May 16, 2014
If you were watching closely, you might’ve seen Kevin Johnson, the former NBA guard who’s now mayor of Sacramento, sitting courtside at Staples Center during Game 4 of the Clippers-Thunder series. His arm was around his wife, Michelle Rhee, and the two seemed to preside over the action, conspicuous by design—their very presence in the fancy seats a further rebuke to the man whom Johnson had recently helped to oust from the NBA, Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Johnson and Rhee seem to be everywhere these days. There was a joint appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. There was another at the Kentucky Derby. And of course before either of those was Johnson’s cameo in the Sterling saga. Called in as an unofficial representative of the players, Johnson lobbied NBA commissioner Adam Silver to come down hard on Sterling. After the announcement of Sterling’s lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine, The New York Times‘s Harvey Araton wrote: “[I]t is apparent that the league’s response was shaped as much by the influence of a player turned politician who has no official affiliation with the NBA as it was by Silver’s conviction.”
It was a bitterly funny turn of events for some longtime Johnson observers, who remember when he was the guy making repulsive admissions on tape while speaking with a much younger female with whom he never should’ve been involved. At the very least, they believe Johnson—with an assist from Rhee—earned a lifetime ban from the moral high ground many years ago. “All I can say is the factually supported charges against Johnson certainly bring into question holding him out to be a moral compass,” says New York attorney Gerald Walpin.
From 2007 to 2009, Walpin was inspector general for the Corporation for National Community Service. That’s the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps. On that job, Walpin investigated St. HOPE Academy, a group Johnson founded to run charter schools in his hometown of Sacramento that got lots of AmeriCorps money. In 2008, Walpin issued a referral to the local U.S. Attorney for the “criminal and civil prosecution” of Johnson for “obtaining by law federal funds under a grant,” and the “filing of false and fraudulent claims” in connection with subsidies totaling $845,018.75. The allegations included lots of bogus accounting. People on AmeriCorps’s dime as St. HOPE tutors, according to a joint report on Walpin‘s investigation issued by Congressional Republicans, were being asked to “wash his car [and] run personal errands” for Johnson.
But the seamiest stuff in those files, and there’s a lot of it, comes when investigators take a break from possible fiscal malfeasance to accuse Johnson of physical misdeeds. According to the oversight committee‘s report, Walpin included allegations of “inappropriate sexual conduct” against Johnson in his criminal referral to the U.S. attorney’s office because they could “seriously impact … both the security of young [AmeriCorps] Members placed in the care of grantees and … the ability of AmeriCorps to continue to attract volunteers.” Johnson’s past, as outlined by the committee, also includes alleged hush-money payments to make all this bad news go away. Judging by the non-mention in The New York Times‘s opus, it largely has gone away.
According to the reports, while investigators were in Sacramento looking into the misuse of funds, they “became aware of allegations of inappropriate contact between Johnson and three female St. HOPE students.” Walpin’s office later “uncovered evidence of two other female St. HOPE students reporting Johnson for inappropriate sexual conduct towards them.”
Walpin’s team also was told of various efforts by Johnson and his allies to stonewall the investigations, including one alleged victim who’d said Johnson “offered her $1,000 a month,” ostensibly in exchange for her silence.
No alleged victims’ names were given. However, Walpin‘s referral to the U.S. Attorney does name two St. HOPE staffers who left their jobs to protest the school’s handling of the sexual misconduct allegations. St. HOPE teacher Erik Jones was said to have gone to school officials when a girl told him Johnson had approached her on campus and “started massaging her shoulders and then reached over and touched her breasts.” The report says Kevin Hiestand, who identified himself only as counsel for St. HOPE, contacted Jones, and advised Jones that he had also spoken with the accuser and that the teacher’s description didn’t jibe with her account. Jones later found out that Kevin Hiestand, along with his father Fred Hiestand, also served as Johnson’s personal attorneys. Jones quit the school in protest, and in his resignation letter wrote, “St. HOPE sought to intimidate the student through an illegal interrogation and even had the audacity to ask me to change my story.” When Johnson began his run for mayor of Sacramento in 2008, Jones reportedly put up a banner in his front yard: “No Perverts for Mayor.”
According to Walpin’s report, Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez was the other St. HOPE staffer to leave the school in disgust after Johnson went unpunished. Wong-Hernandez reported allegations of sexual misconduct against Johnson to St. HOPE administrators, and got a visit from board member Michelle Rhee. (Rhee would later serve as the D.C. public schools czar and for a time was viewed as a savior of a broken education system by everybody except those who had ever actually dealt with her. She told Marie Claire magazine that Johnson didn’t ask her out until after she’d quit the board and taken the D.C. job.) Wong-Hernandez later learned that one of the alleged victims she’d mentioned to Rhee had been contacted by Kevin Hiestand.
