It seems to be hiding a lot of things in a lot of places.
In what must be the most under-reported story of the past year, some two thirds of the inspectors general in the government think the administration is stonewalling their lawful efforts to oversee government activities.
Three of them testified Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee, newly chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Many others were in the room.
In an August 2014 letter to Congress, 47 Inspectors General from across the administration – including major agencies like the Department of Commerce, the Department of HUD, the Department of Labor, and NASA -supported specific complaints by their fellow IGs in the Peace Corps, EPA and DOJ about foot dragging and lawyer-driven end-runs, and suggested the practice is pervasive.
We have learned that the Inspectors General for the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (in his role as Inspector General for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board) and the Department of Justice have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas. In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act. These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.
the issues facing the DOJ OIG, the EPA OIG, and the Peace Corps OIG are not unique. Other Inspectors General have, from time to time, faced similar obstacles to their work, whether on a claim that some other law or principle trumped the clear mandate of the IG Act or by the agency’s imposition of unnecessarily burdensome administrative conditions on access. Even when we are ultimately able to resolve these issues with senior agency leadership, the process is often lengthy, delays our work, and diverts time and attention from substantive oversight activities. This plainly is not what Congress intended when it passed the IG Act.
Can anyone imagine if the Bush administration were accused of such stonewalling, what a firestorm there would be?
Here is panel member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) discussing the problem last night with Greta Van Sustern.
“I think in some instances, they are hiding things” said Gowdy, who said agencies that don’t cooperate with their IGs should have their budgets cut.
Wake up everyone! It’s time for the Obama chicken dance!
In an uncomfortable turn of events, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, a close Obama friend, rejected a charge by Chicagoan Eric Whitaker, a close Obama friend, that a federal corruption case involving former Whitaker associates was tinged by racism.
“Almost everybody who’s been indicted or scrutinized has been African American,” Whitaker said last week, suggesting that the U.S. prosecutor, who technically works for Holder, was conducting a “selective” investigation.
“I have no evidence that there’s a basis to that claim,” Holder said. “I am familiar with the prosecutors who brought those cases, and I’m pretty confident that the bringing of those cases, the investigation of those cases, was done on a non-race based basis.”
The charge got Whitaker out of testifying as prosecutors backed away from forcing him to talk once he played the race card.
Thought this was pretty funny and that you might want to see. They seem to have gotten some better writers over at SNL.
Longtime Obama friend Eric Whitaker is said by prosecutors to be stonewalling an investigation into a Chicago corruption case and is in danger of being labeled a “hostile witness,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Whitaker served as director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2003 until 2007. He has not been charged with wrongdoing, but taxpayer money appears to have been finding its way into the wrong hands from within programs he oversaw there at an alarming rate.
Obama, who has hung out with Whitaker since the two were grad students at Harvard, worked his connections a decade ago to get Whitaker his job at the Department of Health, according to an earlier Sun-Times article. Obama provided his former associate Tony Rezko with “glowing recommendation” for Whitaker that was apparently passed on to Rod Blagojevich, then the Democratic governor of Illinois. Rezko, a Blagojevich contributor, was at the time helping the governor find people to run state agencies.
Both Rezko and Blagojevich were eventually convicted on corruption charges in other matters.
When Whitaker left the Department of Health, he landed at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where one of his colleagues was none other than Michelle Obama.
From the newest Sun-Times piece:
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, has refused to answer federal prosecutors’ questions about whether he had a “sexual relationship” with a former aide who pleaded guilty to stealing $400,000 in taxpayers’ money in a scheme that began when Whitaker was her boss at the Illinois Department of Public Health, court records show.
Prosecutors announced the bribery and theft charges against Quinshaunta R. Golden, who’d been Whitaker’s chief of staff at the state agency, on Aug. 7, 2013. The following day, Whitaker told reporters he was “fully cooperating” in the federal investigation.
In fact, prosecutors say, Whitaker already had stopped cooperating by then, has refused to speak with investigators ever since and now faces the prospect of being called as a “hostile witness” in a related case against two other defendants charged with defrauding taxpayers, according to a court transcript obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 49-year-old Chicago physician had an agreement “to provide complete and truthful information to the government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass told U.S. District Judge Richard Mills in Springfield last month.
But, “following the execution of that agreement,” Whitaker “refused to answer certain questions about his relationship with Ms. Golden,” Bass told the judge.
The prosecutor said Whitaker “then represented to the media that he was fully cooperating with the government” even though he “has refused to meet with the government pursuant to that agreement, and, just recently, through his counsel, advised the government that he was expressly refusing to meet with the government.”
