Archive for ‘AmeriCorps’

June 21, 2009

Obama’s no Daley, but . . .

Michael Barone in the Examiner:

His first political ambition was to be mayor of Chicago, the boss of all he surveyed; he has had to settle for the broader but less complete hegemony of the presidency. . . .
Chicago-style, he has kept the Republicans out of serious policy negotiations . . . Basking in the adulation of nearly the entire press corps, he whines about his coverage on Fox News. Those who stand in the way, like the Chrysler secured creditors, are told that their reputations will be destroyed; those who expose wrongdoing by political allies, like the AmeriCorps inspector general, are fired.

Speaking of Chicago, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune laughs to scorn the shocked! shocked! reaction over Obama’s move against inspectors general:

The use of political muscle may be prohibited in the mythic transcendental fairyland where much of the Obama spin originates . . . But our president is from Chicago. . . . David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel come right from Chicago Democratic machine boss Mayor Richard Daley. They don’t believe in fairies . . .
It’s the Chicago Way. Now, formally, it’s also the Chicago on the Potomac Way. . . .

You can read the rest, which is also discussed in today’s “300 Words Or Less” editorial at NTCNews.com, and linked at Memeorandum. At this point, IG-Gate raises two basic questions:

  1. Does all this suspicious smoke indicate a genuinely scandalous fire? That is to say, is there genuine crime or ethical misconduct involved, or are the inspectors generals just victims of political hardball which, while rudely thuggish in typical Chicago fashion, is not actually criminal?
  2. If there is a real scandal, will the Obama-worshipping press ignore it?

After I filed my Friday report at Pajamas Media, I noticed a lot of comments along the lines of, “Oh, Obama will get away with this because the MSM is in the tank.” This is a presumption — indeed, perhaps, two or three presumptions — too far.

Conservatives can be excused for thinking that rampant Obamaphilia in the press corps will protect The One from any possible consequences for malfeasance or error, if only because this has hitherto been the case. But . . .

Honeymoon kisses ain’t news. An FBI investigation of an alleged cover-up is news. The snobs and sycophants in the White House press corps might be predisposed to ignore or dismiss this story but — believe it or not — there are still a handful of real old-fashioned reporters in America who get excited at the prospect of scoring an exclusive, and who don’t give a damn what the political consequences are.

Not every reporter in America is part of the Washington press elite. But if some reporter at Sacramento Bee aspires to join that elite, what better way than to dig in on this Walpin/St. HOPE/Kevin Johnson/AmeriCorps story and try to turn it into an award-winning investigative series?

It doesn’t matter what the political angle is. The hotshot California reporter who scores scoop after scoop on a story of national consquence can build a stack of clippings demonstrating his investigative chops, get some of his stories linked by Drudge and cited by other news organizations and, next thing you know, somebody’s paying his round-trip plane fare to Washington or New York to interview for a big new job.

Upward mobility in a declining industry? Kinda cool.

There’s another angle to think about, however. Beyond the Walpin/AmeriCorps story, TARP special IG Neil Barofsky has got himself in a tangle with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and notice who’s paying attention to that story. The Obama aura is powerful, but it offers very limited coverage to the ungainly Geithner.

The Geithner/Barofsky feud is going to be covered by lots of New York-based financial reporters who don’t give a damn about the Beltway elite. The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Bloomberg News — reporters for outfits like that usually have an indifference to the attitudes of the politics crowd. Indeed, you’ll occasionally find a financial reporter who thinks capitalism is OK. Just to cite one example, investigative journalist Matthew Vadum first came to D.C. as a financial reporter.

And there’s still the factor of good old-fashioned competition in the press. The editors of the Washington Post aren’t going to sit still and twiddle their thumbs if the Examiner, the Politico and the Washington Times start scoring a string of scoops on this story. And the same is true of the TV networks. Check out this Thursday exchange between ABC’s Jake Tapper and WH press secretary Robert Gibbs:

TAPPER: Earlier this year the special inspector general for TARP Neil Barofsky tried to get documents relating to AIG. The Treasury Department rebuffed that request, and although ultimately I think they did turn over the documents, the Treasury Department sought a ruling from the Justice Department on just how independent Neil Barofsky’s office is supposed to be. Please explain from the administration’s perspective what exactly is going on here and why it appears as though the Treasury Department is pushing back against an independent inspector general.
GIBBS: Well, obviously, Jake, the president believes that inspectors general fulfill a unique and important role in ensuring that programs operate with efficiency. No attorney-client privilege on any of this stuff has been invoked. No documents sought have been or are being withheld. The DOJ review is not related to any particular investigation. It is sorting out legal issues relating to the creation of the office.
TAPPER: Right. But could you explain — could you actually answer my question? I understand the talking points you’ve been given, but . . .

