WASHINGTON, D.C., February 22, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last year, the Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) office of inspector general discovered that the CNCS’s Americorps program had illegally supplied three volunteers to Planned Parenthood. Now Republican senators are opposing a budget cut that will lay off two-thirds of the inspector general’s employees and effectively end its oversight of the growing volunteer program.
This cut – from $7.7 million to $4 million – would require the investigative office to dismiss 26 of its 33 employees. Those inspector general employees who do not quit will receive reduction-in-force letters by March 17.
“The impact is profound,” said William Hillburg, who spoke on behalf of Acting Inspector General Kenneth Bach. “Come that date, our oversight — which has already slipped — will be over.”
Last May, the program removed two Americorps employees volunteering, at taxpayers’ expense, at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC).
Two members of the group’s affiliate New York City Civic Corps had worked for PPNYC for nine months, just one month short of their full, 10-month term.
Tacoma Community College placed a third volunteer as an “escort” at a Washington state Planned Parenthood abortion facility, shepherding women past pro-life protesters.
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The Wall Street Journal reported last May that 13 Americorps workers were placed at Planned Parenthood affiliates nationally.
The program was inadvertently tipped off last May when PPNYC President and CEO Joan Malin wrote a letter to the organization’s D.C. office praising the volunteers’ “amazing work” and detailing their illegal activities.
Federal legislation bars Americorps employees from “providing abortion services or referrals for such services,” as well as “organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.” CNCS’s inspectors concluded the volunteers’ duties violated the federal ban on political advocacy.
One of the New York “volunteers” worked in PPNYC human resources, recruiting other volunteers; the other worked in public affairs and on the “Activist Council.”
The letter added because of the Americorps members’ participation, PPNYC increased from two volunteers to more than 120.
A spokesman for New York City’s pro-abortion mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said private funds would pay the $1,270 monthly stipend and a $5,350 educational award instead of charging the federal government.
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, R-NC, held congressional hearings on the issue last June. “AmeriCorps has indicated that it plans to increase its total number of participants to 250,000 within the next couple of years,” up from 80,000, she said. “How do you expect to properly monitor 250,000 people, when it does not appear as though we have been able to stop prohibited activity from a much smaller group?”
Last June Sens. Mike Enzi, R-WY, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT, wrote a letter praising Acting Inspector General Kenneth Bach’s prompt reaction to the Planned Parenthood issue and asking him to do a complete audit of all CNCS employees who may be involved in political advocacy. They suggest he punish infractions up to and “including referral for prosecution.”
However, slashing his office will end his oversight and investigative role.
A letter signed by Republican Senators Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, and Susan Collins states, because of the cuts, the office “will be substantially limited in performing the three statutorily required audits, and will have to discontinue all ongoing investigations of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer resources.”
“We simply do not understand what motivated this cut,” they wrote.
USA Today reports, “it’s unclear who in Congress inserted the provision.” However, Sen. Tom Harkin says Republicans brought this on themselves, when some members of the House voted to eliminate the agency entirely.
The three senators recommended shifting $4 million from CNCS’s $830 million budget to the inspectors’ office. But Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul, said, “It is unrealistic to think that Congress could reopen” the spending bill that originally included the cuts – although the three senators say this would be an unnecessary step.
President Obama raised eyebrows in June 2009 when he fired the last permanent CNCS inspector general, Gerald Walpin. Republicans said the president was unhappy about Walpin’s investigation of how the program’s volunteers were used to benefit the president’s political allies.
The White House fought back by stating that Walpin had been “confused, disoriented,” and engaged in “inappropriate conduct” at meetings.
The president’s lawyer, Norman Eisen, who called Walpin to fire him, told Congress he had conducted a thorough investigation of Walpin and the CNCS board unanimously supported his termination – although he later acknowledged both statements were false.
Attempts to contact Congresswoman Foxx’s office were unsuccessful.