Reached at her current job with the appropriations committee of the California State Senate, Wong-Hernandez confirms that she did in fact leave St. HOPE in protest. She, too, is surprised to see Johnson tossing his two cents into the Sterling saga. “I have been avoiding that story because of [Johnson’s involvement],” Wong-Hernandez says.
Rhee also got a personal meeting with Walpin, in which she requested that the IG call the dogs off Johnson. “She tried to talk me out of proceeding,” Walpin says. “I took it as simply a non-substantive attempt to help a friend.”
Walpin says Rhee’s request had no impact. Yet the feds’ look-see into Johnson’s operation was ultimately overwhelmed in 2009 by a partisan brouhaha between Congressional Republicans and the then-fledgling Obama administration: Walpin was a George W. Bush appointee and is a member of the conservative Federalist Society; Johnson was a rising Democrat who’d proclaimed on the Colbert Report that he was so tight with the newly elected president that his nickname was “Little Barack.” Johnson was never formally charged with any crimes relating to Walpin’s investigation. He was, however, suspended from receiving U.S. government grants, which caused problems beyond St. HOPE since he was mayor of Sacramento. To be removed from the no-grant list, Johnson and his organization agreed to repay hundreds of thousands of misused federal dollars.
Walpin says he made enemies in the new administration, and ultimately lost the IG job, because he said at the time that the settlement offers to Johnson were too lenient. The Congressional report on the IG’s investigation, issued by GOP hardliners Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), blasts the Justice Department for making that deal, and in doing so touched on an older, even more sordid chapter from Johnson’s past. The Issa/Grassley report asserts that the settlement with the St. HOPE founder “ignored Kevin Johnson’s willingness to personally pay to resolve civil matters.”
“In 1997,” the report states, “Johnson agreed to pay $230,000 to resolve claims brought by a Phoenix teenager who alleged Johnson molested her.”
The story of that payment, which goes otherwise unexplained in the Issa/Grassley report, is described at length in an amazing Phoenix New Times story about a series of alleged molestations committed by Johnson in 1995. The accuser, according to this story, initially met Johnson when she was 15, while both were filming a gun-violence public service commercial starring the Suns guard. That encounter led to a summerlong courtship; the girl’s mother told police Johnson would call almost daily, and the New Times article says he showered her with presents “including bookstore gift certificates, a flute, a Swiss Army knife with his jersey number, ’7,’ engraved on it … [and] introduced her to great works of literature, including 100 Years of Solitude and I, Claudius.”
In return, according to the story, the girl allowed Johnson to shower with her, get in the Jacuzzi with her, and lie naked in bed with her. After the relationship ended, the girl confided in her therapist. As required by law, the doc went to the authorities. However, the therapist told police and the New Times that she did not go to the police until after she’d confronted Johnson about his relationship with her patient. At that point, she told the paper, she “knew that there had been sexual contact.”
In a letter written to Johnson by the accuser’s lawyer and later scrutinized by the New Times, the accuser recounts their first improper encounter, which happened during a visit to Johnson’s house.
He said I could sleep in his room or the guesthouse and I chose the guesthouse. … We got into the bed and he took all of my clothes off and all of his but his shirt. He was on top of me touching me all over—my breasts, butt, in between my legs, and stomach. Then he took off his shirt. I didn’t really know what to do—I was very confused because I thought we were friends, but I didn’t know what else to do than to go along with it.
After one of the trysts, she told her lawyer, Johnson made her “pinky promise not to say anything.”
“When I asked why,” she said, “he said I knew why.”
In July 1996, according to the New Times story, Phoenix police recorded an “ambush” phone call that the alleged victim made to Johnson in an effort to draw him out about their encounters. By then the accuser’s therapist had contacted Johnson, the police report said, and perhaps even tipped him off that legal authorities were on the case. The story included a partial transcript of that call that the paper obtained from the cops, and in it Johnson comes off as guarded. He opens up the conversation telling the then-17-year-old: “I miss you bad. I don’t like not being able to talk to you.”
Here’s a portion in which the girl is trying without much success to get Johnson to admit that what they did during one tryst was more than “hug.”
Girl: “Well, I was naked and you were naked, and it wasn’t a hug.”
K.J.: “Well, I felt that it was, you know, a hug, and you know, I didn’t, to be honest, remember if we were both naked at that time. That is the night at the guesthouse?”
Girl: “Yeah. … Why would I be upset if it was just a hug?”
