Thursday, June 18, 2009

Throwing Inspectors General Under the Bus

I was going to give this to the Baron for the news feed, but Dan Riehl’s report is disturbing enough to have its own post.

What follows below is verbatim but partial. I also didn’t include the links, but you can pick them up at his site.

Not Just Walpin - 3 IG Firings Being Questioned

Another update: A witness to Walpin-gate. The Wash. Times isn’t buying it. It is pretty thin gruel.

(Just a note -- Why are we reading about this in the Chicago Tribune? Perhaps his local paper doesn’t have an Oba-worship problem?) Just a thought.

Update: Moe Lane with a little more background.

This is interesting. I looked around and perhaps I missed it on another blog, but the Chicago Tribune reports that it isn’t just Walpin’s firing over which Senator Grassley wants some answers. He’s worried about a pattern, as no fewer than three IG’s have recently been fired, all while investigating so-called sensitive issues. See Michelle for the latest on Walpin.

The dispute comes as Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is looking into the abrupt firings within the last week of two other inspectors general one of whom was fired by the White House and the other by the chair of the International Trade Commission.

Both inspectors general had investigated sensitive subjects at the time of their firings.

- - - - - - - - -
Grassley is now concerned about whether a pattern is emerging in which the independence of the government’s top watchdogs -- whose jobs were authorized by Congress to look out for waste, fraud and abuse -- is being put at risk.

One of the other IGs is Neil Barofsky, tasked with watching over the financial stimulus spending. The article raises questions as to whether or not the Obama administration is trying to stymie an investigation with dubious claims of attorney-client privilege.

He was appointed with fanfare as the public watchdog over the government’s multi-billion dollar bailout of the nation’s financial system. But now Neil Barofsky is embroiled in a dispute with the Obama administration that delayed one recent inquiry and sparked questions about his ability to freely investigate.

The disagreement stems from a claim by the Treasury Department that Barofsky is not entirely independent of the agency he is assigned to examine - a claim that has prompted a stern letter from a Republican senator warning that agency officials are encroaching on the integrity of an office created to protect taxpayers.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding information about a “dispute over certain Treasury documents” that he said were being “withheld” from Barofsky’s office on a “specious claim of attorney-client privilege.”

The third instance involves an acting IG for the International Trade Commission, Judith Gwynne, who has been told her contract would not be renewed amid allegations that an ITC employee forcibly took documents from her possession. Just three hours after Grassley sent along his letter asking questions, she was told she’d be hitting the road in July when her contract is up. Well, well, well…

The rest is at his site.

This has a tainted smell indeed.

Does anyone know how previous administrations handled the divvying up of Inspectors General jobs? Are they simply sinecures? If so, is the appointee usually given notice or simply dumped by the side of the road?

The IG at the Fed is definitely in need of help. Or change. See her interrogation by Representative Grayson. The Congressman keeps his cool, amazingly, as he deals with a woman who is either sand-poundingly stupid or busy stonewalling. Your guess. He is to be congratulated for not jumping across the desk and attempting to shake the answers out of her.

Anyway, all of a sudden, we have Inspectors General on the menu.

What next?