Read the rest of that, and think of how some other reporters in the White House press corps must have been high-fiving Tapper afterwards. (Honestly, not all of them are completely in the tank with Chris Matthews’ leg-thrilling affection for O.)

As with the charmless Geithner, the media’s love for Obama won’t suffice to protect every member of his administration. Norm Eisen has no unicorns-and-rainbows mystique of Hope, and just wait until the D.C. press corps starts sniffing around the unexpected resignation of the AmTrak inspector general. (Gee, what gaffe-prone politician considers AmTrak his personal pet program?)

The fundamental problem the IG investigation presents to the Obama administration is the contradiction to its oft-declared commitment to transparency, as Jimmie Bise Jr. observes at the American Issues Project:

It could very well be that this small scandal becomes the lead domino that begins a chain reaction that could spell unmitigated disaster for the Obama administration. Regardless, the Inspector General firings and the Treasury Department’s unwillingness to cooperate with IG Barofsky are another sign that when they administration claimed to be in favor of greater accountability, it was only blowing smoke.

Despite all the headlines to date, IG-Gate has yet to break through to the status of a major scandal, mostly because the potentially revolutionary developments in Iran have captivated public attention. Yet when the chaos in Iran subsides, the investigations of the IG firings will keep going and, as Jimmie says at Sundries Shack, it looks like this scandal is growing legs. More dominoes may be falling soon . . .

(Thanks to the Blogosphere’s Photoshop Queen, Carol at No Sheeples Here, for the artwork.)

UPDATE: Transparency? We don’t need no stinkin’ transparency!

As a senator, Barack Obama denounced the Bush administration for holding “secret energy meetings” with oil executives at the White House. But last week public-interest groups were dismayed when his own administration rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for Secret Service logs showing the identities of coal executives who had visited the White House to discuss Obama’s “clean coal” policies. One reason: the disclosure of such records might impinge on privileged “presidential communications.” The refusal, approved by White House counsel Greg Craig’s office, is the latest in a series of cases in which Obama officials have opted against public disclosure. . . .
After Obama’s much-publicized Jan. 21 “transparency” memo, administration lawyers crafted a key directive implementing the new policy that contained a major loophole, according to FOIA experts. The directive, signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, instructed federal agencies to adopt a “presumption” of disclosure for FOIA requests. . . . But in a little-noticed passage, the Holder memo also said the new standard applies “if practicable” for cases involving “pending litigation.” . . .

Read the whole thing. Obviously, Michael Isikoff’s legs aren’t tingling. BTW, one of the reasons I’m compiling this round-up is for the benefit of another one of my sources, who has a background in federal law enforcement and knows a thing or two about investigations.

UPDATE II: Little Miss Attila:

I think this is very simple: 1) on a national stage, one cannot fire whistle-blowers willy-nilly. Even lefties don’t like that, because everyone understands what that does to the system: when burglars are encouraged to feed poisoned dog food to the Dobermans that guard the shop, Bad Things are likely to happen.

So far, however, it’s like looking for investigative reporting in the Jonas Brothers fan-club newsletter.

UPDATE III: Red State‘s Moe Lane:

I suggest that any journalist reading this and thinking about pursuing it further might want to start by examining this odd story from last year involving a supposedly fake letter coming from Amtrak Superintendent Joe Deely. Not to mention this OSHA release on a whistleblower . . . Not that Weiderhold is directly linked to either case, but these seem to be to be the most controversial cases recently involving internal problems requiring the attention of an Inspector General.

Read the rest.

