In Chicago politics, if someone starts investigating you, your cronies, or your dubiously legal activities, you basically have three options:
1. Come clean, beg for mercy, and agree to wear a wire to meetings with your partners in crime.
2. Send some goons to pay a visit to the investigator and try to persuade him that it is in the best interest of his continuing good health that he investigate someone else.
3. Get the investigator fired. (Preferable to #2 because goons are a big expense and not always feasible or available.)
In the case of nosy, independent-minded Inspector Generals, the Obama administration has eschewed the Goon Option for simply canning IG’s who displease them for peeking into the dark corners of the administration to sniff out corruption.
The tale of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin has been instructive. Already a thorn in the administration’s side for barring Obama ally Sacramento Mayor Dennis Johnson from receiving any more AmeriCorps grants last year because hizonner insisted on using the monies for personal and political activities, Walpin really raised the hackles of Obama’s politicos when he refused to reinstate the mayor’s grant privileges so he would be eligible to dip into the stim fund cookie jar.
Getting in the way of a Chicago politician seeking to reward a friend is crazy, according to the White House. Or, at least, it shows that the IG who isn’t playing the game must be suffering from some kind of dementia as the Obama crew crudely smeared Walpin by saying that his firing was an “emergency” because he was so “confused” and “disoriented” that it questioned his “capacity to serve.”
Yes, that sort of thing happens in Chicago too although most of the time, it’s done with a little more subtly. Nothing so crude as a press release from the Mayor’s office accusing a high ranking bureaucrat of losing his mind. More likely, a call to a friendly reporter accusing him of being a drunk or having an affair suffices in the Windy City.
The effect is the same. Rather than giving legitimate reasons for firing a watchdog - not that there are any in this case - the White House made up some crap about Walpin being too old and feeble to do the job. No doubt, “witnesses” will turn up in the press shortly to confirm Dr. Rahmbo’s diagnosis of mental incapacity.
“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome IG?” Obama might have asked. Presidents do things for political purposes all the time and firing one IG for being a squeaky wheel is really nothing much to get too worked up about.
But what if he has fired two IG’s - in two weeks - and potentially de-gonaded a third?
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.”
A White House spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to the Treasury Department. Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said late Wednesday that the agency would read Grassley’s letter and respond to the senator before any public comment.
Separately this week, the International Trade Commission told its acting inspector general, who is not subject to White House authority, that her contract would not be renewed.
Grassley had become concerned about her independence because of a report earlier in the year that an agency employee forcibly took documents from the acting inspector general.
“It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job,” Grassley wrote on Tuesday.
Less than three hours after the letter was e-mailed to the agency, the acting IG, Judith Gwynne, was told that her contract, which expires in early July, would not be renewed.
I know what you’re thinking, you Obamabots out there. “You got nuttin’. Where’s da proof? Nuttin’ happened here dat’s important. It’s a dis…a dist…it idn’t important, dat’s all.”
Perfect Chicago Way response. Better yet, why not include the defense of the year; “Well, Bush, he done it too!”
Got me there, pal. In 8 years, I’m sure Bush did indeed probably fire an IG or two. Can’t find any cites by googling but some intrepid lefty out there - my bet is on Steve Benen or perhaps Eric Boehlert - showing Bush doing the dirty deed will arise in the blogosphere by the end of the day.
And if he did, then what? Many on the left no doubt criticized Bush - quite rightly - at the time but are now defending Obama for doing the same thing? I guess because Bush wasn’t from Chicago, he just didn’t have the touch with these political executions. No style, no flair, no imagination in burying a hatchet in an IG’s head by smearing him as being senile.
It is the Barosfsky case that is the most intriguing. What is he on to? The response to Grassley’s letter was a polite way of saying “keep your nose out of our business.” What is that business? The FBI (and Barosfsky himself) believe there is massive fraud in the TARP program with possible kickbacks made to Congressmen. The IG’s office has already opened 20 investigations into such cases - probably about 19 more than the White House wanted. By playing a slow down game with the IG, Treasury is hoping their Democratic allies in Congress will rescue them by refusing to investigate. Grassley will try gamely but without the resources of a committee staff, he will be hard pressed to come up with anything.
Of course, this probably won’t deter Barosfsky. More likely, the White House is building a case to fire him as well - probably for “not following procedures” or some such transparent lie. With the press still on his side, why should they care what the reason is when the media and the Obamabots will accept anything they say at face value?
The Walpin story has already led to a criminal investigation being undertaken by the FBI for obstruction of justice in the Sacramento case. Proof enough that Chicago Way politics has migrated east and infected the highest levels of the American government.
Why couldn’t we have exported something else like Deep Dish Pizza or the Cubs?