The Smearing Of Gerald Walpin

June 19, 2009

The Smearing Of Gerald Walpin


Oversight: If the White House really believes that AmeriCorps’ inspector general was “confused” and “disoriented,” how about open congressional hearings where the American people can see for themselves?

Read More: General Politics

The storm that erupted after the firing with one hour’s notice of Gerald Walpin, the inspector general overseeing AmeriCorps, has not died down.

Pressed for an explanation as to the reasons for the firing and why the law requiring Congress to be given notice and reasons 30 days in advance was not followed, the White House has resorted to old-time Chicago-style political smears.

Confused? Disoriented? Says who?Confused? Disoriented? Says who?

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri summed up general reaction to the news of Walpin’s firing. “The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service,” she said in a statement.

“The legislation, which was passed last year (and which then-Sen. Obama co-sponsored), requires that the president give a reason for the removal. ‘Loss of confidence’ is not a sufficient reason. I’m hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible.”

The White House has done that in the form of a letter to Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The letter from Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president, is a case study in character assassination.

The letter says Walpin’s firing was at the unanimous request of the AmeriCorps board of directors and describes a May 20 board meeting where the 77-year-old Walpin “was confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions and exhibited behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve.”

Compared with whom? West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd?

Apparently Walpin was not confused or disoriented enough to overlook the misuse of $850,000 in AmeriCorps funds by the St. Hope Academy in Sacramento, Calif. The nonprofit education group, led by Sacramento Mayor, former NBA star and Obama contributor Kevin Johnson, had apparently spent the money, according to the Associated Press, “to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car.”

Eisen writes that President Obama decided to fire Walpin after learning that the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, Lawrence Brown, “had filed a complaint about Mr. Walpin’s conduct with the oversight body for inspectors general.”

This is the same Lawrence Brown who, acting on information provided by the confused Mr. Walpin, reached an agreement with Mayor Johnson and the group to repay half of the $850,000 in grant money it received, including $72,836.50 that came out of Johnson’s wallet.

Walpin was probably getting too close to the waste, fraud and abuse that’s been found rampant in the stimulus program. The administration, which has expanded AmeriCorps, no doubt feared a too-strict accounting of where the money was being spent. The AmeriCorps board wants to fire a Bush appointee investigating an Obama contributor misusing AmeriCorps funds. Hmmmm.

“Anybody who’s heard me speaking more than I’m used to speaking on radio and TV in recent days, obviously under great pressure from what happened, would clearly know that I know what I’m saying and what I’m doing and I’m not incoherent,” Walpin told Politico. “There’s nothing confusing about malfeasance, and there’s nothing confusing about what appears to be the fact that they terminated me because the White House wanted to protect people who proclaim they are friends of the White House.”

When President Bush fired a handful of U.S. attorneys, as he had every right to do, Congress wanted his head and that of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on a platter. So why the silence in Congress and the media about Walpin?

The House wants to investigate former Cub Sammy Sosa’s statements before Congress about not using steroids. This is more important.


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