Archive for ‘scandal’

July 23, 2009

MATSUI-GATE? California Democrat’sIntervention in AmeriCorps CaseRaises Questions on Capitol Hill

HUGE hat-tip to California blogger Eric Hogue for spotting a March interview with a Sacramento radio station in which Rep. Doris Matsui — the Democrat who represents California’s capitol city in Congress — vowed to get stimulus cash By Any Means Necessary:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has asked U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui to help keep the flow of federal funds coming into the city.Johnson is not allowed to receive federal funds because of allegations his St. Hope-Hood Corps Foundation misused federal money.
Matsui, D-District 5, who appeared on the KCRA 3 Morning News on Saturday morning, said she believes Sacramento will get money, but she can’t guarantee it.”
Under any scenario, we are going to get the money. We are going to get the money,” she said. “I understand that process has to unfold. The mayor is dealing with that. We are dealing with the situation at the federal level. The city is taking the right steps. They have to disclose this, and we are moving forward.”
Matsui added that she has been in contact with White House officials and other members of the federal government.

More IG-Gate news where that came from. Trust me when I say that Hogue’s blog post made a big difference. Important people are paying attention and, to borrow the words of Ricky Ricardo — that hero of investigative journalists everywhere — I expect that Ms. Matsui has got some ‘splainin’ to do.

UPDATE 1:35 p.m.: Sigh. If a blogger breaks news and nobody links it, is it really news?

Tuesday night at Townhall.com, Eric Hogue asked, “Where is the media?” I’ve got a better question than that: “Where are Republicans?”

For months, I’ve complained about the cluelessness of Republican media operatives, and this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. For some reason (and I say it’s because almost nobody in the GOP has ever worked in an actual newsroom) these people seem incapable of judging “news value.”

There is an observable tendency among GOP media operatives toward a talking-points approach to news: “I’ll push the stories that the RNC, etc., want me to push.” And then there is the star-system approach to news: “If it’s on Drudge or Limbaugh or Fox News, then it must be important — and to hell with everything else.” But why bother repeating what I’ve already said so often before? Nobody’s paying attention.

So here is Eric Hogue, pointing to definite indications of political influence in the firing of Gerald Walpin, and . . . nothing. That IG-Gate Update has been online at the American Spectator since 10:34 a.m., and except for Bob Belvedere, nobody is in the conservative blogosphere has even noticed.

Next time I run into some overpaid “Web 2.0” guru who tries to lecture me about why the GOP sucks at New Media, I’ll turn around and walk away. This is the only alternative to punching his fucking lights out.

July 22, 2009

The Mother of All IG-Gate Updates

On the Internet, stuff gets scattered around so that you never see it all in one place. Today’s IG-Gate Update at the Hot Air Green Room pushes the story forward:

Behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last week, I asked a Republican source about the investigative efforts of Democratic staffers for the House Oversight Committee.
“Honestly?” the source said. “They’re useless.”
More than three weeks have passed since Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) joined the committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, to launch an investigation into the case of former Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold Jr. . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago, however, Republican sources on Capitol Hill have complained that Democratic staffers on the Oversight Committee have not shown much zeal for the investigation. Sources say Democratic staffers have skipped meetings and conference calls to which they were invited by GOP investigators, who are attempting to work with Grassley’s staff in order to prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts. Sharing documents and scheduling interviews with witnesses, allowing Republican and Democratic investigators from both chambers an opportunity to question these witnesses, is a demanding logistical task. And GOP staffers complain that this task seems to be lacking in terms of bipartisanship. . . .

Read the whole thing, because toward the end, I make this point:

This is a huge story, involving multiple investigations, and 1,200 words here don’t even begin to summarize the 1,400 words there [at The American Spectator on Monday], to say nothing of the 400 words I did last night about the SIGTARP report.

Like I said, read the whole thing, and follow the links, because this is one big sprawling mother of a story. The best I can do in any single chunk is to bring in new facts, new quotes, new angles, and link to as much other the other stuff as possible. (That Green Room article includes more than 25 links, including the link to the Spectator article, which has more than a dozen links.)

