The Associated Press reports this morning what we had long expected: President Obama has brought his Chicago Machine politics with him to the White House. According to the newswire, Obama has fired the inspector general of Americorps after he began looking a little too closely at a friend of the president’s:
President Barack Obama says he has lost confidence in the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs and has told Congress he is removing him from the position.
Obama’s move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star, into the misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group that Johnson headed.
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 Community Service. The corporation runs the AmeriCorps program.
Yes, because if there’s anything Obama can’t stand, it’s having a supposedly incompetent IG at, er, Americorps. According to Byron York, the White House called Walprin and told him to resign within the hour or get fired. Suddenly, after calls to Congress, the WH appeared to back off:
After last night’s call, Walpin got in touch with Congress, and it appears the White House has backed off, at least for now. This afternoon, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who is something of a guardian angel for inspectors general, fired off a letter to the White House about the affair.
“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,” Grassley wrote. “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.”
Grassley said he was “deeply troubled” by the Walpin matter and closed by asking the president “to review the Inspector General Reform Act you cosponsored and to follow the letter of the law should you have cause to remove any Inspector General.”
President Obama doesn’t like the fact that Walpin had investigated one of his high-profile donors corruption, so figured he’d just remove him from the post. A note to future IGs: If you dare investigate Obama’s political allies, be prepared to search for new employment. He won’t tolerate the holding of his allies’ feet to the fire.
Update: Youth Today has more information. It would appear that Walpin was blowing the whistle:
The inspector general (IG) of the Corporation for National and Community Service is being removed by President Barack Obama, a week after the IG questioned the eligibility of the largest and most expensive AmeriCorps program, and while the IG was contesting the “propriety” of a settlement made with a mayor for alleged misuse of AmeriCorps funds.
…Funding for the largest AmeriCorps program – the Teaching Fellows Program, run by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York – is in abeyance pending resolution of widespread problems identified in a recent audit. Although Walpin recommended that funding be curtailed and that previous funds (perhaps as much as $75 million) be repaid to the corporation, the corporation has said it will take no action on that matter.
Walpin concluded that nothing was being gained by the grants to CUNY and that the money was simply being used to subsidize an existing and funded program.