Michelle Obama behind Inspector General firing?

December 14, 2009

It’s way too early to ask that famous question (paraphrased), “What did she know and when did she know it,” but Byron York reports on strong indications that the White House may be trying to hide the First Lady’s involvement of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, who had uncovered corruption in one of her favorite charities:

Congressional investigators looking into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin have discovered that the head of AmeriCorps met with a top aide to First Lady Michelle Obama the day before Walpin was removed.

According to Republican investigators, Alan Solomont, then the chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, had denied meeting with Jackie Norris, at the time the First Lady’s chief of staff.  But recently-released White House visitor logs show that Solomont met with Norris on June 9 of this year (as well as on two earlier occasions). President Obama fired Walpin on June 10 after an intense dispute over Walpin’s aggressive investigation of misuse of AmeriCorps money by Obama political ally Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, California.

After being presented with the visitor logs, investigators say, Solomont explained that he met with Norris to discuss Corporation business but did not discuss the Walpin matter.  When pressed, Solomont said he might have made an offhand comment, or a mention in passing, about the Walpin affair, but that he and Norris did not have a discussion about it.

Solomont’s explanations have left both Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, frustrated and vowing to continue their investigation of the Walpin matter. In a letter to Solomont, sent Friday, Issa wrote that he has “serious questions about the veracity of your…testimony.”  In a statement Saturday, Grassley said he is “concerned about the accuracy and completeness of Mr. Solomont’s answers to questions.”

Solomont changed his story several times and was caught in a bald lie by committee investigators. The question is inevitable: if nothing wrong was done, why not admit he had discussed that troublesome IG with Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff? (And who soon thereafter was appointed to the board of AmeriCorps supervising corporation.) Unless, of course, the First Lady was to some degree involved in the illegal firing of Mr. Walpin? AmeriCorps is a favored charity of hers, and Mayor Johnson is a major Obama supporter and friend. A little Chicago-style hardball politics to make Walpin go away wouldn’t be alien to her, someone steeped in it from childhood.

Again, it’s too early to scream j’accuse, but the behavior of those involved is both curious and suggestive. But, with the Republicans in the minority and Democrats seemingly uninterested in pursuing IG-gate, we may have to wait for January, 2011, for the full story to come out.

RELATED: A friend reminds me of a potentially similar prior scandal, from when our Secretary of State was herself First lady. This time, however, there’s the added spice of the current First Lady possibly intervening to protect a supporter who misuses federal funds and sexually harasses interns. Sweet! I’d better order more popcorn…

LINKS: More at Hot Air.


Quote of the day

November 24, 2009

R. S. McCain on the major media’s continued “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to the growing Inspector-General scandal:

Here you’ve got Johnson, accused of sexual misconduct by three different St. HOPE students, and one of the St. HOPE board members — who also happens to be Johnson’s fiancee — is trying to get the Inspector General to drop his investigation, in the middle of Johnson’s 2008 campaign for mayor. The accused sexual predador is a close friend of the president, and Little Miss Predator-Enabler is the head of D.C. public schools?

On what planet is this not front-page news?

More on IG-gate here and here.


Hope! Change! Cover Ups! The Chicago Way!

November 23, 2009

Today must be Scandal Day: first ACORN and now evidence that the White House lied to Congress about its involvement in the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector-General Gerald Walpin. According to documents released late last Friday and contrary to the fairy tale the White House told last June, there was no broad consultation or investigation conducted before the sudden decision to get rid of Walpin. Byron York of the Washington Examiner tells the story:

Just hours after Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa released a report Friday on their investigation into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin, the Obama White House gave the lawmakers a trove of new, previously-withheld documents on the affair. It was a twist on the now-familiar White House late-Friday release of bad news; this time, the new evidence was put out not only at the start of a weekend but also hours too late for inclusion in the report.

The new documents support the Republican investigators’ conclusion that the White House’s explanation for Walpin’s dismissal — that it came after the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, unanimously decided that Walpin must go — was in fact a public story cobbled together after Walpin was fired, not before.

Walpin was axed on the evening of June 10, when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, who told Walpin he had one hour either to resign or be fired.  The next day, congressional Republicans, led by Grassley, objected, charging that Walpin’s dismissal violated a recently-passed law requiring the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice before dismissing an inspector general.

Pressed for the reason Walpin was fired, 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.

Other than board chairman Alan Solomont, the Democratic mega-donor and Obama supporter who originally told the White House of his dissatisfaction with Walpin, “no member of the CNCS board had any substantive input about whether the removal of Gerald Walpin was appropriate,” according to the report. 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 new documents show the White House scrambling, in the days after the controversy erupted, to put together a public explanation for the firing.

Read the whole thing, as well as a companion editorial that provides a good overview of the shenanigans at play here. Clearly Walpin was not fired because he was becoming senile and unable to discharge his duties -he’s been cleared of those and other  smears– but because his investigations were uncovering embarrassing and possibly illegal conduct on the part of a major supporter of President Obama.  Apparently a determination was made to just get rid of him in contravention of the law regarding IGs, and a rationale cooked up after the fact. A rationale, I might add, that was both a lie to Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa – and a blatant attempt to smear Walpin and ruin his reputation.

The question is, how far up the chain does this go? Who authorized the lies to Congress? Who ordered the illegal firing of Walpin? Who was trying to protect Sacramento Mayor Johnson? Stay tuned for these and other questions (and, one hopes, some answers) in our next episode of Cook County on the Potomac!

LINKS: Reporter Robert Stacy McCain has also done extensive work on what’s being dubbed IG-gate. More from Sister Toldjah and Hot Air.


What’s a little sex scandal when Hope and Change are at stake?

November 20, 2009

Congratulations, Mr. President, you now have the first open scandal of your administration! It’s a good one, too. There’s the corrupt use of public funds, trumped up charges and a smear campaign to get rid of a troublesome priest an Inspector General who asked too many questions, and even charges of sexual harassment and a cover-up thereof.  Well done. You’re a rookie president no more.

Congressional Report: Rhee did ‘damage control’ after sex charges against fiance Kevin Johnson

A congressional investigation of the volunteer organization AmeriCorps contains charges that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee handled “damage control” after allegations of sexual misconduct against her now fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and a prominent ally of President Obama, The Washington Examiner has learned.

The charges are contained in a report prepared by Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The investigation began after the AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin, received reports that Johnson had misused some of the $800,000 in federal AmeriCorps money provided to St. Hope, a non-profit school that Johnson headed for several years.

Walpin was looking into charges that AmeriCorps-paid volunteers ran personal errands for him, washed his car, and took part in political activities.  In the course of investigating those allegations, the congressional report says, Walpin’s investigators were told that Johnson had made inappropriate advances toward three young women involved in the St. Hope program — and that Johnson offered at least one of those young women money to keep quiet.

Read the whole thing; it goes straight back to the White House and its Chicago Way politics.

RELATED: The scandal regarding the the administration’s attempts to suborn the Inspector-General system has been brewing for several months now. Maybe this will be the incident that blows it wide open.  I wrote earlier about the connection to pork and rats and their use in recreating Cook County on the Potomac. Stacy McCain has written extensively on the war on the watchdogs. More from Ed Morrissey.

UPDATE: Iowa’s Senator Grassley, a “patron saint” of the Inspector-General program, thinks there is clear evidence of a political motive in Walpin’s firing.


Behind closed doors

July 20, 2009

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.  Waiting

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.