Transparency Watch: Oh, that 40-grand!

June 29, 2010

Somewhere in my memory, way back around the time Obama was elected and a new era of Hope and Change had dawned for America, the then-candidate promised us a new era of transparency in government.

That was then, this is now:

White House aide failed to disclose $40K payout

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, told POLITICO Monday that Gaspard was in the process of correcting his disclosure form to reflect that he did in fact have an agreement for severance.

“We have made the small administrative change to this year’s and last year’s forms to indicate that part of the final payment to Patrick reflected their typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU,” Burton wrote POLITICO in an e-mailed statement.

Such financial disclosures are governed by federal law, but Stan Brand, a former House general counsel and ethics expert, said the Justice Department is unlikely to pursue an investigation unless they suspected a “knowing or willful” intent to deceive.

Call me a paranoid, racist, dangerous right-wing potential extremist (and don’t forget “Nazi!“, too), but I find it hard to believe that someone could just forget $40,000 paid out to him by his former employer, especially when he needed the money to pay down nearly $80,000 in debts.  Hey, it happens all the time, right?

Oh, and the former employer happens to be a powerful union allied with one’s new boss and his political program. And that union’s then-head was and is a frequent visitor to the White House.

What a coincidence.

They must be using the Tammany Hall definition of “transparency.”

(via Ed Morrissey)

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Yes, he really said that

August 28, 2009

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton tried to make a funny when talking about President Obama’s plans to go to Camp David after a week at Martha’s Vineyard:

Obama will head to Camp David on Wednesday, Sept. 2, and stay through the weekend, White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters in a Thursday briefing.

Joking that it may have been “wishful thinking” to suggest Obama’s current trip out of Washington would coincide with a news-free week, Burton quipped that the president needs a “break from his vacation.”

Quite the comedian, eh? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t begrudge Presidents time away from the White House. It’s a very stressful job, and they never really escape it. But then Burton kept going and showed why he should have a lounge act in Vegas:

On Monday, Burton pointed to former President George W. Bush’s vacation habits to defend scattered criticism of Obama’s August schedule.

“As I recall, the previous president [took] quite a bit of vacation himself, and I don’t think anyone bemoaned that,” Burton said.

William Jacobson takes notice and says “Oh, really?

Funny guy, that Mr. Burton.