By Al Kamen
Monday, April 30, 2007 10:38 AM
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is thinking there's something mighty peculiar going on in the inspector general's shop at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Seems Bill Roderick, the acting IG, launched a plan back in June to cut 60 of his 360 employees -- especially auditors, criminal investigators and the like -- via buyouts or resignations.
But there doesn't seem to have been much "fact finding or analysis to ensure" the office's functions would not be impaired by this, Dingell said in an April 23 letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.
Dingell said he and some of his subcommittee chairs were concerned by Roderick's "adventuresome and sweeping buyout approach" and by his comments that offices will be closed, when Congress is actually unlikely to cut the budget. Twelve people have already accepted the buyout, we're told.
"Is it correct," Dingell asked in the letter, "that in the same approximate time frame (December 2006) that you were considering Mr. Roderick's employee buyout package, Mr. Roderick was given a bonus that exceeded $15,000?"
It turns out that, despite all these awful budget woes, Roderick did indeed get a $15,000-plus bonus, something never given to Nikki Tinsley when she ran the place from 1998 to last year.
That may have had something to do with Tinsley's penchant for writing critical reports about the EPA's efforts after the World Trade Center collapse, about moves to weaken power-plant emissions regulations, and about the $170 million funding shortfall for money to clean up the most toxic Superfund sites.
Could be Tinsley, known as simply too independent and aggressive, probably set a bad example for staff, leaving no alternative but to make cuts.
In any event, Dingell is expecting some answers today. Stay tuned.Schmoozing, Valenti-Style
The death last week of Jack Valenti, the Lyndon B. Johnson aide and longtime motion picture industry lobbyist, recalls a great Hollywood-Washington connection in the 1970s centered on ladies man Henry A. Kissinger.
An Oct. 15, 1971, article by then-Washington Post gossip columnist Maxine Cheshire about Kissinger, then 48, talked of his "girl problems" with Judy Brown, a 27-year-old movie starlet "best known for her role in an X-rated Danish sex film." Brown had made public their relationship and Kissinger called her "a publicity maniac," and said that "when these ladies start using me for publicity, that is when I decide to terminate the relationship."
The article featured a photo of Kissinger between a photo of Brown and another of a Playboy regular nicknamed "the Bosom."
First thing the next morning, there's Valenti, calling Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Richard M. Nixon, to commiserate about the article and tell him "what compassion I feel for you." (A secretary listened in and transcribed the calls. The National Security Archive successfully sued to obtain the voluminous transcripts.) "You don't have my naivete to talk to Maxine Cheshire," Kissinger lamented. "I wrote the story for her!"
Then Valenti gets to the real point of his call. "Henry, I know you are going to Peking," he said. (This is just four months before Nixon went to China for the first time.) And Valenti wanted to know "if there was any chance of their being interested in American films."
Kissinger promises: "At a minimum, I will ask Chou" (Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai) how to work the issue. Valenti says he'll send "a little memorandum over" to give Kissinger some background.
Smooth as Suzhou silk.Glassman Named to Board
It's official . . . as expected, President Bush has tapped James K. Glassman, television pundit, American Enterprise Institute scholar, former editor of Roll Call, former Washington Post columnist and author to be chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Cuba broadcasting operation.
Catching up . . . Reuben Jeffery III, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has been nominated to be the long-vacant job of undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs. Folks at State are also said to be working hard to find someone to run the policy planning office. You know, at this point . . .And Good Riddance?
The champagne corks were popping at the Agency for International Development late Friday upon news that administrator Randall Tobias had resigned. President Bush's polls may be low, but he can take solace that Tobias's popularity amongst the rank-and-file was even lower.
Tobias had resigned in yet another incident of inappropriate massaging. There was Bush's quick shoulder massage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July at a summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. In November came news of Colorado minister Ted Haggard's massages with a Denver man. And now Tobias, with an escort service.
A recent American Foreign Service Association poll of 368 AID folks found that only 21 percent thought Tobias had been doing a good job in getting resources for the agency and its workers. One-third rated his efforts as poor and 45 percent described them as fair.
The agency is going through a reorganization that many call a "stealth merger" with the State Department. The survey found 67 percent said overall work conditions were worsening. About 48 percent said morale was "low to poor" and only 12 percent said it was good. One person, perhaps a bit ahead of the curve, thought morale was excellent.
The massage is the message?