Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When it comes to discussing controversial issues, the Obama administration’s idea of dialogue is a curiously one-way affair.

According to an Oct. 26 administration court filing, a lawsuit by fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin should be dismissed without a trial because the White House already has participated in the “political dialogue” with Congress required by the statute governing IG dismissals. It’s odd, then, that the administration continues stonewalling Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, long a champion of independent IGs.

On June 10, the Obama administration fired Mr. Walpin, without explanation, just after he filed two reports alleging White House allies had misused Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) grants. That’s not the way things are supposed to work. The law creating the IGs requires the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice and an explanation before an IG gets fired. In this case, though, the president didn’t explain, escalating the controversy.

Meanwhile, President Obama nominated CNCS Chairman Alan Solomont, a big campaign donor, to be ambassador to Spain. Mr. Grassley, unhappy with the administration’s repeated lack of responsiveness to his requests for documents about the controversy, put a hold on the Solomont nomination. The administration finally budged a little, providing several hundred pages of documents - but redacting or withholding a number of other documents, in part or in whole, without providing legally required explanations for the redactions.

For his part, Mr. Walpin filed suit demanding his job back, and the administration dithered on a response. Finally, in its Oct. 26 motion to dismiss, the administration repeatedly said that the 30-day-notice requirement exists only to promote discussions with Congress and repeatedly claimed that just such a “precise dialogue” already had taken place.

The administration even sabotaged Mr. Grassley’s effort to arrange a meeting with the former CNCS chairman, canceling just hours before the scheduled meeting between the senator and Mr. Solomont.

Hiding documents from Congress without explanation and canceling meetings between senators and administration appointees is not dialogue or transparency; it’s evasiveness. Indeed, throughout this whole controversy, the administration has behaved as if it has something to hide. Mr. Grassley is right to keep the pressure on, and the badly mistreated Mr. Walpin is justified in seeking to air his own complaints in an open court of law.

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