Under the Obama Administration, inspector generals have been attacked, evaded, threatened, and stripped of the information and authority they need to do their jobs. When inspector generals are robbed of their power, the word “accountability” loses significance. President Obama fears federal watchdogs because they have real power over him and his cronies. Meanwhile, federal inspector generals from more than 10 agencies are pleading with lawmakers to give them access to public records, which, under the 1978 Inspector General Act, they should be privy to.
Again and again, the Obama Administration has downplayed and covered up key investigations into government corruption. Last year, over half of all federal IGs signed a public letter lamenting the Administration’s blocking of their investigations. According to the letter, the White House has placed “serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work” of IGs in the EPA, Peace Corps, and Department of Justice. This stonewalling has endangered their “ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”
Do I need to remind you of Gerald Walpin, an AmeriCorps IG who was fired after exposing sexual misconduct and financial corruption by Obama’s pal and mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson?
Or Fred Weiderhold Jr., IG for Amtrak, who was forced to retire early after discussing the results of an independent report which concluded that the effectiveness and independence of the Amtrak IG’s office is being “substantially impaired” by the agency’s Law Department.
Inspector generals are the public’s best guardians when it comes to the use of their hard-earned tax dollars. And thanks to Obama, they don’t have access to what they need.
Department of Justice IG Michael Horowitz testified earlier this year, exposing the Administration’s “continued refusal by the Department to recognize that Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act authorizes the DOJ OIG to obtain access to all records in the Department’s possession that we need in order to perform our oversight responsibilities.”
For example, not only has the FBI repeatedly failed to produce requested documents, the agency has also severely limited records disclosures. In order to gain access to fair credit, grand jury, and wiretap information, IGs must now (as of July) ask permission from the head of the agency they are investigating.
According to Horowitz, there is still hope in the form of pending “legislation in the Senate, S. 579, and the House, H.R. 2395, [that] would restore IG independence and empower IGs to conduct the kind of rigorous, independent and thorough oversight that taxpayers expect.”