The second program Walpin challenged is the nonprofit St. HOPE Academy, run by Obama supporter Kevin Johnson, the Democratic mayor of Sacramento and a former NBA basketball star. In a special May 2009 report, Walpin's office blew the whistle on a highly politicized U.S. attorney's office settlement with Johnson and his deputy, Dana Gonzalez. The pair exploited nearly $900,000 in AmeriCorps funding for personal and political gain. Based on Walpin's investigation last year, CNCS suspended their access to federal funds after determining that they were:
-- Using AmeriCorps members to "recruit students for St. HOPE Academy";
-- Using AmeriCorps members for political activities in connection with the "Sacramento board of education election";
-- Assigning grant-funded AmeriCorps members to perform services "personally benefiting … Johnson," such as "driving (him) to personal appointments, washing (his) car and running personal errands"; and
-- Improperly using AmeriCorps "members to perform non-AmeriCorps clerical and other services" that "were outside the scope of the grant and therefore were impermissible" for "the benefit of St. HOPE."
But in the wake of Johnson's mayoral victory and Obama's election in November, the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento rushed to settle with the new mayor so he could avail himself of federal stimulus funds and other government money. It was, Walpin said in his special report last month, "akin to deciding that, while one should not put a fox in a small chicken coop, it is fine to do so in a large chicken coop! The settlement … leaves the unmistakable impression that relief from a suspension can be bought."
Shortly after, the White House announced that it had "lost confidence" in Walpin. With Walpin's removal, the top management positions at CNCS are now open. The decks are clear to install lackeys who will protect the government volunteerism industry and its Democratic cronies. And a chilling effect has undoubtedly taken hold in every other inspector general's office in Washington.
GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is pressing Obama for more details. Tough questions need to be asked of the first lady, who has "taken the lead" in selecting AmeriCorps' managers, according to Youth Today. Her former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, will serve as a "senior adviser" to CNCS beginning next week. What role did they play in Walpin's sacking? And why?
Mrs. Obama's interest is more than passing. She ran the AmeriCorps-funded nonprofit Public Allies in Chicago from 1993-1996 and served on its national board until 2001. Like so many of the AmeriCorps recipients investigated by the inspector general's office over the years, Public Allies was found to have violated basic eligibility and compliance rules. A January 2007 audit reported that the group lacked internal controls verifying that recipients of education grants and living allowances were legal citizens or permanent residents as required by law.
Transparency. Accountability. Fiscal responsibility. In Obama World, these are proving to be nothing more than words. Just words.
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