Robert Stacy McCain continues his series on the budding scandal around what appear to be efforts by the Obama people to bring to heel the Inspectors-General who are supposed to be the independent watchdogs making sure public money isn’t being misused. While looking into the quiet investigation by the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee and the lawsuit by fired Inspector-General Gerald Walpin, McCain mentions something else that caught my eye: the move in Congress to leash Inspectors-General at five financial departments -including the SEC:
However, some informed Republican sources are beginning to call attention to other evidence of a concerted effort to blindfold, muzzle or neuter watchdogs — especially those who dare to growl at Democrats.
Why, for instance, did Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) rush through the House a bill that would give President Obama power to dismiss five inspectors general — including the IG for the Securities and Exchange Commission — who under existing law report to the agency heads?
The IGs themselves have protested against the Larson bill, which has yet to be debated in the Senate, and it has not escaped notice on Capitol Hill that Larson is a prominent “Friend of Chris.” That would be Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Dodd is under intense scrutiny for a number of shady-looking activities — “Chris Dodd Update” has become a regular feature at Professor Glenn Reynolds’ popular Instapundit blog — and Dodd is also facing a tough re-election bid next year.
No one on the Hill has yet directly suggested that the Larson bill — which could effectively muzzle watchdogs at five federal financial agencies — was specifically intended as assistance to the embattled chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. But as liberal bloggers used to say about the Bush administration’s activities, some Republicans have begun to “question the timing.”
Dodd was heavily criticized for his ties to and favors received from Angelo Mozilo, head of the now defunct Countrywide Financial, a firm at the center of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and one ostensibly overseen by the Senate banking committee Dodd chaired. Dodd was also received a lot of money from other financial firms he was supposed to regulate. What a coincidence, then, that a congressman from Connecticut would introduce legislation weakening the IGs who might otherwise uncover information damaging to Dodd’s already teetering reelection chances.
I, too, question the timing.
In addition to McCain, Byron York at the Washington Examiner has been following developments in (forgive me) “Inspector-Generalgate.” It’s worth keeping an eye on this; it may not look like much now, but I have the feeling that this is one of those slow-burning fuses that, when it finally does get to the powder, is going to blow up in the Chicago Boys’ faces.