From Byron York:
You’ve heard a lot about the astonishing spending in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. But you probably haven’t heard about a provision in the bill that threatens to politicize the way allegations of fraud and corruption are investigated — or not investigated — throughout the federal government.
The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the RAT Board, as it’s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.
In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.” If the inspector general doesn’t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, he’ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.
Anyone care to guess the first investigation — all in the name of “accountability and transparency” of course — that the appropriately-named RAT board will “refrain from conducting”? Roland Burris? The Murtha/PMA earmark scandal? Links between Democrats and Allen Stanford? Control of the Census by the White House? Chris Dodd’s sweetheart mortgage deal? Charlie Rangel’s tax problems? Links between lobbyists from the financial sector and prominent Democrats?
Congress has ultimate power over all Federal agencies via their budgets. If an agency’s inspector general defies the RAT board and conducts an investigation that damages Congressional Democrats, there will be hell to pay. “He who has the gold makes the rules,” indeed.