Friends in high places

Remember the huge controversy brewed by congressional Democrats when president George W. Bush’s Justice Department dismissed seven U.S. attorneys on Dec. 7, 2006?

Democrats conveniently ignored the fact their unlikely hero, President Bill Clinton, had demanded the resignations of all 93 U.S. attorneys — including one who had been probing some of the crimes of the Clintons and their Arkansas associates — upon taking office in 1993.

Well, the Obama administration seems to have grown unhappy over AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin’s probe into the misuse of federal funds by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento and a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama.

In the course of his investigation, Inspector General Walpin found Johnson and his "St. HOPE" charity failed to use federal money for the purposes specified in their grant and had also used federally funded AmeriCorps staff for, among other things, "driving (Johnson) to personal appointments, washing his car, and running personal errands."

Mr. Johnson was suspended from receiving or supervising further federal funds last September, during the Sacramento mayoral campaign. On March 21, the Sacramento Bee reported, "The city of Sacramento likely is barred from getting federal money — including tens of millions the city is expecting from the new stimulus package — because Mayor Kevin Johnson is on a list of individuals forbidden from receiving federal funds. …"

The White House tried to fire Mr. Walpin last Wednesday night. That could be a violation of the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice, plus an explanation of cause, before firing an inspector general.

Does President Obama have the right to remove an inspector general? Sure — despite that new law, intended to put limits on that power, which was co-sponsored by, um … U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Was the Walpin firing the right thing to do? Heck, no. Barack Obama is covering up for a prominent supporter caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Such maneuverings should not surprise those familiar with "politics as usual." But they may surprise some who actually believed a silken-voiced Chicago ward heeler when he claimed, last year, that he wanted to go to Washington to bring about some kind of fundamental "change."

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