More On The Right-Wing Obama Assault Over The Walpin Wrangle

June 17, 2009

The Murdoch Street Journal tells us the following today (from here)…

A George W. Bush appointee, (Gerald) Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.

Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation For National and Community Service, was fired by President Barack Obama.

Mr. Walpin’s investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.

At the end of May, Mr. Walpin’s office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be “suspended” from receiving federal funds. The Corporation’s official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin’s office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

So far, so normal…

Yes, well, the problem to me is as follows (from here)…

White House counsel Greg Craig, responding to a letter of concern about Walpin’s termination from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that the “Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California, a career prosecutor who was appointed to his post during the Bush Administration, has referred Mr. Walpin’s conduct for review by the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.”

Craig said that the White House was “aware of the circumstances leading to that referral and of Mr. Walpin’s conduct throughout his tenure and can assure you that that the president’s decision was carefully considered.” He noted that Walpin’s termination “is fully supported by the Chair of the Corporation (a Democrat) and the Vice-Chair (a Republican).”

The Journal also tells us about the referral of Walpin by the U.S. Attorney, though Lawrence Brown, the U.S. Attorney since January — a career prosecutor who took over when the Bush-appointed Attorney left — had already decided not to pursue criminal charges in the matter raised by Walpin against Johnson (who has agree to pay back half of the funds in question).

So basically, a prosecutor appointed by Dubya (according to Craig) “wrote up” Walpin (also ignoring his referral in the Johnson matter), a decision supported by a Repug AmeriCorps Vice-Chair (Stephen Goldsmith), among others.

And what exactly was Walpin written up for? Well, this may offer a clue, including the following…

* At (a) May 20, 2009, board meeting Walpin “was confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions and exhibited behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve.”
* The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California complained about Walpin’s conduct to the IG oversight board and alleged he withheld exculpatory evidence.
* Walpin had “been absent from the Corporation’s headquarters, insisting upon working from his home in New York over the objection” of the board.
* He “exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers.”
* He “engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct.”
* He “had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness.”

The Fox piece from Major Garrett (can’t believe I’m giving him a link, but he does appear to “have the goods” on this story) also tells us that Senate Dem Claire McCaskill, among others, is upset over what she believes was improper notification regarding Walpin’s dismissal (Update 6/18/09: McCaskill appears to be “on board” with Obama now based on this).

I’m not going to pretend that I’m privy to the details in this matter, because I clearly am not (and sure, I can imagine Johnson making a well-placed phone call in the matter to take off some heat). However, the bipartisan dissatisfaction with Walpin is a clue to me that, though there may have been improper congressional notification, removing him was fundamentally the right decision.

And the “canary in the coal mine” to me here is that Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa of California is in full-on umbrage mode over the matter (here), trying to draw a comparison to Dubya’s firing of the U.S. Attorneys.

I guess Issa’s not busy enough worrying about allegedly missing emails from the Obama Administration (I mean, as noted here, he was up in arms over that too, until he realized that retrieving Obama Emails would entail doing the same thing for those of Obama’s predecessor that have somehow gone missing).

And oh yeah, Issa also threatened Henry Waxman here, back when Waxman chaired the Oversight Committee and was quite rightly looking into contractor shenanigans in Iraq (also, Issa “bolted from his seat and left the floor” here when the U.S. House Rep who took over for the late Tom Lantos asked “when will we get out of Iraq” during a Lantos memorial).

To sum up, I have only this to say; if there’s a case to be made that Walpin was fired illegally, then make it based on the evidence at hand, not conservative fantasies.

Update 6/18/09: Fix Noise, classy as always…

Update 6/23/09: Much more on this from Joe Conason here…

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