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All Da King's Men

Obama Fires Americorps Watchdog

By Da King Published: June 17, 2009

In 2006, President Bush fired eight U.S. Attorneys. It was within the rights of the executive branch to fire those attorneys, who serve at the pleasure of the President. Bush did not have to give a reason or provide cause to fire them. Following those firings, there have been 2 1/2 years of accusations, scandal, and investigations of the Bush administration. The investigations continue to this day.

Then the great CHANGE occurred, and Barack Obama became President Of The United States. Things would be different now. No longer would people be hired or fired for political reasons.

And then Obama fired Gerald Walpin, the Inspector General Of The Corporation For National And Community Sevice (he was the watchdog over Americorps and other national service organizations). It was Mr. Walpin's job to root out waste, fraud, and abuse, and that's what he did. Among other mishandlings of taxpayer funds he ferreted out, in 2008 Walpin discovered that St. Hope Academy had misused a large share of over $800,000 it had received in taxpayer funds. The CEO of St. Hope Academy was Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and big-time Obama supporter. Johnson and St. Hope were barred from receving further federal funds. So far so good. Things were working as they should. You defraud the taxpayers, you pay the price. Walpin was doing his job.

Then, on April 9, 2009, the Acting U.S. Attorney for California's Eastern District, Lawrence G. Brown, cut Kevin Johnson a deal. Here are some of the details:

Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown announced today that St. HOPE Academy has agreed to pay $423,836.50 to settle allegations that St. HOPE did not appropriately spend AmeriCorps grant awards and education awards in accordance with the terms of grant requirements and did not adequately document its expenditures of grant awards. The amount of the civil settlement represents one-half of the $847,673 in AmeriCorps grant funds received by St. HOPE Academy...The lifting of the suspension against all parties, including Mayor Johnson, removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented from receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brown...St. HOPE will make an initial payment of $73,836.50 by electronic transfer within five business days from today...Kevin Johnson will pay $72,836.50 of the initial payment by St. HOPE, with possible repayment to Johnson by St. HOPE when it is financially able to do so...St. HOPE has entered into a stipulated judgment for $350,000.00, plus five percent annual interest, payable at $35,000 annually for 10 years.

Let's put this into perspective. Kevin Johnson and St. Hope Academy bilked the taxpayers out of over $400,000. Their penalty ? Pay it back, and they get 10 years to do it. That's it. No further punishment, and their right to receive more taxpayer money is restored. Do any readers out there think they'd get a similar deal for defrauding over $400,000 ? No, me neither. It's good to have friends in high places, and Kevin Johnson certainly has them. And if you noticed, Kevin Johnson ends up paying NOTHING out of his pocket. He gets reimbursed for the money he pays back, even though the original misspent Americorps funds included personal services performed for Kevin Johnson. Even worse, St. Hope Academy is a NON-PROFIT organization, so their future funding, the money they will use to PAY BACK the money they defrauded the taxpayers out of, will come from FUTURE TAXPAYER MONEY endowed upon them by Barack Obama (who, btw, increased Americorps funding by $5 billion, because, you know, the American economic situation is SO GOOD right now. That's Obama's idea of fiscal responsibility).

When Gerald Walpin found out about the sweet deal that Kevin Johnson and St. Hope Academy received for their criminal behavior, he objected in a May 13, 2009 letter to Congress that the settlment reeked of impropriety. Walpin urged Congress to act.

It appears Walpin ruffled the wrong feathers, the feathers of power, because Walpin was fired. He received a phone call from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Reform, notifying him that he had one hour to resign or be canned. Walpin, who had not only finished a report on misuse of funds by St. Hope, but who had also just finished a report of misuse of funds by the City University Of New York, Americorps biggest program, told Eisen he thought the timing of his firing was "very interesting." Eisien replied that is was a "pure coincidence." Sure.

Here's the problem. Gerald Walpin didn't serve at the pleasure of the President, as did those U.S. Attorneys who were fired by George W. Bush. According to the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act (that Senator Obama CO-SPONSORED), the President must give Congress 30 days notice and a sufficient cause to fire an Inspector General. Obama had done neither, and was in violation for firing Walpin. Obama's intial explanation was that he lost confidence in Walpin, which, as Walpin himself noted "is a conclusion, not a cause."

Some members of Congress, including Democrat Claire McCaskill, objected. So did members of the conservative media. That prompted a second explanation from President Obama of why Walpin was fired, so Obama would be within the law. Eisen wrote a letter to Congress as follows:

“Mr. Walpin was removed after a review was unanimously requested by the bi-partisan Board of the Corporation ,” Obama ethics counsel Norm Eisen wrote in a letter to senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.), with a copy directed to McCaskill. “The Board’s action was precipitated by a May 20, 2009 Board meeting at which Mr. Walpin was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve.”

They are practically saying the 77-year old Walpin is senile. But if you read Walpin's letter to Congress in May, or his other reports on St. Hope or CUNY, he hardly seems senile. He seems quite clear and precise. He also didn't sound at all senile during a Fox News roundtable discussion on the issue.

And even if Walpin had some kind of medical problem during that May 20th meeting that affected his mental abilities, how EMPATHETIC is it for Obama to fire him over it ? Not at all. It's cold-hearted as hell. How about they recommend that Walpin go see a doctor instead ? Of course, they didn't do that, because they didn't fire Walpin for cause, they just made up a cause. They fired him for political reasons, because Walpin the watchdog was blowing the whistle in places the Obama administration didn't want it to be blown - on Obama's cronies, on Obama's pet projects. That's sure how it looks to me.

Walpin is fighting back. He refused to resign and has described Obama's alleged "cause" for firing him as "outrageous," "smears," and "total lies." Good for him.

How long do you think the investigation into the Walpin firing will be ? 2 1/2 years and counting, like the Bush attorney investigation, or ZIP ? I'm going with zip, because, you know, Obama is a Democrat, and we don't really want to waste our time investigating Democrats these days. That's "non-productive," just like it was when Congress decided there shouldn't be any investigation into Nancy Pelosi's accusation that the CIA lies to Congress all the time. Who cares if the CIA is lying ? Much ado about nothing. It's only our national security at stake. But Bush firing those attorneys, which he had every legal right to do, well, that's BIG. Somehow.

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