If you’ll go to Bob Belvedere’s WWU-AM and scroll down, he’s got a huge IG-Gate link dump with my reporting, Byron York’s reporting, columns by Michelle Malkin, reports from ABC News, the Washington Post, etc. There’s a lot of stuff out there, in other words, and you need to see it all if you want to try to understand this thing.

“Try,” I say, because I don’t even claim to understand it all yet. My sources talk about things and sometimes I can tell they’re trying to drop me a hint of something they want me to write about, e.g., “Who Is Eleanor Acheson?” It’s important to ask the right questions, as one of my sources said.

On the one hand, there is the temptation to focus on one aspect of the story — the Washington Times keeps calling this “WalpinGate,” which is too narrow — but on the other hand, you’ve got to be careful not to waste time playing “connect-the-dots” with things that might not really be connected. Yes, there’s a pattern, but that doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy.

Still, as I predicted on June 18 — right after Michelle Malkin’s first column on the Walpin case slapped me upside the head — this story isn’t going away anytime soon. June 18 was the same day IG Fred Wiederhold delivered his report to the Amtrak board and suddenly retired, and also the same day Chuck Grassley made public his letter about the International Trade Commission IG, Judith Gwynne.

So barely a week after Walpin got his June 10 quit-or-be-fired ultimatum from White House lawyer Norm Eisen, there were two other IG cases. Then we have the case of the watchdog who’s still hanging tough, SIGTARP, Neil Barofsky. The bailout watchdog showed yesterday how much trouble he can cause, and it’s therefore no mystery why Treasury’s giving Barofsky a hard time. (My money’s still on Barofsky as the IG most likely to get a Cabinet secretary sent to federal prison.)

IG-Gate is a big mother, you see. Because I’m on deadline for a print magazine article, there’s no time for me to do a complete aggregation now, but here are the major IG-Gate articles I’ve done so far:

Each of those items is chock-full of links to other items. As you can see, just six weeks into this story, there’s a lot of stuff out there — and, no doubt, a lot more to come. Just keep hitting the tip jar.

One of these days, I plan to hit the American Spectator with the mother of all expense reimbursement requests — “$800 for fireworks?” “Promotional activity. Perfectly legitimate, Al.” — but in the meantime, Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Just in case you’re wondering why Professor Reynolds loves this story so much, I once again remind you to read the whole thing. The professor’s drooling at the prospect of The Mother of All Chris Dodd Updates.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IG-Gate Rule 3 memo, which offers more tasty watchdog morsels.

July 1, 2009

Michelle Malkin Reports on IG-Gate

Michelle Malkin’s syndicated column today moves the story forward substantially with this:

Sen. [Chuck] Grassley has requested that Amtrak supply information on [inspector general Fred] Weiderhold’s unexpected retirement, as well as internal and personal materials related to his departure and the report on Amtrak managers’ meddling. On the House side, Reps. Edolphus Towns (D.-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) announced a probe Monday into Amtrak’s actions. They zeroed in on Amtrak’s choice of Lorraine Green to replace “retired” IG Weiderhold. . . .
Who is Lorraine Green? She’s a former Amtrak human resources executive and faithful Democrat donor with no experience in the inspector general business. Her expertise? Managing “diversity initiatives” for the agency. Watchdog out. Lapdog in.

Read the whole thing. She gives me credit for pushing the story last week. I had mentioned this at The American Spectator blog:

The professional staff of the Amtrak IG office is reportedly now “terrified” about their job security, because Amtrak put their human resources director in charge of the IG staff.

Naming Lorraine Green and explaining her “diversity” specialty are important facts I didn’t have. The Towns-Issa investigation is also news I hadn’t heard. So Michelle is doing real reporting in her column.

One reason I get so infuriated about idiocies like the attacks on Sarah Palin is because that stuff distracts from more important things. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post had important stories, and I missed it. Now there will be more work to do next week, just to catch up.

Meanwhile, I’ve got figure out how to lay hands on an extra 200 feet of fuse, drive to Alabama, shoot off the fireworks . . .

