A congressional GOP inquiry into the firing of the inspector general for AmeriCorps has been garnering headlines mostly for revealing details of allegations of sexual misconduct by Sacramento Mayor and Obama ally Kevin Johnson. But on the key question of whether the IG, Gerald Walpin, was fired for improper political reasons, the report brings little new to the table.
Prepared by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the report asserts that the White House’s “failure to use a transparent process to effectuate Walpin’s removal deprived the President of an opportunity to explain his action in an appropriate way.”But in a statement given to TPMmuckraker, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt fired back that Issa and Grassley hadn’t shown any kind of substantive wrongdoing. “There is nothing new in today’s report, which ignores the multiple bases for Mr. Walpin’s removal and doesn’t provide a shred of evidence that suggests he was removed for any reason other than performance issues,” he said.
Let’s take a moment to review the state of thee Walpin case. The Obama Administration fired Walpin in June, citing, among other things, a May AmeriCorps board meeting in which Walpin was “confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve.” A unanimous vote of the bipartisan board originally referred concerns about Walpin to the White House, board members have told TPMmuckraker.
Walpin filed suit to get his job back, alleging political interference, and maintaining he was canned because of his persistence in going after Johnson, who he accused of, among other things, misusing AmeriCorps funds at a Sacramento charter school. Several Republicans have taken up Walpin’s cause, and he is now getting PR help from the same firm that represented the Swift Boaters in 2004.
Perhaps the most substantive charge against the administration in the new report is that the investigation into Walpin by White House attorney Norm Eisen was cursory, and that Congress was not notified 30 days in advance of the firing, which, according to the report, is required by law. But Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who was initially critical of the White House on this point, has said its explanation of the firing puts it in compliance of the law.
The report also charges that the White House’s handling of the episode “is likely to have a chilling effect on the IG community, which must now operate more cautiously in light of the Administration’s swift response to criticisms of agency leadership and allies of the President.”
Here is the full report: