Comings, Goings and Grumblings at the World Bank

By Al Kamen
Friday, June 15, 2007

Just when it appeared things had quieted down a bit at the World Bank, a mini-uproar developed this week over word that Robin Cleveland, top aide to outgoing bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, might be thinking of staying put.

The chatter was that Monique Barbut, head of the bank's Global Environment Facility, had mentioned to Cleveland that she might have a job for her, perhaps doing some fundraising.

The job apparently would have meant a two-step demotion in rank as well as a substantial -- perhaps six-figure -- decline in salary, according to the Government Accountability Project, which has been exposing various misdeeds and shortcomings at the bank.

Despite the pay decrease, Cleveland apparently didn't dismiss the notion out of hand.

But after mulling the situation and seeking advice -- even from staunch detractors within the bank, we hear -- Cleveland seems to have concluded that the prospect of taking the job would cause much disquiet at the bank, and she decided not to pursue the matter. She is definitely not going to stay at the bank, we were told yesterday, although she hasn't yet landed new employment.

Meanwhile, Wolfowitz's notion of a farewell swing through Africa to thank his many supporters there never materialized, though we're told he did go to the Bilderberg Conference in Istanbul last week to talk international development and global issues with world leaders. He's leaving the bank at the end of the month.

Cleveland's departure would leave four remaining high-profile members of the Gang of Six -- the top Wolfowitz backers targeted by the anti-Wolfowitz mob. These include general counsel Ana Palacio, who's been banned, we hear, from the boardroom by the bank's board of directors; Juan Jose Daboub, the conservative managing director installed by Wolfowitz who created a huge ruckus last month when he attempted to amend the bank's family-planning policy for women in poor countries with respect to abortion; and Suzanne Folsom, head of the Department of Institutional Integrity -- the ethics office -- who came to the bank before Wolfowitz got there but has been strongly supportive of him.

Then there's Wolfowitz girlfriend Shaha Riza, who was forced to take a leave from her job at the bank when he arrived because officials deemed that her being there would present a conflict of interest. Wolfowitz's decision to give her nice raises and promotions to ease her departure triggered the recent unpleasantness.

She's still on the bank payroll, working at the Foundation for the Future. But as of July 1, there's no conflict of interest that would bar her from returning to the bank. Those who know her are betting she'll come back.

Meanwhile, the new nominee for bank president, Robert Zoellick, formerly the U.S. trade representative, is off to Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa on a "listening tour," rounding up support for his confirmation by the bank board. Unclear how much, if any, of this slate Zoellick will choose to clean.

The Writing's on the Wall . . .

Speaking of Wolfowitz, it is most emphatically not true that all bank staffers were opposed to him. Anyone who thinks they were should simply read the writing on the stalls: specifically, the three stalls in the women's restroom next door to the staff association headquarters and near the elevators going up to his office.

Someone this week scrawled this message in marker on three stall doors: "God Bless Mr. Wolfowitz."

News Alert: Democrats Disapprove of Republican

The Democratic National Committee ripped into President Bush yesterday after he named former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to replace outgoing counselor Dan Bartlett. "With Gillespie Pick, Republicans Again Take Care of Their Friends," the DNC fumed.

"Another crony into the President's inner circle," the DNC said. "If President Bush was looking for yet another loyal foot soldier willing to spin the Bush Administration's clear pattern of putting its partisan interests and special interest agenda ahead of what's best for the American people, then Ed Gillespie is the perfect pick," said outraged DNC press secretary Stacie Paxton.

What? They expected Chuck Schumer?

No Quit in the 'Other' Thompson

There was virtual pandemonium Wednesday afternoon amongst reporters covering the 2008 presidential campaign.

An e-mail to the media at noon announced that Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor, ex-secretary of health and human services, real estate guru and now GOP presidential contender, would have a telephone news conference at 3 p.m.

"Tommy Thompson to Make Major Announcement about the Future of Presidential Campaign," the e-mail tantalized.

What could it be? reporters wondered, searching for some clues in the cryptic announcement. "Governor Thompson will make 5 minutes of remarks and then take questions for 15 minutes."

Hmmm. Five minutes for a "major announcement?" Sounded too brief, perhaps indicating that, after months of registering barely 1 percent -- tied with Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) -- just above * in the latest poll, Thompson was going to call it quits.

Still, you couldn't be sure. Others thought maybe he was going to declare he was changing his name to " Fred," since that Thompson is doing much better in the polls. The anticipation built as the minutes passed.

Then came the moment: Thompson told reporters he had thought about it and . . . decided he was going to stay in the Iowa straw poll in August.

Hold the presses!

Notice

"Pardon Scooter" contest entrants should be advised that, if President Bush decides to commute the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis" Scooter" Libby, rather than pardon him outright, the commutation will, for contest purposes, be considered the same as a pardon.


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