June 29, 2009

IG-Gate: The Meme Is the Message

At NTCNews.com, a round-up of the inspector general story to date. At the Hot Air Green Room, a discourse on how the media has (and has not) reported the story.

The always insightful Donald Douglas links up, as does that brilliant blogger Track-a-‘Crat, following hard on the heels of leading online communications strategist Dan Collins. Will the Memeorandum algorithm be triggered? Will further assistance be required?

Professor Glenn Reynolds may know the answer, as may blog-fu sensei Moe Lane. But when in doubt, always link Little Miss Attila.

UPDATE: When the Great Scorer comes to write beside you name, he shall record not whether you won or lost, but only how you Heh the game.

June 26, 2009

News cycle and IG-Gate

Trying to keep up with a multi-front investigation is difficult and, while chasing yesterday’s IG story and then following up with Grassley’s document release, I overlooked a few relevant items:

I’m sure I’ve missed some important items, but this is a big story that’s growing bigger, and it’s getting very hard to compile a comprehensive daily round-up. Bob Belvedere may have the best compilation of IG-Gate information.

One of the breaks I’ve caught in the past week is that many top D.C. journalists are already on vacation and won’t return until after July 4. Also, the Iran controversy, the White House press conference Tuesday, the cap-and-trade push, and the Mark Sanford confession Wednesday seem to have distracted lots of the Washington press corps. So I scored an exclusive Thursday night while everybody else missed it. Heh.

Hit the tip jar, please.

June 25, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Report on Amtrak IG case

Sen. Charles Grassley’s office has released a 94-page report (PDF). Will update shortly with details.

UPDATE: Press release from Grassley’s office:

Senator Chuck Grassley has asked Amtrak about the circumstances of the Inspector General’s unexpected retirement seven days ago and invited Amtrak to provide information about the interference by Amtrak in the work of the Inspector General described in a report prepared at the request of the retired watchdog.
Grassley said the report indicates that Amtrak’s policies and procedures have systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act.
“As I continue my investigation into whether the independence of the Inspector General was undermined by Amtrak officials, I want to make sure I have any and all information Amtrak wants to provide,” Grassley said. “The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees . . .”

Read the whole thing. I had been warned to expect something like this, so I just kept refreshing the press release page at Grassley’s site until it was posted. Well, I’ve got work to do.

UPDATE 8:45 ET: The first news story about this report, from . . . well, me, at The American Spectator:

Officials of Amtrak have “systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) charged Thursday, making public a 94-page legal report prepared at the request of the Amtrak inspector general who resigned suddenly a week ago.
Fred Wiederhold, a veteran IG, retired without notice or explanation June 18 after a meeting with Amtrak officials where he presented the report by the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. “The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees,” Grassley said in a statement.
Grassley’s accusation of illegal actions by Amtrak, including failure to comply properly with subpoenas, is the most serious to date in an investigation that has expanded quickly since the IG for the AmeriCorps program was given an ultimatum two weeks ago to resign or be fired.
In a letter to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper, Grassley said the legal report “suggests a long-term and unrelenting interference with the activities and operation” of the IG’s office. Grassley said his staff believes that members of the Amtrak IG office “be fearful of retaliation if they were to discuss the matters set forth in this letter with anyone, including Congress.” . . .

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson is dead. He was a few months older than me, much richer, and never scored an exclusive news story in his life. His kickspin was better than mine, however.

UPDATE 10:15 p.m.: A little more news at the Green Room:

Investigators for Sen. Joe Lieberman (Ind.-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are now becoming involved with the IG-Gate probe.
Previously, Lieberman and Collins had seemed willing to accept Obama administration officials’ version of the firing of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin without even hearing Walpin’s side of the story. Now, as a clear pattern of pressure against IGs has developed, the multiple investigations have gotten the attention of Lieberman and Collins, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This is the chief oversight committee with jurisdiction to hold hearings and subpoena materials in the IG probe.
Some Republicans, however, have been disappointed by Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Both GOP senators have expressed interest in the IG investigations, but neither has sought to interview Walpin or ordered their own staffers to coordinate with Grassley’s investigators, who have already been on the case for two weeks.

