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Friday, June 19, 2009

Americorp Scandal Continues to Unfold

The Chicago Tribune has a report that indicates that the firing of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General at Americorp may be part of a growing pattern for the White House.

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.

The first dismissal occurred last week, when the White House terminated Gerald Walpin, inspector general of the service agency AmeriCorps. Walpin claims his dismissal was unjust, the result of political interference.That controversy deepened with Grassley's complaint Wednesday that the White House wasn't answering questions posed by his staff.

So, here's a summary. The Inspector General for Americorp has been fired under what can only be described as dubious circumstances. The IG over the stimulus appears to be hamstrung by Treasury. Finally, the IG for the International Trade Commission, Judith Gwynne, has not had her contract renewed.

Meanwhile, most of th media has ignored this story. The president has had a few columnists rush to his defense. The M.O. appears to be largely the same. Obama's defenders will claim that this "scandal" is nothing more than right wingers looking for anything to pin on the president.

In Walpin’s firing, conservatives think they’ve found their next big scandal, one on a par with the Clinton travel office firings. He was abruptly dismissed last week from the Corporation of National Service for what the Obama administration claims was incompetence.

But Walpin, a Bush appointee, alleges he was axed for doing his job — in particular, probing a nonprofit run by a big Obama backer. The conspiracy-mongering has been in full swing, with Walpin even scoring an appearance with Glenn Beck. Senator Chuck Grassley and even Dem Claire McCaskill are turning their attention to the case.

Joe Conason takes largely the same tone.

To Barack Obama's most excitable adversaries, the firing of the Americorps inspector general that the president ordered last week is an incipient scandal, as loud and thrilling as Whitewater once was. Their fond memories of that ancient controversy (and its many sequels) were revived by the sudden dismissal of Gerald Walpin, a Bush administration appointee who has depicted himself as the victim of a political conspiracy. Insinuations and smears abound already -- including an attempt by the usual suspects to drag the first lady into the mud, Hillary-style, on the basis of anonymous allegations.

The latest accusations of White House impropriety are indeed reminiscent of the Clinton wars. But before conservatives spin themselves into a grand mal frenzy, they ought to understand that the strongest parallels between "Walpingate" and Whitewater are the palpable flimsiness of the charges and the questionable motives of the chief accuser. Unless there is much more to this story than what responsible journalists have found so far, the buzzing chatter on the right will soon subside into a disappointed murmur.

Walpin, for his part, has taken a liking to the media attention and is now demanding a full investigation. (according to an interview with a staffer of the same Greg Sargeant)

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa has weighed in and he isn't satisfied with the White House' explanation so far into Walpin's firing.

Republicans aren't satisfied with President Obama's explanation that he fired a controversial inspector general because he was "confused," "disoriented" and generally uncooperative.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a statement Thursday calling for a "fuller and more complete explanation" as well as more evidence of the "reasons and process" that led to the firing of Gerald Walpin, former inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

"We see nothing that supports the administration's 'crazy old man' theory," said Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

It will take some sort of smoking gun email that proves this firing was political to turn this into an intense front page scandal. That said, Walpin and the Republicans have done a good job of maintaining this story. It may not ever reach the front pages, but it will continue to be reported on. As it unfolds, things only look more and more corrupt for the White House.

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