Friday, June 12, 2009

The Walpin Thing

Just surfing around after tiring of the Letterman-Palin duel and came upon this story:
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.
My, my. This may be nothing but it's certainly got a titillatingly something ring about it:
  • Obama sides with former NBA star Kevin Johnson, whose charitable operation was accused of skimming public funds by an old white Republican donor who has publicly supported John Yoo and has strong opinions on 'don't ask, don't tell';
  • the antagonist was by most accounts a distinguished pick by the former administration but some leftist site called "Exxonsecrets" is touting his membership in the Federalist Society;
  • Obama's grassroots political goals are furthered by community organizations such as Americorp and ACORN who funnel money from the Treasury down to street level- Obama is tripling funding for Americorp going forward;
  • Democrats were outraged when Bush apparently fired US Attorneys for political reasons.
KJ is now the mayor of Sacramento. His former non-profit, the Hood Corps, was accused of skimming federal funds, which according to a March story in the SacBee caused some to worry whether the city would receive federal stimulus funds down the road. KJ wasn't worried, though:
"I believe, as the City Attorney did in September, that there will ultimately be zero impact on the city's eligibility to receive the federal funds that Congresswoman Matsui, Governor Schwarzenegger, our U.S. Senators, and I are working hard to deliver to our city," he wrote. "I am optimistic this will be resolved positively in short order."
Could this be an example of resolved? Walpin was the one who got KJ in trouble to begin with:
In response, federal officials placed St. HOPE Academy, operator of Hood Corps; Johnson, who was St. HOPE's founder and former president; and Dana Gonzalez, Hood Corps' former executive director and now a mayoral volunteer, on an Excluded Parties List, meaning they were suspended from access to federal grants and contracts for up to one year or until the case is resolved.

The federal audit of Hood Corps' use of funds is ongoing. A spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General declined to say when the review would be finished.
Now Obama has 'lost confidence' in the man who blew the whistle yet won't provide anything other than strong assurances by Greg Craig that they are doing the right thing. Hmm.

OK, granted this could be a game of partisan whiffleball. Maybe Walpin became a right wing zealot who overstepped his mission by trying to prevent the guy who he thought was scamming the taxpayers from getting even more spending power. Maybe it was a racial thing. Or a Jewish thing. On the other hand it might be a prime example of hardball Chicago politics at work. Surely the intrepid White House press corps will get to the bottom of it.

MORE 6/12/09

As pointed out by the anonymous commenter, the Obama administration issued talking points heralding Judge Sotomayor for the SCOTUS and right there on plain paper was this gem:
At the time of Judge Sotomayor?s nomination to the Second Circuit, Gerald Walpin, who the New York Times called “a former federal prosecutor who is widely known in New York legal circles as a staunch conservative,” described Judge Sotomayor as “exactly what conservatives want: a nonactivist judge who does not apply her own views but is bound by the law.” GOP, Its Eyes on High Court, Blocks a Judge, New York Times (Jun. 13, 1998).
Beautiful. The Obama folks used Walpin's cred as a 'staunch conservative' to prop up their court pick but suddenly Obama has 'lost confidence' in the same guy, perhaps because of the staunch part. Whether this negates his previous opinion on the judge remains unclear. Meanwhile......

Checking the White House press briefing for any intrepid questions, I used Firefox's indispensable control-F function to search for "Walpin"...

Got the same red light with "KJ" and "Americorp". Maybe someone will ask on Monday.

MORE 6/14/09

It's hard to get a read on this story. Walpin, by some accounts, seems like he could be an overzealous right winger picking on KJ's efforts to improve life for inner-city folks in Sacramento. He (KJ) has remarked that government grants are too complicated to strictly follow, which doesn't sound entirely implausible (although somewhat ironic, since most liberal-Dems think the government is society's salvation).

Yet on the other hand, Obama has been forceful in saying he wants tight controls on government spending and is trying to cut his ballooned deficit in half by 2012 while advocating sunshine in government to a level never seen. On the surface this smells like him trying to get rid of a hardass IG going by the book so he can get on with the bidness of funneling money to a top supporter.

Something else that doesn't make sense is the settlement. The US Attorney's Eastern District Office is blasting this guy for talking to the media about St HOPE, yet they turn around and penalize KJ and the organization to the tune of nearly a half mil. Why doesn't that exonerate Walpin? Sounds like he was right. Of course, the settlement opened some doors Walpin had closed, to wit:
In settling the case, the government agreed to lift its suspension of any future grants to the academy and Johnson agreed to immediately repay $73,000 in past grants. The academy was given 10 years to repay the remaining $350,000.

Brown said at the time of the settlement that prosecutors determined there was no fraud, but rather a culture of "sloppiness" in St. HOPE's record-keeping.

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.
A "culture of sloppiness", eh? Well, isn't that what the IG's are there to correct? It's hardly "meritless" if St. HOPE had to fork over all that dough. There may be more here but it's beginning to sound like Walpin's main crime was downing a tree in front of the gravy train.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is very suspicious on the part of the Administration.

If Walpin was "right wing" it's very odd that the Obama Administration cited him, no less, in support of Sonia Sotomayor's supreme court nomination in the "talking points" it issued in support of the nomination. He was a booster of Sotomayor's nomination to the Second Circuit.

The Administration viewed Walpin as credible and respected as long as he served its purposes, then fired him when he began asking inconvenient questions about an Obama's donor's wrongdoing and mishandling of funds.