Astute blog readers will recognize that I’ve linked the contact pages for those senators, and for a good reason. If you want to see Congress hold hearings on IG-Gate, you need to get in touch with your own members of Congress and tell them so. “Sources close to the investigation” say that it is up to citizens to push Congress to take action. It doesn’t matter whether your senators or representatives; preserving the independence of IGs ought to be a bipartisan concern.

UPDATE 10:23 p.m.: Welcome Hot Air readers. And thanks to Bob Belvedere for his IG-Gate compilation at WWU-AM.

UPDATE 11:12 p.m.: No Watchdogs Allowed

UPDATE 11:22 p.m.: I use Google News to search for online information about these stories, and somehow had previously missed this story today from Youth Today about CNCS acting NCNS head Nicole Goren’s explanation of the Walpin firing. You can check that out, but it still doesn’t address the question of fundamental fairness. In the three weeks between the May 20 board meeting and June 10, when Walpin was told to quit or be fired, neither CNCS nor anyone in the Obama administration made any effort to get Walpin’s side of the dispute.

PREVIOUSLY:
6/25:
IG-Gate: It’s not about Walpin
6/24: Another shoe leather day
6/23: IG-Gate: Asking the right questions
6/23: More questions for Secretary Geithner
6/22: Your man in Washington
6/21: Obama’s no Daley, but . . .
6/19: IG investigation: ‘Dominoes Fall’
6/18: Grassley expands IG investigation
6/18: Targeting AIG bailout?
6/18: How’s the weather in Sacramento?
6/18: Sen. Grassley wants more answers

June 23, 2009

Your Man In Washington

“Oh, I remember you,” said the receptionist. “You were here last week.”

Indeed, I replied, adding that I’m likely to become a familiar face. When she asked my name, I handed her a business card, and she bid me to have a seat while the person whom I’d come to see was summoned.

Monday afternoon found me on Capitol Hill, once more asking questions about the Obama administration’s campaign against inspectors general. As Smitty says, volume of fire has an accuracy all its own, and so I’ll be making more trips like this in the near future.

Sitting in the lobby of this office, I inquired about directions to another office. The receptionist gestured this way and that — “go down by the elevators and out that way . . . go left . . . past the Capitol and across . . .” — in such a manner that even an old Boy Scout like me might never get there in time for his appointment 45 minutes later.
“Hmmm, sounds complicated . . . do you have some kind of map?” I asked. She walked over to hand me a tourist-type 7″x14″ map bearing the motto “Getting Around Washington.”

This map was of such a scale as to have the intersection of Florida and New York avenues in the northeast corner and Arlington Cemetery in the southwest corner. The type was in a nearly microscopic font — 4-point Helvetica, I’d say, although I didn’t have a pica gauge handy.

With its itty-bitty buildings, teeny-tiny streets and miniature lettering, this map was unlikely to be much assistance to a guy from out of town trying to make his way hurriedly from one office to another. Yet the map could still be useful to an experienced Washington journalist.

“Now, which building are we in?” I asked, holding the map in front of me. The receptionist leaned over and pointed as she explained the directions again.
“Yes, I see,” I said with sincere appreciation.

Just then a door opened and the person I’d come to see entered the lobby, interrupting my cartographic inquiry. He and I spoke in a small conference room for about 15 minutes. There was someone else he wanted me to meet but, checking his Blackberry, he reported that this person did not seem to be returning his calls and text messages.

What is it with these young people in Washington nowadays? Must all communication be conducted by Blackberry and iPhone? Does it never occur to them that in certain circumstances the best method might be to do a little walking and knock on somebody’s door?

“Listen, if you know where this guy’s at, I say we go get him,” I suggested, but he balked.

We talked some more — I’ll tell you about it in an upcoming story — and then I mentioned my appointment in another building.

“What time do you get off work here? Maybe we could meet for beers and burgers later.” Alas, no — his girlfriend was returning from New York and they needed to catch up.