According to the Sun-Times, yet another Whitaker aide at the time, Roxanne Jackson, has been implicated in a scheme to defraud taxpayers:
Whitaker’s actions surfaced during an Oct. 1 pretrial hearing in the case of Chicago businessman Leon Dingle Jr., who’s now on trial in Springfield for conspiracy, mail fraud and money-laundering. Dingle is accused of using his relationships with Golden; another former Whitaker aide at the Department of Public Health, Roxanne B. Jackson; and others to siphon off more than $3 million in taxpayers’ money for his own use, spending it on things including luxury cars and vacation homes.
A spokesman for Whitaker claims he has been cooperating:
Asked about the case, Marj Halperin, a spokeswoman for Whitaker, said Thursday: “Dr. Whitaker is not a party to the case, but he has been cooperative, and he’s been told he could potentially be called as a witness. Because of this potential of serving as a witness, it would be inappropriate to share any further details through the media.”
As the Sun-Times notes, Obama has not stepped back from Whitaker amid the probes of his former aides and the apparent stonewalling. Obama was hanging out with Whitaker as recently as August, when they golfed together on Martha’s Vineyard.
Vice President Biden, Jill Biden, and 11 family members had a grand vacation this summer at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. They spent four nights there in August, presumably doing what you do at national parks – hiking, fishing, canoeing, bothering wildlife, and taking in the marvelous views.
And until a reporter inquired about the trip, they hadn’t paid for it.
Time’s Zeke Miller exposed Biden’s sweet deal. Are any other reporters going to investigate this?
Vice President Joe Biden, his wife and 11 other family members spent four nights on vacation this August at a lakeside log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park.
The four-bedroom Brinkerhoff Lodge, where they stayed, is owned and operated by the National Park Service. Under a policy adopted in 1992, after controversy over VIPs using the cabin for vacations, the National Park Service banned purely recreational activities by federal employees at the property, restricting its use to “official purposes.” But in recent years, the park service has interpreted that same rule so broadly as to again allow senior officials to take cheap vacations in Grand Teton with friends and family.
While visiting the park, Biden held no events, kept no public schedule, and his staff initially declined to answer a reporter’s question about where he spent the night. Last week, after TIME uncovered documents confirming his stay at the lodge, Biden’s office said the Vice President planned to personally reimburse the park $1,200 for “renting the Brinkerhoff” for his family’s vacation.
Under park service rules, the lodge is maintained for use by federal employees for “training and official conferences” and for those on “temporary duty in the park.” In practice, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, who has discretion over whether to demand payment for the lodge, has interpreted those rules to allow extended family vacations if there is an element of official business involved.
A Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, Jackie Skaggs, said last week the Biden family visit met the internal criteria, since the Vice President received an official park briefing and tour while staying at the lodge. “With few, if any, exceptions, officials who stay at the Brinkerhoff are given in-depth briefings and/or issue tours,” she wrote in an email to TIME . . .
A spokesperson for the Vice President, who declined to be named, said Biden’s office was still waiting for an invoice from the park two months after the stay, when TIME made inquiries. “The office understood from the park service that personal use would cost the local per diem rate,” the spokesperson said, referring to the a schedule of overnight hotel costs maintained by the General Services Administration for a single hotel room. Biden’s office said the Vice President will now personally pay $1,200 for the four nights, a figure that includes an extra $10 per night for each additional member of his family.
That cost, which assumes that a four-bedroom lodge is comparable to a single hotel room, is far below market rate for other nearby accommodations, especially during peak summer tourism season.
Bolding is mine.
Here are the questions to be asked by an enterprising reporter, should one feel inspired somehow to investigate the Obama administration, which few seem to be.
1. Did Biden understand that all he had to do was tolerate some “briefing” and go for a tour in order to get for himself a taxpayer-subsidized vacation. Presumably, taxpayers had already paid for his travel aboard Air Force 2.
2. Why did it take him two months to pay? Who waits two months to get a bill from their place of lodging without making some kind of inquiry about why they haven’t been billed? Did Biden ever intend to pay anything?
3. Why didn’t Biden pay the market rate for his stay?
4. Did Biden’s office initially refuse to answer questions because he was hiding something?
The Interior Department has launched an investigation into the use of Brinkerhoff by public officials. Others, including former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, used it as well. It’s not clear if the probe will look at Biden’s activities.
But, as they say in monkey house at the zoo, this really smells. Biden runs around the country bashing rich people. Biden himself is well off, yet he seeks as a vacation destination property where he can take advantage of his position in the government to save some money.
I guarantee Zeke didn’t discover everything in the course of assembling his story. Others should get on the case.
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