K.J.: “Well, I said the hug was more intimate than it should have been. But I don’t believe I touched your private parts in those areas. And you did feel bad the next day and that’s why we talked about it.”
Girl: “Well, if it was just a hug, why were either one of us naked?”
K.J.: “Again, I didn’t recall us being a hundred percent naked.”
Local prosecutors didn’t hear anything in the call to convince them that criminal charges against Johnson were warranted. Johnson’s attorney, Fred Hiestand, told New Times that the girl’s story was false: “I can say that [Johnson is] a healthy, red-blooded, American male, and he hopes to find the right wife and settle down,” Hiestand told the paper. “There are lots of women who are [adults] who are sending him their photos, tape recordings and letters. … If he was interested in any kind of sexual action, he had a lot more attractive offers than [the accuser].”
The New Times story said that Kevin Turley, a Phoenix attorney representing the alleged victim, had contacted Johnson before the story was published and demanded $750,000 from the NBA star to keep his client from filing a lawsuit for “sexual assault and battery.” No such suit was ever filed. The Sacramento Bee reported in 2008 that Johnson had paid her $230,000 to make those allegations go away, a figure repeated in Walpin’s reports. Turley, contacted at his Phoenix offices, hung up without responding when asked if the numbers were accurate.
Fred Hiestand, contacted at his law office in Sacramento, referred all inquiries about Johnson to the mayor’s staff. In response to several questions about the fiscal and sexual allegations made against Johnson, the mayor’s press secretary, Ben Sosenko, issued the following statement: “While appreciating that those who are in the news generate click-throughs, the Inspector General’s report is really old news from 2009 that had no merit then as confirmed by the fact that the book on the matter was closed a long time ago by both local and federal officials, including the US Attorney who independently concluded that the report was misleading.”
Sosenko’s statement, through all its statementishness, holds some truths. Given the way Silver leaned so heavily on Johnson during the NBA’s crisis with Donald Sterling, all the nasty things alleged in the Congressional and New Times investigations must have seemed like “really old news” to the commissioner. In any case, Silver was prevailed upon to bring down the hammer on Sterling, and Johnson enjoyed his “turn on the national stage,” and the owner was left wondering what he could’ve done differently. “I wish,” Sterling told an L.A. lifestyle magazine, arriving at a lesson his antagonist seemingly learned decades ago, “I had just paid her off.”
This article was posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm
President Obama on Friday appointed longtime White House aide Kristie Canegallo as deputy chief of staff for policy implementation, to oversee issues that include the continuing rollout of the Affordable Care Act and better integration of technology in classrooms.
The move, which comes three days before senior White House health-care adviser Phil Schiliro will step down, aims to institutionalize some of the changes chief of staff Denis McDonough made in the wake of the health-care law’s botched debut last fall.
In an interview, McDonough said Canegallo, 34, will ensure the president is following through on some of the major policies set in motion during his first term. Her portfolio will include reforming how the federal government procures technology, veteran’s affairs and immigration policy, as well as national security topics such as data privacy and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
“The president, when we go through a formative experience or a big event, he wants us to make sure we capture the lessons learned — in this case, health care — so we do not make the same mistakes,” McDonough said. “He has directed that we maintain senior-level focus on implementation and execution in the White House.”
Unlike many of Obama’s top advisers, who came to their jobs through politics, Canegallo started as a civilian Pentagon official on detail to the White House when Obama came into office in 2009. Trained as a credit derivatives analyst at Goldman Sachs, she served as director in the National Security Council’s Defense Policy and Strategy Directorate for two years before becoming senior adviser to McDonough, who was then the president’s deputy national security adviser.
Thomas E. Donilon, who served as national security adviser during Obama’s first term, said in an interview that Canegallo has a “tremendous breadth of experience” and rose through the ranks because of her political management skills.
“She ran the deputies meetings at the NSC, which is really the principal management tool that NSC uses for implementing policy,” he said.
Jim Miller, a former undersecretary of defense who worked with Canegallo at the Pentagon, said she possesses “a rare combination of strategic thinking and being detail-oriented.”
Canegallo worked at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan in 2007 and served in Iraq in 2008 as a governance and budget adviser to the Anbar provincial government. Miller said the stints gave her “a granular view of how to get things done on the ground.”
Canegallo is comfortable with the long hours required of senior White House officials; Donilon recalled that Canegallo’s mother “would come by the staff office pretty frequently” to visit her. She helped salvage the federal online health insurance marketplace after it experienced massive technical problems when it went live on Oct. 1.
