A bill sponsored by Democrats in Congress would make several U.S. inspectors general currently appointed by federal agency heads presidential appointees instead, including the inspector general keeping an eye on the Federal Reserve.
The inspectors general, or IGs, are independent investigators charged with rooting out government waste and fraud in their respective federal agencies. Roughly half of the watchdogs are already appointed by the president upon Senate confirmation, while the other half are appointed by agency chiefs.
An editorial published in the Washington Times over the weekend blasted the plan to convert five more IGs to presidential picks:
“Such a move would undermine independent oversight of large parts of the federal bureaucracy,” the editorial stated. “These changes would only serve to further politicize these positions.”
The editorial added, “Now is not a wise time to remove independent review of the government leviathan.”
H.R. 885, known as the Improved Financial and Commodity Markets Oversight and Accountability Act, would make five inspectors general – those overseeing the Federal Reserve, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the National Credit Union Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation – presidential appointees.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., sponsored H.R. 885 earlier this year and was joined by 37 other representatives, most of whom are also Democrats. The bill has passed the House and now awaits its companion legislation, S. 1354, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to be passed through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The five people currently serving as the inspectors general in question fired off a letter last month Connecticut’s Sen. Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate committee considering the bill, arguing the move would “seriously disrupt the continuity of operations and risk undermining our effectiveness.”
The Times reports Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who also sits on the Senate committee and is a long-time ardent supporter of the role of the independent investigators, is backing the concerned IGs and has placed a hold on the legislation.
Obama’s controversial connection to IGs
Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin
Supporters of H.R. 885 have argued that IGs appointed by the president, rather than the agency heads, will enable the IGs to be more independent and capable of investigating the agencies. Furthermore, they’ve argued, there’s no need to fear that presidential appointment will lead to undue politicization, since the watchdogs won’t be investigating the White House.
The Times editorial, however, argues too many people in powerful positions beholden to the president undermines the independent spirit of the IG role:
“As appointees, IGs serve at the will of the president and investigate operations directed by other presidential appointees,” the Times states. “Surely, at a time when the president and Congress are planning massive expansions in government power, some political leverage would be gained by further politicizing these jobs.”
And as WND has reported, President Obama has already come under fire for allegedly canning an IG who crossed him politically.
Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin filed two reports exposing gross misappropriation of federal AmeriCorps funds by former basketball star Kevin Johnson, a prominent Barack Obama supporter, and was shortly thereafter fired by the White House, circumstances Walpin told WND are likely linked and others have called an outright illegal action by the administration.
“I will tell you that [my firing] came only after we had issued those two reports to Congress, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” Walpin said. “I am convinced that I and my office are not guilty of any impropriety. In essence, I was fired for doing my job.”
The Times editorial also picked up on the controversial firing of Walpin and its connection to granting the president even more power over the inspectors general:
“Mr. Obama’s June firing of Corporation for National and Community Service Inspector General Gerald Walpin alone calls the plan into question,” the Times said. “Full investigations of any problems related to ongoing efforts to increase financial-sector regulation and the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the industry must be assured. Keeping the positions away from the assuredly political confirmation process can help ensure that this remains the case.”