Drat. Well, another appointment awaited on the other side of the Capitol and who knew how long it would take to get there? The fellow walked me back into the lobby, and was prepared to take his leave, but I suggested he step out into the hallway with me.

“This Iran thing is sucking up all the media oxygen right now, but that won’t last forever,” I said, and explained what I intended to do. He agreed that more people ought to be doing it my way.

Was he just trying to humor me? Does he think I’m . . . OK, eccentric would be the polite way to say it, but “eccentric” is for rich folks. I’m just plain crazy.

No one could argue with that, but crazy works, if it’s the right kind of crazy. Walking up First Street toward Constitution Avenue, then cutting across the Capitol grounds toward Independence Avenue as if I knew exactly where I was going, I called my next appointment to inform her of my ETA. Then I immediately called another source, who also knows Capitol Hill like the back of his hand, arranging to have coffee Wednesday morning before Grover’s meeting.

The high temperature was 85 in D.C. Monday, and I was wearing a blue blazer, striped silk tie, button-down blue shirt, olive slacks and black leather shows. Crazy, but sharply dressed.

Considerations of honor require that a Georgian never complain about summer heat within earshot of a Yankee, and my next appointment was one such. So while going through the magnetometers — damn those terrorists, for imposing all these bothersome security hassles on a patriotic American journalist — I soaked up the air-conditioning and concentrated on becoming mentally cool. On the elevator up, I buttoned the blazer and wiped the sweat off my face.

Down the corridor, around the corner, into the office, poke my head in and ask to see the person with whom I had the appointment. She emerges wearing a T-shirt and shorts, since her next appointment is at the gym for an African dance class, to be followed by a jog around the Mall.

What is it with these young people in Washington nowadays? Exercise! I’d walked about seven blocks already since parking my car at Union Station, but that was mere transportation — utilitarian pedestrianism — whereas one can’t exercise without donning shorts and paying a gym fee.

Exercise is a form of conspicuous consumption, an ostentation of leisure: Look, I’m exercising! To qualify as exercise, the activity must never take the form of anything useful, remunerative or commonplace — pushing a lawnmower or moving furniture may have cardiovascular benefits, but are too plebian to be considered exercise. The roofer who totes shingles and swings a hammer for eight hours a day is not exercising, nor can the adult entertainer who does table dances between her stage routines on the stripper pole be said to exercise.

Well, never mind the sociological observations. I’m shown around the office and introduced. There’s a water cooler, so I get a cup of that. Then I offer to walk the health-conscious staffer to her gym appointment — another four blocks for me, but I’m not exercising, because it’s about finding out how the staffer can help me get the story. (Useful and perhaps remunerative, if less commonplace than it once was.)

The staffer gets to her gym, and I non-exercise three blocks up to the Tune Inn on Pennsylvania for a burger, fries and beverage. CNN is reporting the Metro crash, but my eyes are on the stock market news — the Dow’s off 200 points. Call Jimmie and ask him to post the “Wall Street P.M.” report at NTCNews.com. And, oh, yeah — the Metro crash, too.

Am I indifferent to death and grievous injury in a train wreck? No. But the slumping market is relevant to my business on Capitol Hill, you see. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the genius who’s on the hook for the neo-Keynesian “bailout” that is manifestly failing to achieve its objectives as economic policy. (It Won’t Work.)

Geithner also appears to be on the hook for the suspicious shenanigans with TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky. Heh heh heh. How would you like the be a Treasury secretary presiding over a stock market sell-off while, at the same time, you’ve got people on Capitol Hill poking around a potential scandal with your fingerprints all over it?

There’s plenty enough room under the Obama bus for Geithner, you see, and he’s starting to look like an increasingly convenient fall guy. So even if my Capitol Hill trip Monday wasn’t as fruitful as I’d hoped, the story continues developing, and I’m steadily accumulating more face-time with possible sources.

Maybe I wasn’t exercising as I walked back to Union Station, but I was certainly smiling. Ain’t no school like the Old School. And you’d be surprised what scandalous facts an experienced journalist can uncover.

All I need is a map.
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 . . .