There's been controversy in the right-side blogosphere and some of the major media for the past week over the sudden firing by the Obama Administration of Inspector-General Gerald Walpin, who oversaw the Corporation for National and Community Service. (Power Line has a good summary.) When their initial "one hour to resign or be fired" ultimatum to Walpin was revealed and brought down bipartisan ire on their heads for violating a law Obama helped write as a senator, the Administration tried to justify the firing after the fact by claiming Walpin was senile. (Hello? AARP? Age discrimination?)
If this were a one-time event, one might be able two write it off as bureaucratic bungling in which the national offices don't quite see what's going on at the regional and local level, and act in a ham-handed manner.
Except, this isn't the only case. The Chicago Tribune reports that the administration has hamstrung another inconvenient Inspector-General and terminated a third:
He was appointed with fanfare as the public watchdog over the government's multi-billion dollar bailout of the nation's financial system. But now Neil Barofsky is embroiled in a dispute with the Obama administration that delayed one recent inquiry and sparked questions about his ability to freely investigate.
The disagreement stems from a claim by the Treasury Department that Barofsky is not entirely independent of the agency he is assigned to examine ¿ a claim that has prompted a stern letter from a Republican senator warning that agency officials are encroaching on the integrity of an office created to protect taxpayers.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding information about a "dispute over certain Treasury documents" that he said were being "withheld" from Barofsky's office on a "specious claim of attorney-client privilege."
A White House spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to the Treasury Department. Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said late Wednesday that the agency would read Grassley's letter and respond to the senator before any public comment.
(hat tip: Dan Riehl)
The other fired Inspector-General worked at the International Trade Commission. While technically not under White House authority, it's hard not to imagine a phone call going from Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's office to the ITC "suggesting" they needed someone else in that office. Someone more pliant. (Come on, we're talking about politicians from Chicago. Is it prejudiced of me? Yes. Is it unjustified? I bet not.)
Rather than an isolated incident of abuse of power, this pattern speaks of premeditated corruption – government a la Capone. The objective is to use public money not for the purpose it was authorized, but to pay off supporters and build a nationwide network of patronage and entrenched power modeled on that of Chicago and Cook County, where the President earned his political chops. And necessary to that is the elimination of independent Inspectors General.
This isn't some last-minute taking advantage of an opportunity: this has been in the works since the post-election transition, at least. Months ago, Byron York warned us of The RAT hiding deep inside the stimulus bill:
You’ve heard a lot about the astonishing spending in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. But you probably haven’t heard about a provision in the bill that threatens to politicize the way allegations of fraud and corruption are investigated — or not investigated — throughout the federal government.
The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the RAT Board, as it’s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.
In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.” If the inspector general doesn’t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, he’ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.
When Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, a longtime champion of inspectors general, read the words “conduct or refrain from conducting,” alarm bells went off. The language means that the board — whose chairman will be appointed by the president — can reach deep inside a federal agency and tell an inspector general to lay off some particularly sensitive subject. Or, conversely, it can tell the inspector general to go after a tempting political target.
Emphases added. Do read the whole thing; it's important the public know what is going on. In the rush to ram though a pork-laden mess that no one was given the time to read, the administration slipped in a huge RAT. This opens the door to institutional corruption, plain and simple, and it is President Obama's intent. There is no avoiding the fact that his is a corrupt and corrupting administration.