- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

World Bank probe

Inside the Beltway has learned that the World Bank has retained a law firm to find out who within the agency leaked confidential internal communications about World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and a female employee with whom he was romantically involved and who was later promoted.

“These disclosures of confidential internal communications violated bank policy,” says a memo to employees from the World Bank’s legal department, obtained by this column yesterday. “The bank is taking these violations very seriously. The Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP has been retained to conduct an investigation into the unauthorized disclosures that provided the basis for these … stories.

“Representatives of Williams & Connolly will be seeking to speak with board officials as well as Bank Group staff and senior management in the coming weeks.”

The memo, which was posted on the World Bank’s internal intranet and includes the name and contact information for Williams & Connolly associate Jonathan Kravis, generated nearly 200 employee responses by early afternoon, with one posting recommending a “peaceful lunchtime walkout” by staff.

Because bank rules forbid personal relationships within the chain of command, Shaha Riza, who had been working in the communications division of the world lender, was transferred to the State Department several months after Mr. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary under President Bush, became bank president in June 2005.

The woman’s transfer, accomplished under an agreement worked out by Mr. Wolfowitz, is supposed to last for the duration of his five-year term with the bank.

But trouble started around the time of the transfer when Miss Riza, 52, was not just promoted, but handed a gigantic pay raise — twice as large as bank rules allow — to a reported annual salary of $193,590.

As a result, the bank’s board has now began an in-depth investigation, for which Mr. Wolfowitz has agreed to “cooperate fully.”

In a letter to bank employees, Mr. Wolfowitz writes: “I would like to assure the staff that I have always acted to uphold these rules to the best of my ability, and I will continue to do so. The case of the staff member mentioned prompted me to seek the advice of the Board of Executive Directors upon my arrival at the bank.

“I subsequently acted on the advice of the board’s Ethics Committee to work out an agreement that balanced the interests of the institution and the rights of the staff member in an exceptional and unprecedented situation.”

Skipping rehab

Almost every letter in today’s mailbag is in response to our lengthy column item yesterday about radio host Don Imus uttering a racially derogatory remark about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Bernard Goldberg’s comments regarding the Imus ignorance factor and Brent Budowsky’s comments — that there’s ‘too much hatred, derision, disrespect, smearing, slander, polarization, division and bigotry that has infected American politics and American media’ — are right on,” writes Stan Welli of Aurora, Ill.

“The only surprise in this scandal is that Imus hasn’t checked himself into rehab.”

Meanwhile, Kenneth L. Kosyk of Chappaqua, N.Y., writes “concerning Imus’ comments, and [PBS host] Gwen Ifill’s vocal problems, you missed the obvious connection — he once referred to her on the air as a ‘cleaning lady.’ ”

Finally, Cara Lyons Lege of Frisco, Texas, weighs in: “Imus has been on a slippery slope for some time now. But for the likes of the self-aggrandizing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to push him over the cliff is outrageous.”

Fred for prez

While everybody else is still waiting to hear if former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson will announce his candidacy for president, the Chattanooga Free Press has gone ahead and endorsed the Tennessean.

“The editorial cited his proven experience, wisdom and character,” says the Associated Press, which points out that Mr. Thompson is actually “running third in a few national polls without doing anything more than acknowledging he was thinking about running.”

Fred Dalton Thompson (he’d be the first U.S. president named Fred) was born in Sheffield, Ala., but his father, a used-car dealer, soon moved the family to Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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