Remember the hue and cry that went up when President Bush fired some U.S. attorneys in 2006? Oh, the left was beside itself about how eeeevil it was that Bush was to fire so many U.S. Attorneys… even though he had the authority to do so. Charges that the firings were made for “political reasons” were thrown about and Congressional Democrats clamored for new laws and the head of Bush’s Attorney General on a pike.
Well, last night, clearly for political reasons, Barack Obama tried to fire AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin. Not only is it for strictly political reasons (Short take: “the AmeriCorps IG accuses prominent Obama supporter of misusing AmeriCorps grant money. Prominent Obama supporter has to pay back more than $400,000 of that grant money. Obama fires AmeriCorps IG.”) but Obama does not have the authority to summarily dismiss an IG as he tried to do last night.
Will the left ring the claxon clang of how illegitimate the president’s actions are this time? Should we hold our breath?
Last night, Obama’s office sent a terse note to IG Walpin stating that he had one hour to resign or he’d be fired. Walpin alerted Congress and asked what he should do because he knew that his position wasn’t solely at the discretion of the president. He knew that he answered to both the president and Congress.
So, what is this Inspector General position, how does it work? To answer that we go to Byron York’s piece in the Washington Examiner.
Inspectors General are part of every federal department. They are given the responsibility of independently investigating allegations of waste, fraud, and corruption in the government, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House. Last year Congress passed the Inspectors General Reform Act, which added new protections for IGs, including a measure requiring the president to give Congress 30 days prior notice before dismissing an IG. The president must also give Congress an explanation of why the action is needed. Then-Sen. Barack Obama was one of the co-sponsors of the Act.
Notice that York reports that Obama is supposed to give a 30 day notice to Congress before an IG is removed? Yet, last night in what should be seen as an entirely arrogant move, Obama tried to fire an IG not with 30 days notice, but one hours notice!
According to York, it has also been pretty much assured that this firing was for political purposes, too.
More information now, from the Associated Press. The White House is going ahead with firing Walpin. The firing apparently stems from Walpin’s investigation of a non-profit group, St. HOPE Academy, run by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California (and a big Obama supporter). “[Walpin] found that Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, had used AmeriCorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car,” the AP reports. In April, the U.S. attorney declined to file any criminal charges in the matter and criticized Walpin’s investigation. But at the same time Johnson and St. HOPE agreed to repay about half of the $850,000 it had received from AmeriCorps.
Bottom line: The AmeriCorps IG accuses prominent Obama supporter of misusing AmeriCorps grant money. Prominent Obama supporter has to pay back more than $400,000 of that grant money. Obama fires AmeriCorps IG.
Here is some more background on the misuse of AmeriCorps funds that York was referring to.
Obama is perpetrating a purely illicit action by trying to fire this IG without following the rules and without consulting with Congress. In fact this is worse than Bush’s firings of the U.S. attorneys in 2006 because in that case, Bush at least had the authority to do so — whether it was a good political move or not. Here, it seems Obama clearly does not have such authority.
I’d say that this is a supremely arrogant move on Obama’s part. Will he be called on it?
(It should also be noted that both Carter and Clinton fired many U.S. attorneys in their day. Clinton fired all of his at one time during his tenure in the White House.)