Readership of The American Spectator includes former AmeriCorp inspector general Gerald Walpin, who was fired last month on orders from President Obama. In a telephone interview today, Walpin said he noticed last week's report that Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) had contacted White House officials in March, publicly vowing that sanctions against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson didn't prevent the city from getting its share of bailout cash.
Questions about what role Matsui may have played in Walpin's dismissal are being asked on Capitol Hill, and the ex-IG himself is curious about the Sacramento congresswoman's intervention, which drew attention after it was highlighted by California blogger Eric Hogue.
On the larger question -- whether political pressure over his investigation of Mayor Johnson's St. HOPE Academy was a factor in the June 10 quit-or-be-fired ultimatum from the White House -- Walpin is certain.
"I have no doubt about that," Walpin said.
Walpin recalled how he was trying to get a nap in a rental car while his wife drove up the New York Thruway to the Second Circuit Judicial Conference when White House lawyer Norm Eisen called his cell phone to deliver the presidential ultimatum.
"That ended my nap," said Walpin. who called the dismissal "totally unexpected."
Walpin explained that his staff of career investigators had "spent a large amount of time digging up facts in Sacramento," and he was startled to discover that the President of the United States had directly ordered him fired.
"I never thought that the president would have interceded," said Walpin, who on July 18 filed a federal lawsuit seeking reinstatement in his job.
The ex-IG also said he was dismayed when Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) announced that the House Oversight Committee would halt its investigation of Walpin's firing, citing his lawsuit at the reason.
"I'm not sure why that should interfere with the congressional obligation to investigate" evidence of political pressure to undermine the independence of watchdogs, Walpin said. "What kind of message is being sent?"
If Walpin's lawsuit has given the Towns Committee an excuse to stop asking questions, others on Capitol Hill are still determined to get to the bottom of this story, sending letters that routinely include an important legal warning:
"No records related to these matters shall be destroyed or otherwise made inaccessible to Congress."
Violation of such a warning can have frightful legal consequences, to say nothing of the political ramifications of what Glenn Reynolds and co-author Peter Morgan once described as The Appearance of Impropriety.