Why Walpin matters
Becky Fenger | June 17, 2009
Inspector General Gerald Walpin was fired on June 10, and it matters to you and me that he was. And to those folks who idolize sports figures like former Phoenix Suns' point guard Kevin Johnson, affectionately known as K.J.
Not only did K.J. dazzle on the basketball court, but he also founded the St. Hope Academy in Sacramento to help disadvantaged kids and funded a similar one here in Phoenix. Johnson is now the mayor of Sacramento, his home town. More importantly, he is a supporter and close friend of another big-time community organizer, President Barack Obama.
Byron York is the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. He writes about the "very strange event" of June 10. First of all, there are officials called inspectors general at all of the federal agencies to investigate allegations of stolen and misspent money, fraud and wrongdoing. Due to the nature of their work, these inspectors can anger their bosses or even the White House. Because of this, York notes, Congress gave them special job protections. A law passed last year, co-sponsored by then Senator Barack Obama, requires that a President who wants to fire an inspector general has to give Congress 30-days notice and has to tell Congress the reason why he is doing it.
Try to follow along here: Gerald Walpin was the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) which distributes monies to the huge AmeriCorps national service program (and is now run by Michelle Obama's former chief of staff), which has a connection to ACORN (which was covered in last week's column). AmeriCorps gave K.J.'s St. Hope Academy $800,000 and then heard that K.J. might be playing fast and loose with the cash. AmeriCorps asked Inspector General Walpin to investigate.
When Walpin finished his work, he got a call on his cell phone from the White House counsel's office telling him he had one hour to either resign or be fired. Walpin is covered by all the protections set up for his position, and refused to resign. He knew if he were forced out, it would have a chilling effect on all inspectors general of the country.
The next day, President Obama told Congress of the firing, but he didn't give a reason, which he is obligated to do. Try this for a reason: Walpin was fired because he found out Kevin Johnson has misused tens of thousands of dollars in federal AmeriCorps grants. An NBA star stooped to using tax money to have his cars washed and errands run for him. Mercy! K.J. must be down to his last few million dollars.
K.J. wants stimulus money for his philanthropic work. But Walpin forbid it after discovering the can of worms. So Obama impugned Walpin, calling him senile in order to help his good buddy K.J. who jokes about shooting baskets with the president. With few exceptions, the press has kept quiet about this outrage. Remember the uproar when George W. Bush fired some attorneys, serving at his discretion? Walpin does not serve at Obama's discretion, and cannot be fired without cause. Gone, he is, but maybe not without a fight.
There's more mischief here. Buried within the $787 billion Stimulus Package was a RAT. That stands for Recovery, Accountability and Transparency board that was supposed to shine light onto the huge spending here. Then the board was sneakily given the mighty power to tell inspectors general to not conduct an investigation when they don't want scrutiny somewhere. Tricky, huh?
Just to end this with a laugh, do you want to know who has oversight over the community services organizations receiving money from AmeriCorps? U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy! That's right. The Edward M. Kennedy "Serve America Act" was just funded with $5.7 billion, tripling the size of AmeriCorps. Sleep well. Teddy Kennedy is watching out for your tax dollars.