Chris Jennings, who served as a senior White House health-care adviser during the rollout, said Canegallo “monitored every piece of data that came in” in the weeks following the launch of HealthCare.gov and helped her colleagues sort it out when they were “drowning in conflicting information” about the system’s performance.
On April 1, when the White House released a photo of a small group of staffers informing the president that enrollment under the law had surpassed 7 million, White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted, “That’s Kristie Canegallo, Denis’ secret ACA weapon, briefing POTUS on numbers. Right 4 her to be in center of pic.”
McDonough said Canegallo will coordinate preparation for the next enrollment period, upcoming policy announcements related to the law and “making sure insurers understand the rules of the road” as the system moves forward.
Miller said that while Canegallo will face difficult terrain in her new post, he is confident she understands both the possibilities and the limitations.
“You can’t serve in Iraq and Afghanistan without being, or becoming, a realist,” he said. “She’s a realist and has an understanding of what it takes to get stuff done.”
Over the last year, polls have emerged showing that Americans–and the Millennial generation in particular–have lost their trust in government. This month a new poll of Republicans shows a continuation of that trend.
A new Fox News poll finds that trust in government is down 44 percent over the last ten years among Republicans. But even among Democrats, Obama has also lost marks for openness and transparency, something echoed in other polls, as well.
When this poll was first conducted in 2002, 63 percent of Republican voters still had trust in government. By 2009 only 32 percent of Republicans said they trusted government. That number has now tumbled to a mere 19 percent today.
Maybe not surprisingly, Democrat respondents are closer today to where they stood in 2002 than are Republican respondents. During the Bush years in 2002, 43 percent of Democrats said they still had trust in government. By 2009, after Obama was elected, that level had risen to 53 percent. Today it stands at 55 percent. With only a two percent rise as the Obama era begins to wind down, that does not show much gain for all the President’s big government efforts.
Independent voters were far less sanguine than democrats. “For independents, trust was 53 percent in 2002, 35 percent in 2009 and 31 percent now,” the poll reported.
In another bad sign for Obama, voters are not satisfied with his promises to institute a more open and ethical administration than past presidents.
“Only about a quarter of voters think the Obama administration has lived up to the promise of being the most transparent White House in history,” Fox reported on May 15.
A third of voters (34 percent) feel that Obama’s regime has been less open and transparent than even the Bush White House while 38 percent feel that he has not improved at all and openness and transparency is “about the same” as when he took office even though he campaigned on having the most open and ethical administration ever.
This new poll also tracks well with several other recent polls.
In June of last year, Rasmussen found that only 30 percent trusted government to abide by the Constitution in the execution of its duties.
By March of this year, Pew Research found that the Millennial generation’s trust in government was down 15 points from 2009.
The following month a Harvard poll found that the Millennials had a lower level of trust in government than any previous generation on record.
This is all bad news for a President who said last year that if “people can’t trust” government, then “we’re going to have some problems, here.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner is a nice man. He means to do well. But, John Boehner is not prepared to lead in the time in which history placed him. When he refused to jail the criminal former IRS executive, Lois Lerner, who the House voted in contempt, Boehner said that had never been done. That is debatable, what is not debatable is that America has never faced a president and administration so intent on erasing any restraint on federal power and willing to use any means, legal or not. Chris and Todd make the case for arresting Lois Lerner and going on offense.
The Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives during the 2010 midterm elections, with a net gain of 63 seats. During his solemn victory speech, Boehner broke into tears when talking about “economic freedom, individual liberty and personal responsibility…I hold these values dear because I’ve lived them…I’ve spent my whole life chasing the American Dream”. November 17, 2010, Boehner was unanimously chosen by the House Republicans as their nominee for Speaker, all but assuring his formal election to the post when the new Congress convened with a Republican majority in January 2011. He received the gavel from outgoing Speaker Pelosi on Wednesday, January 5, 2011. He is the first Speaker from Ohio since fellow Republicans Nicholas Longworth (1925 to 1931) and J. Warren Keifer (1881 to 1883). He is also the first Speaker who has served both as majority and minority floor leader for his party since Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn.
As Speaker, he is still the leader of the House Republicans. However, by tradition, he normally does not take part in debate, although he has the right to do so, and almost never votes from the floor. He is not a member of any House committees.
Boehner was narrowly re-elected as Speaker of the House on January 3, 2013 at the beginning of the 113th United States Congress. He received 220 votes, needing 214 to win.
Boehner appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 23, 2014. When asked by Leno if he would ever run for president, the Speaker said no, adding, “I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. I do drink red wine, I smoke cigarettes. And I’m not giving that up to be President of the United States.”