Politics As Usual

June 12th, 2009

According to reports in The Washington Post and other media, President Obama has fired Gerald Walpin, the Inspector General for AmeriCorps and other national service programs.  According to the Post’s report,

Obama’s move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star.

Walpin was criticized by the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled an investigation of Johnson and St. HOPE Academy, a nonprofit group that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The corporation runs the AmeriCorps program.

According to the report,

The IG found that Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, had used AmeriCorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car. 

Whereupon the messenger was put before the firing squad.  The Acting U.S. Attorney in Sacramento didn’t like what Walpin’s investigation showed or the way Walpin conducted it.  What’s worse, the alleged corruption was made public at a politically inconvenient time for Mayor Johnson:

Walpin’s office made repeated public comments just before the Sacramento mayoral election, prompting the U.S. attorney’s office to inform the media that it did not intend to file any criminal charges.

The organization Mayor Johnson heads objects strongly to the findings of Walpin’s investigation and to Walpin himself:

Kevin Hiestand, chairman of the board of St. HOPE Academy, said in a statement it was “about time” Walpin was removed. “Mr. Walpin’s allegations were meritless and clearly motivated by matters beyond an honest assessment of our program,” he said.

But wait — seems there’s a little more to the story:

The U.S. attorney’s office reached a settlement in the matter. [Acting U.S. Attorney] Brown cited press accounts that said Johnson and the nonprofit would repay half of nearly $850,000 in grants it received.

None of this sits well with Senator Charles Grassley, “who is something of a guardian angel for inspectors general.”  It’s been reported that Senator Grassley sent a letter to the White House:

I was troubled to learn that last night your staff reportedly issued an ultimatum to the AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin that he had one hour to resign or be terminated.  As you know, Inspectors General were created by Congress as a means to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuring that federal agencies were held accountable for their actions.  Inspectors General were designed to have a dual role reporting to both the President and Congress so that they would be free from undue political pressure.  This independence is the hallmark of all Inspectors General and is essential so they may operate independently, without political pressure or interference from agencies attempting to keep their failings from public scrutiny.

Truth is, I suspect this is nothing more than a fairly small tempest in a fairly small teapot.  If it sounds a bit like Chicago-style politics…well, big surprise.  It’ll blow over pretty soon.  But it’s an object lesson for the starry-eyed naifs who believed that the Obama Administration would be a paragon of good government.

One more thing — where are the raving lunatics who would have been beside themselves with outrage if this had happened during the Bush Administration?  Are they poised at their grimy keyboards in front of their spittle-covered monitors, foam-flecked lips pursed in righteous disapproval, ready to hurl hate-filled condemnations at a corrupt president and everyone in his vicinity?  Somehow, I doubt we’ll hear much from them.


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One Response to “Politics As Usual”



  1. Harvey |

    Tom,

    LOL! The “starry-eyed naifs” are dropping like flies!

    Your last paragraph’s description of the Bush haters is positively hilarious!!

    Politics is a dirty game and almost every one involved is dirty — its a shame that they’re the ones who get to run the country (or should I say: ‘ruin the country’.


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