UPDATE IV: The Washington Times:

On the very same day that the president fired Mr. Walpin, St. Hope’s executive director, Rick Maya, left his job at St. Hope. He did not go quietly. His resignation letter charged Mr. Johnson and several St. Hope board members with numerous ethical violations. Most explosively, he charged that a board member improperly deleted e-mails of Mr. Johnson’s that already were under a federal subpoena. . . .
On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that Mr. Maya’s allegations have been deemed serious enough that the FBI is investigating potential obstruction of justice at St. Hope. In that light, the firing of Mr. Walpin, who properly blew the whistle on mismanagement and possible corruption, looks ill-considered. . . .

Read the rest. Strange — the phrase “second-rate burglary” just came to mind, like a 1972 acid flashback . . .

UPDATE V: Ed Driscoll sees Obama doing a reverse-Clausewitz — politics as warfare — while Glenn Reynolds inexplicably links the Hartford Courant, but quotes a commentary by Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, making excuses for the fan-club-newsletter press corps:

The press could help keep things honest but has fewer resources and readers . . .

Whine, whine, whine. Look, lady: How hard could it be for reporters from the Tribune to ask Arlen Specter or Bart Sestak to comment on the IG firings? Hey, I’ve got an idea, Ms. Zito: How about you pick up the freaking phone call them for a comment?

Why is it nowadays, whenever editors hire somebody to write op-ed columns, it’s never anybody who knows how to pick up a telephone? And then the lazy can’t-use-a-phone op-ed idiots wonder why they have fewer readers . . .

UPDATE VI: Pundit & Pundette links with some thoughts on Obama’s Chicago Way. Meanwhile, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, I’ve just made an executive decision to go down to Capitol Hill again today and talk to more sources.

There is no substitute for old-fashioned shoe leather. Just show up unannounced and buttonhole your source. It’s an infallible method. Make a nuisance of yourself until they figure out that they need to start calling you, or else you’ll be back again bugging them tomorrow.

PREVIOUSLY:

June 19, 2009

IG Investigation: ‘Dominoes Fall’

From my exclusive report for Pajamas Media:

Describing the probe into the dismissal of the AmeriCorps inspector general, one Capitol Hill source on Thursday compared Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s demand for facts in the case to a row of dominoes ready to tip over.
Grassley is asking questions, a team of Senate investigators is poring over documents in the case, and where the investigation proceeds now “depends on what dominoes fall next,” explained the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. . . .
Beyond the legal and political ramifications, Republicans in Washington acknowledge that the potential scandal could aid their policy battle against the effort by the White House and congressional Democrats to push sweeping new proposals on health care, energy and financial regulation.
In background discussions Thursday, several GOP strategists spoke of the contrast between Democrats’ effort to impose new government “reforms” while, at the same time, the Obama administration appears to be muzzling inspectors generals, who are tasked with providing independent oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies. . . .
Grassley’s team on the IG probe is led by Charles Murphy, a veteran Capitol Hill investigator. Both Grassley and Murphy were unavailable for comment Thursday, but sources with knowledge of the investigation expressed confidence in the meticulous research of Murphy’s team. . . .

There’s lots more, so read the whole thing at Pajamas Media, and watch for updates at NTCNews.com.

UPDATE: As I said yesterday, a potentially big scandal like this has an innate appeal to journalists:

Every political reporter in Washington is sniffing around this story now, and I just got off the phone with Matthew Vadum, who’s catching the Acela train to New York for a 5 p.m. live appearance on “The Glenn Beck Show.”

Before we got off the phone, the last thing I said to Matthew was, “Drop my name, dude.”

UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Updated news and commentary on IG-Gate at NTCNews.com. Now, if only Vadum can remember to look for an opportunity to tell Beck, “Well, as Stacy McCain reported today . . .”

Probably not, though. Never mind. We’ve got our own cartoon, which ought to be enough . . .

UPDATE III: Verrry interesting! Eric Rasmusen points out how TARP money seems to buy Obama loyalty even from Republicans.

June 18, 2009

BREAKING: Grassley Expands IGInvestigation; More Firings Probed; UPDATE: Targeting AIG Bailout?

CHICAGO TRIBUNE has the story and WASHINGTON TIMES breaks more news. Dan Riehl, Quin Hillyer, Ed Morrissey blogging, Memeorandum, plus much more at NTCNews.com.

Dang, I may not have to go to Sacramento . . .

UPDATE: Greg Pollowitz at NRO:

[L]ooks like A.I.G. could be the target here . . . . it was Democrats who were demanding that Barofsky look into A.I.G.’s bailout.

