where Neil Barofsky, the special Inspector General overseeing the TARP bailout dollars, blasts the Obama administration and Geithner regarding their handling of the money. After asking questions, the administration has essentially gagged Barofsky as the Treasury Department tries to assert its authority over his office. Should this be allowed, it would clearly be a conflict and would go against the intent behind the formation of the Inspectors General because they are supposed to be independent. This is likely to be the most interesting part of the whole investigation, once it finally busts open, and one that might eventually land Timothy Geithner under the Obama bus.

Not Tucker Carlson has a great round-up of coverage and events if you need to get up to speed. Rick Moran of The American Thinker also had a piece posted Saturday.

Go here to see Robert Stacy McCain's American Spectator post on the Grassley report regarding the Amtrak investigation.

Go here to read the round up at The Green Room.

And go here for the most extensive round-up of coverage EVAH on the story!

The story isn't going away. Questions are being asked and soon the biggest question to ask will be why isn't the main stream media covering this thing?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Everybody's Talking About.....Neil Barofsky?

Robert Stacy McCain has a fine piece at The American Spectator this morning about the Inspector General mess - and make no mistake, it's a MESS. You need to read the whole thing.

One of the many things that concerns me about this story is that were it not for people like Stacy, Malkin, York and other diligent bloggers, it would likely be swept under the rug. There's just so much else to talk about! Mark Sanford! Everyone loves a good sex scandal! An Argentina love affair with titillating emails! Sex sells, and that's what will be all over the news today.

The health care boondoggle. After last night's infomercial the analysts and pundits are all over it. Everyone has an opinion or an experience to share on the health care issue. It affects everyone in the country. Everyone wants to talk about it.

Cap and Trade? Not EVERYone is talking about it, but they should be. The vote is tomorrow so there will be lots of conversation about it today, as there should be, and people need to be calling their representatives. This one is a back breaker for the country. It's important.

And Iran - oh god - Iran. Those courageous people dying in the streets for their freedom. There's plenty to talk about there.

And everyone is talking about Jon and Kate.

So you can see where some fired inspector generals will be pushed to the back burner were it not for Robert Stacy McCain, Byron York, Michelle Malkin, and a few others who are all doing their best to keep it out there. To make my case, the top threads at Memeorandum this morning - the Sanford story, the Iran story, and health care. At the time of this writing, there is NOTHING on the inspectors general story. (UPDATE: There is a Memeorandum thread now!)

So why is it important? As McCain said, it's not just about Gerald Walpin. He's the most well known of those fired so far, but probably only because he's the one that Team Obama said was demented and senile. Also, Glenn Beck had Walpin on his program (and he didn't seem senile at all!) which increases the name recognition.

What makes this story important is first of all the serious nature of the inspector general position - they are supposed to be INDEPENDENT, non-partisan watchdogs. Now we have the Obama administration playing hardball with them in a way that indicates a pattern of behavior and this is certainly troubling.

McCain points out that "Those familiar with the investigations (and yes, that noun is plural) caution against personalizing or politicizing the situation. These sources are especially concerned that inquiries by Republican members of Congress should not be portrayed as a partisan "gotcha" game against the popular new president." Indeed, an important point to make. And maybe it's why the media isn't making a bigger deal of it.

Walpin, as you know by now, was fired because he questioned a program affilitaed with San Francisco Mayor Kevin Johnson regarding the AmeriCorps money. Kevin Johnson is a longtime ally of Obama and a friend of Michelle's. Johnson had been accused of inappropriately using funds which he later agreed to pay back in part. But now the FBI is in the investigation over some e-mails that Johnson supposedly deleted. Now, that's incriminating, no? Possibly? Suspicious, to say the least.

Other players include Judith Gwynn, inspector general for the ITC, who was fired. She was attempting to conduct an audit and documents she needed were forcibly taken from her, thereby prohibiting her from doing her job.

Fred Wiederhold, Jr., inspector general for Amtrack; he unexpectedly resigned. He was asked to provide examples of agency interference; there are some odd connections there in that you should look at (it's outlined in the McCain piece), not the least of which is that Joe Biden's son is on the Amtrak board of directors. Not to say that he's done anything wrong, but it's a tangled web.

Neil Barofsky is another investigator general, and the one that most fascinates McCain; he's over the TARP money that went through Congress in October. Documents have been withheld from Barofsky thus strangling his ability to do his job. He has reported a "staggering" level of fraud, but how can he make the case without the necessary documents? And what is Geithner afraid of?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today in which they point out that had these incidents occured under the Bush White House, it would be front page news:

"However unserious these nanoscandals were, given their animating impulse Mr. Walpin's sacking and now the challenge to Mr. Barofsky's autonomy would be front-page news had Mr. Bush pulled them off. But the administration has gotten away with waving off the Barofsky affair as trivial and smearing Mr. Walpin as an old coot."

They go on to point out that Obama co-sponsored the legislation that gave the IGs their power in the first place and established the rules of their office: "Mr. Obama professed to love the Inspectors General as a Senator, and he cosponsored legislation that bolstered their autonomy and required the president to give Congress a month's notice and a reason before firing an IG. Either the administration ought to abide by its own rules or get rid of the office."

It is difficult to separate the story from Team Obama completely, as the previously noted cautionary statment wished. It's true that this should not be a witchhunt, or a "gotcha" game against Obama; it's not that different than the many scandals that come out of Washington all the time - Travel Gate, Whitewater, etc. etc. This one seems important because it directly involves taxpayer dollars and it has nasty overtones such as the smearing of Walpin while covering up the bad behavior of long-time cronies (Johnson). Michelle Malkin has pointed to the puzzling involvement of Michelle Obama in this particular case.

Is it all politics as usual or is there more? McCain is quick to point out that this is definitely a "story" and not necesarily a "scandal" or a "crime" at this point, but it's true that there are multiple investigations going on and as a "story" it should be more widely reported.