HHS official pens a caustic resignation letter

Frustrated by a federal government bureaucracy that was “profoundly dysfunctional” and that left him “offended as an American taxpayer,” the director of a Department of Health and Human Services agency detailed his grievances in a pointed resignation letter.

For two years, David Wright ran the Office of Research Integrity, responsible for reviewing any misconduct in research projects. But Wright, in a letter obtained and published by ScienceInsider, said the role was “the very worst job I have ever had” the majority of the time.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Wright describes his inability to obtain approval to spend $35 to convert old cassette tapes to CDs. He tried to fill a vacancy in his office, but an HHS deputy secretary said there was a secret priority list and couldn’t tell him where his open job fell.

Wright asserts in the letter, addressed to Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, that government officials care more about their own advancement than the public good:

“Since I’ve been here I’ve been advised by my superiors that I had ‘to make my bosses look good.’ I’ve been admonished: ‘Dave, you are a visionary leader but what we need here are team players.’ Recently, I was advised that if I wanted to be happy in government service, I had to ‘lower my expectations.’ The one thing no one in OASH [Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health] leadership has said to me in two years is ‘how can we help ORI better serve the research community?’ Not once.”

Wright alleges in the letter that Koh himself described his office as operating in an “intensely political environment.”

No comment so far from OASH, HHS or the White House on Wright’s takedown.

No bundler for Moscow?

Russian troops have invaded Ukraine’s Crimea region. There are reports that Vladimir Putin has plans to move into heavily Russian eastern Ukraine. And there is no ambassador in place in Moscow. Ambassador Michael McFaul left two weeks ago, and there’s no nominee to replace him.

Two weeks is hardly a long time. But McFaul put the administration on notice many months ago that he was heading home. His wife and children returned to California last summer so they could be there for the start of the school year.

McFaul signaled his intentions to Washington around then, we’re told, although he did not formally announce his departure until early February.

So now there’s no one in position there to protest Putin’s moves. And, given the time it takes to push a nominee through the Senate, there won’t be anyone there for a while.

This is most peculiar, given the large number of qualified Obama mega-fundraisers who have not gotten ambassadorships.

All in the family

Speaking of Russia, while one Putin is busy annexing Crimea, another family member — said to be either his nephew or his cousin — has just opened a firm, Putin Consulting Ltd., to “attract foreign investors to Russia,” according to a news release from Russia.

The idea, says Roman Putin in the release, is “to simplify entry into the Russian market and minimize operational and administrative barriers.” (Wonder how he’ll do that.)

The country has had “stable growth” in recent years, he said, “a signal to the international business community that regardless of the political situation, their investment in Russia will be under special protection.” Very special indeed.

Of course, the Russian stock market may not be in the best of shape these days, and sanctions from the European Union and the United States are about to bite hard, but Roman, a well-known entrepreneur, is optimistic that “the period of geopolitical instability will soon be over.”

He’s either privy to some very, very inside information from the family or maybe smoking something Americans can only get legally in Colorado and Washington state.

Iranian envoy’s visa snag

Word from Tehran is that veteran Iranian diplomat Hamid Aboutalebi , formerly that country’s emissary to Italy and Australia and now to the United Nations, can’t seem to get his U.S. visa. He’s apparently been waiting for months, and no one in Tehran is quite sure why there’s a delay. (The Iran News published this item after we blogged it this week.)

The Iranians are, we’re told, wondering how the apparently new spirit of dialogue and openness is being reciprocated if Tehran is not going to be able to get its top official into his office at the United Nations — which is, presumably, a player in the new diplomatic thaw (if any).

A State Department spokesperson would only say: “The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits us from disclosing details of individual visa cases. All visa applications are reviewed individually in accordance with the requirements of U.S. immigration law.”

Hmm. . . . Well, we wouldn’t want anyone to violate U.S. immigration law.

On the confirmation front

Obama campaign mega-bundler and Goldman Sachs partner Bruce Heyman is finally on his way to Ottawa as the U.S. ambassador after the Senate confirmed him on a voice vote Wednesday night — six months after Obama nominated him.

On Thursday, mega-bundler and Washington banker Dwight L. Bush Sr., was confirmed as ambassador to Morocco.

The Senate, getting ready for a week-long vacation, also confirmed: Sarah Bloom Raskin (formerly Maryland’s financial regulation commissioner and before that on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors) to be deputy Treasury secretary; James H. Shelton III (who worked in the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is now assistant deputy secretary in the Education Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement) to be deputy secretary of education; and, showing an exquisite sense of timing, Caroline Diane Krass (now principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel) to be general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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