Breaking faster than hell . . .

June 18, 2009

How’s the weather in Sacramento?

It rained last night in D.C., where lots of reporters are taking an interest in the AmeriCorps story:

The Obama administration’s dismissal of the inspector general for the AmeriCorps federal “volunteer” program has all the makings of a classic Beltway “cover-up” scandal. Not even the sycophantic White House press corps will be able to ignore this story for long.
Washington is a six-newspaper town nowadays — in addition to The Washington Post and The Washington Times, there’s also Roll Call, The Hill, Politico and the Washington Examiner. . . .

You can read the rest. Blogging will be light today, as I plan to be running around Washington, hoping to meet with some friends who work on Capitol Hill. And who knows what else might turn up?

With so many Washington journalists interested in this case, how long before one of them books a flight westward and starts filing stories with a Sacramento dateline? . . . One way or another, this story could take a long, long time to play out. They say the weather in Sacramento is lovely in June.

And you can read the rest of that, too. Anything can happen . . . uh, sources say.

UPDATE: Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking important questions, and the Prowler is on the loose:

It has not gone unnoticed among some Republicans on Capitol Hill that First Lady Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, recently stepped down from her White House position to become head of the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to White House sources, Norris and Obama have already discussed how AmeriCorps could fit into the First Lady’s volunteerism projects.
According to White House sources, Norris’s shift to the CNCS was discussed not only with the First Lady, but also with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. . . .
“You look at what the CNCS is funding over there: a ‘Social Investment Fund,’ which over the next five years is going to hand out almost a half a billion dollars to young people who start up community activist organizations,” says a Senate Republican aide. “Who the hell is going to be monitoring that kind of underwriting? Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff? Emanuel? I don’t think so.” . . .

Hmmmmmm.

June 18, 2009

Sen. Grassley wants more answers

Grassley’s not backing down on IG-Gate, and ABC News has the letter (PDF):

Gregory B. Craig
Counsel to the President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. Craig:
This morning my staff met with Norman Eisen regarding the removal of Gerald Walpin as the Inspector General at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Late on the evening of June 16, 2009, my office received a copy of Mr. Eisen’s letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I appreciate this effort to address the concerns of Congress that the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 be complied with, and I appreciate Mr. Eisen’s time in coming to my office to discuss these issues more fully in person. His letter set forth the reasons for Mr. Walpin’s dismissal for the first time. Mr. Eisen said he conducted “an extensive review” at the request of the CNCS Board on or about May 20, 2009. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Eisen refused to answer several direct questions posed to him about the representations made in his letter. Since he was unwilling to answer them in person, please provide answers to the following questions in writing:
1) Did the CNCS Board communicate its concerns about Mr. Walpin to the White House in writing?
2) Specifically, which CNCS Board members came forward with concerns about Mr. Walpin’s ability to serve as the Inspector General?
3) Was the communication about the Board’s concerns on or about May 20, 2009 the first instance of any communications with White House personnel regarding the possibility of removing Mr. Walpin?
4) Which witnesses were interviewed in the course of Mr. Eisen’s review?
5) How many witnesses were interviewed?
6) Were any employees of the Office of Inspector General, who may have had more frequent contact with Mr. Walpin than the Board members, interviewed?
7) Was Mr. Walpin asked directly during Mr. Eisen’s review about the events of May 20, 2009?
8) Was Mr. Walpin asked for his response to the allegations submitted to the Integrity Committee by Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown?
9) What efforts were made during Mr. Eisen’s review to obtain both sides of the story or to afford the Office of Inspector General an opportunity to be heard?
10) In addition to the claim that Mr. Walpin was “confused” and “disoriented,” the letter also says he exhibited “other behavior” that led to questions about his capacity. What other behavior was Mr. Eisen referencing?
11) If the initial and primary concern had to do with Mr. Walpin’s capacity to serve for potential health reasons, why was he only given one hour to decide whether to resign or be fired?
12) If Mr. Walpin’s telecommuting arrangements since the beginning of this year were a major concern, then why was Mr. Walpin not simply asked to stop telecommuting?
Thank you in advance for your assistance and I would appreciate receiving a response to this inquiry by June 24, 2009. . . .

Oooh, this is getting interesting . . .