Under Flood of Criticism, Looking to Plug a Leak

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The churn continues at the World Bank. General Counsel Ana Palacio, who's investigating how bank President Paul Wolfowitz's girlfriend, Shaha Riza, got whopping raises as she was being detailed to the State Department, took time out late Monday to announce that she is also launching a leak investigation.

The bank has hired law firm Williams & Connolly -- Hey! They're our lawyers! -- to investigate a leak of "confidential bank documents," regarding China in one case and sharp bank board criticisms of Wolfowitz and his team's initiatives in another flap reported by Richard Behar of FoxNews.com. Those leaks, which occurred in January and late March, are unrelated to Raisegate.

"These disclosures of confidential internal communications violated Bank policy," Palacio said an e-mail posted on the bank's internal site. "The Bank is taking these violations very seriously." Palacio said the board and Wolfowitz -- who has made "transparency" by governments receiving bank loans a priority -- "ask that everyone give these [lawyers] their full cooperation."

Speaking of cooperation, Wolfowitz, in another internal e-mail to the staff, says it is his "intention to cooperate fully" with the bank's investigation into the raises given to Riza, who is now at the Foundation for the Future.

"I accept full responsibility for the actions taken in this case," he wrote on Monday. On "the advice of the bank's ethics committee," he explained, he "work[ed] out an agreement that balanced the interests of the institution" and Riza's interests "in an exceptional and unprecedented situation."

The bank's staff association last week said that Riza, who left the bank several months after Wolfowitz arrived in the spring of 2005, had received $61,000 in raises since she left, which they said was far out of line with bank rules. Although she's on detail, the bank pays her $193,590 net salary.

Yesterday, bank staffers were stunned to see on their internal e-mail "kiosk" a blogger reporting that Wolfowitz's two aides, Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, earn net salaries of about $250,000 and $240,000, respectively.

"What remains of the utmost importance to me," Wolfowitz wrote in his e-mail, "is the protection of the interests of this institution as a whole, and our need to remain focused on our agenda of helping the world's poor."

CEO to the Rescue

Speaking of salaries, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally may be worth every penny of that heart-stopping $28 million he made in his first four months last year as head of the company.

Turn outs he saved President Bush-- and apparently Vice President Cheney-- from blowing themselves up at the White House on March 26.

Ford, which lost $12.7 billion last year, wanted to show off its new hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid, Mulally told reporters last week at the New York auto show. So the company decided to give Bush a demonstration during a dog-and-pony at the White House.

Ford had an electrical outlet installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. But as Mulally followed Bush out for the demo, he saw that someone had left the cord lying at the back of the car, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh, my goodness!' " recounted Mulally, according to the Detroit News. "So I started walking faster, and the president walked faster, and he got to the cord before I did.

"I violated all the protocols. I touched the president. I grabbed his arm, and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen.

"This is all off the record, right?"


McCain's Magic Carpet Ride

Sen. John McCain's famous stroll through the Shorja market in Baghdad last week may have had something to do with his ongoing slump in the polls. And the fact that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did a much better job bargaining for rugs couldn't have helped.

Graham boasted that he had gotten "five rugs for five bucks." (A few more soldiers hanging around with M-16s and the vendor surely would have gone down to a dollar. ) McCain (R-Ariz.), with an Army interpreter, "haggled with the merchants himself," Gen. David Petraeus told PBS's Jim Lehrer. "Actually, he helped the Iraqi economy quite a bit."

No kidding. McCain, on a video aired on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday, says: "Give me three of them," and the merchant says $10. The military interpreter duly rolls up the rugs for him. He bought a larger rug for $60.

The voters are clearly rejecting a guy who pays retail.

Schumer's Rapid Response

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), legendary for his quick-draw press releases on important issues, may have succeeded yesterday in topping his stunning performance of Friday, when it appeared he issued a statement on former Justice Department aide Monica"Fifth Amendment" Goodling's resignation just as the news hit the wires -- maybe even before.

In yesterday's installment, New York's senior senator weighs in on the House's decision -- not the Senate's -- to issue a subpoena for Justice Department documents.

"Today, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) released the following statement on the . . . House subpoenas for Justice Department documents: With the Attorney General's hearing a week away, we still don't have all the documents we need to get to the truth. We can't have another hearing where the witness says 'I don't know' 122 times. If we don't have all the documents before April 17th, it's possible the committee might have to bring the Attorney General back a second time."

How's that go -- what's the most dangerous place in Washington? Between Schumer and a TV camera?

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