UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 26, 2009

KEVIN JOHNSON & AMERICORP CONT'D

Byron York, Washington Examiner - One of the mysteries surrounding President Obama's firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin is what prompted the White House, supported by the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, to try to get rid of Walpin so quickly and quietly?. . .

Walpin had certainly displeased the board by his aggressive investigation into the misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California and a prominent supporter of President Obama. Prior to his election as mayor, Johnson ran an educational organization called St. HOPE, which received $850,000 in AmeriCorps money. Walpin discovered that Johnson and St. HOPE had failed to use the federal money for the purposes specified in the 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."

Walpin recommended that Johnson be banned from ever receiving any more federal funds. But after the passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill, amid worries that such a ban on the mayor would keep Sacramento from receiving its share of the stimulus cash, the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service reached an agreement with the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento under which Johnson would repay some of the mis-spent money and also be eligible to receive new federal grants in the future. Walpin strongly objected to the agreement. (Knowing his opposition, the board excluded him from the negotiations.) . . .

As a favorite program of Barack and Michelle Obama, AmeriCorps was enjoying a higher profile than ever before. The Corporation also stood to receive vast amounts of new funding from the $5.7 billion Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which would triple the size of AmeriCorps. And in the midst of that, here was the agency's inspector general saying he might re-open an investigation into an embarrassing episode involving hundreds of thousands of misspent dollars and a politically prominent supporter of the president.

"Right now, when there is such a great emphasis on service, we did not need any press out there on this St. HOPE matter, which was already settled," the board member told me. "We thought he was going to use the press…He "had an issue with the fact that a settlement was reached…and he was doing everything he could to continue to keep the issue at the forefront."

Later in the meeting, members questioned Walpin about his intentions. It was at that point that they say Walpin became confused and disoriented. But whatever Walpin's demeanor, it appears that board members, of both parties, were worried about the possibility of embarrassing new revelations involving a sensational case they thought had been closed.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Mairead said...

I have mixed emotions about this. People who steal public monies should certainly be punished and perhaps forbidden from ever getting more public money...but why pick on a relatively petty ( < $1M) criminal. Because he's (I'm guessing) Black? Could that be the key?

What's certain is that we've seen BILLIONS openly, brazenly stolen by others without the thefts causing so much as a ripple among officialdom. So what's the difference?

June 27, 2009 4:44 AM  
Anonymous robbie said...

Byron York? Uh, no thanks.

June 27, 2009 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Color me skeptical. said...

So you think they (meaning the one guy who was doimng his job) picked on KJ because he's Black? I suspect it has more to do with the "service" aspect of KJ's scam, i.e getting those poor youth to work cheap as a cover for funneling tax dollars to your friends. It's the first axiom of public service; grab the jack while you're still in office. Let's call it NSDLB, no dollar left behind.

June 27, 2009 8:31 PM  
Anonymous fool me once said...

Okay, obviously it should have been NDLB, but I'm busy being incompaible w/ Microsoft. More importantly I'm concerned with the current administration's penchant for these public service schemes which have been presented as pollyanna neverland dreams which always seem to involve "mandatory". It ain't far from obligatory to compulsory and universal and irreversible. It takes an eighteen year-old kid about five minutes after taking the oath to realise how badly he's fucked up. If you gave military recruits five minutes to reconsider there'd be nobody to fight the wars. Real public service would be to live your life peacefully and sustainably and reasonably.

June 27, 2009 8:46 PM  
Anonymous just saying said...

I wasn't born on the moon; I'm aware of racism. I believe MLB lowered the mound six inches because Bob Gibson is Black.NFL outlawed the head slap because Deacon Jones is Black. NBA implemented the zone defense to stop Allen Ivorson because he's Too Black. But I don't think Walpin went After KJ because KJ's Black.

June 27, 2009 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Well, as I asked: what's the difference? Is it just that this one lone IG chose to do his job in the face of the fix, knowing (I'm sure he had to know) he might be sacked, while all the rest wisely (for certain values of wisely) chose to keep their heads down?

Or was his motivation something else?

It doesn't seem like an unimportant question.

June 28, 2009 6:33 AM  

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