Thursday, February 05, 2009
Yet another Obama appointee scandal in the making
On the surface, when then President-elect Obama named former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, it made sense. As a former Presidential Chief of Staff, Panetta knew how the intelligence system worked and how those around the President of the United States have to sift through the information to give the President the best information available. In past administrations, the President's White House Chief of Staff has been as informed on matters of state and intelligence as the President. Panetta also served as a Congressman from California for years and a White House Budget Director.
So, again, on the surface, naming the well seasoned Panetta to the CIA job made sense. However, as two other "big" names Obama first appointed to key positions, (Governor Bill Richardson at Commerce and former Senator Tom Daschle at HHS), have found out, scrunity upon appointment goes beyond one's name and past accomplishments.
Questions are being raised about the nearly $700,000 that Panetta took in last year in consulting a speaking fees. While no one can be faulted for making money for himself and his family, the amount and where some if comes from flies in the face of the President's efforts to end the control of big money and big lobbyists over government.
Among the more interesting amounts Mr. Panetta hauled in last year are payments of $56,000 for two speeches to Merril Lynch and $28,000 for a speech to Wachovia. If you remember, those two financial entities failed and looked for government assistance either directly or for the people who bought them out.
There are also questions about Panetta's ties to a non profit group that donated tens of thousands of dollars to his foundation and California State University and gave him some free plane rides.
More importantly, Panetta took $28,000 last year from the Carlyle Group, a business that either directly, or through businesses it controls, does business with the CIA.
Even if one assumes Panetta is a man who can forget his benefactors in such an office, it does not look good. It is yet another regretful event in the President's vetting system for key appointments. He has lost three already, has this one up in the air, and has an assistant AG appointee who worked for the porn industry. Which, come to think of it, the government is not in the porn business, but it does hire contractors such as Carlyle.
Over the next few days, watch the Panetta appointment develop into another failed nomination. If it does it will be the third big name from the old Clinton days to fail. The President needs to take a lesson from that. The President has filled his staff with people from the Clinton era, but perhaps it is time to find others to serve in key appointments. If Panetta does make it, look for it to a strictly partisan affair. Such will be telling.