Who`s Policing Amtrak Joe Biden`s Rail Boondoggles?
At Philadelphia`s 30th Street
Station on Tuesday, lifelong government rail promoter
Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion
high-speed train initiative and half-joked:
"I`m like the ombudsman for Amtrak."
As with most gaffetastic Biden-isms, the
remark should prompt more heartburn than hilarity. Just
who exactly is looking out for taxpayers when it comes
to federal rail spending?
Vigorous independent oversight of
public infrastructure binges is especially critical
given the nation`s long history of mass transit slush
funds, cost overruns and union-monopolized construction
projects to nowhere. Among the new projects championed
by the Obama administration: a $10 billion New
Jersey-to-New York commuter rail tunnel pushed by Senate
Democrats that state officials won`t pay for but believe
everyone else in the nation should be forced to
subsidize. When Biden talks about
the future," he`s talking about seizing your
wallets for his party`s electoral security.
Alas, the White House hostility
toward vigilant taxpayer watchdogs rivals
Michael Vick`s. And the Obama administration`s
political abuse of the Amtrak inspector general`s
office, still under congressional investigation, is a
recipe for yet more porkulus-style waste.
In June 2009, longtime veteran
inspector general Fred Weiderhold was abruptly
as the government-subsidized rail service faced mounting
complaints about its meddling in financial audits and
probes. He had blown the whistle on overzealous
intrusion by the agency`s Law Department into his
investigations of $1.3 billion in rail stimulus money
and exposed how Amtrak`s legal counsel had usurped the
watchdog`s $5 million portion of federal stimulus
dollars to hamstring his probes. Even more threatening
to the Democratic attorneys` cabal, Weiderhold
discovered that the
federal rail bureaucracy was retaining outside law
firms beyond the independent watchdog`s reach and
obstructing subpoenas issued to an outside financial
In September 2010, GOP Sen. Chuck
Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa released a report
concluding that the Amtrak board removed the agency
inspector general without required prior notice to
Congress and despite the inspector general`s effective
track record of "exposing waste, fraud and abuse at the highest levels within Amtrak."
The Transportation Department`s
inspector general is now conducting its own independent
probe of Weiderhold`s removal. And two weeks ago, Issa
revealed that the new Amtrak IG, Ted Alves, is risking
his own neck by probing into whether Amtrak bureaucrats
on a fishing expedition misused the e-mail system by
searching for communiques between his office and
Congress regarding the Weiderhold scandal.
Grassley is right:
the most important element for making the inspector
general system work. If independence is compromised,
either by an inspector general or by agency leaders,
then taxpayers are left without a watchdog and a major
opportunity for accountability in government is lost.
When the system gets compromised, there need to be
consequences in order to try to prevent it from
Amtrak`s notorious book-cooking,
however, has gone unabated. The agency was reprimanded
during the Bush administration for misleading Congress
about its solvency. But former employees faced no
criminal charges for fudging the agency`s
Compounding matters now, cronyism
runs rampant in the federal rail bureaucracy. Biden`s
lobbyist son, Hunter, sits on the Amtrak board of
directors. Amtrak Vice President Eleanor Acheson is a
close pal of—you guessed it—Joe Biden. She oversees the
very Law Department accused of interfering repeatedly
with the taxpayer advocates in the inspector general`s
office. Acheson hired Biden`s former Senate staffer
Jonathan Meyer as her deputy general counsel. Meyer
called it a
In another such fortuitous
coincidence, one of the top beneficiaries of the new
White House rail bailout is GE Transportation—the
leading manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives.
President Obama recently named GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to
head the new White House jobs council.
With Team Obama`s social engineers
and legal fixers steering the federal gravy train, the
light at the end of the spending tunnel seems grimly
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is the author of
Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists,
Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our
for Peter Brimelow`s review. Click
for Michelle Malkin`s website. Michelle Malkin
is also author of
Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild
and the just-released
Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies.