The vol­un­teerism sto­ries Hol­ly­wood won’t pro­mote

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

Hol­ly­wood hearts Pres­i­dent Obama. Mr. Obama hearts gov­ern­ment-di­rected na­tional ser­vice. That is why you weren’t able to change the TV chan­nel all last week without get­ting lec­tured about the need to get off the couch and Do Some­thing. (Af­ter your fa­vorite shows were over, of course.) Creeped out? You should be.

The en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, in­spired by Mr. Obama’s $6 bil­lion ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment vol­un­teerism spending, co­or­di­nated plot lines and ads to push pub­lic ser­vice. “The mes­sage will be nearly ubiq­ui­tous,” re­ports the Los An­ge­les Times, “start­ing in the morn­ing with pro­grams such as ‘To­day’ and ‘The View,’ and then echoed on soap op­eras, prime-time se­ries and late-night shows.” First lady Michelle Obama, a re­lent­less Amer­iCorps pro­moter who pub­licly ex­tolled the Tin­sel­town ini­tia­tive last month, capped off the week with an ap­pear­ance on “The Jay Leno Show” on Oct. 23.

But don’t ex­pect Mr. Leno to ask Mrs. Obama about her re- ported med­dling in per­son­nel de­ci­sions at the scan­dalplagued Amer­iCorps. Or about the pro­gram’s long his­tory as a gov­ern­ment boon­dog­gle stuffed with make­work jobs, per­ma­nent bu­reau­cra­cies, left­wing slush funds and par­ti­san lob­by­ists. More on that in a mo­ment.

Spear­headed by a non­profit called the En­ter­tain­ment In­dus­try Foun­da­tion (EIF), or­ga­niz­ers deny any par­ti­san or po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion. But BigHol­ly­ ed­i­tor John Nolte pub­lished an in­ter­nal memo from EIF ti­tled “An­swer­ing the Call,” which de­scribes the en­tire mul­ti­year cam­paign as a di­rect re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Obama’s call “for a new era of re­spon­si­bil­ity.” The mas­sive left­ward tilt in Hol­ly­wood do­na­tions to Demo­cratic cam- paign cof­fers speaks for it­self. As do the celebrity vows of vol­un­teer-mon­gers like Demi Moore, who pledged in a re­cent na­tional ser­vice PSA not to be a ser­vant to her fel­low cit­i­zens or her coun­try, but “a ser­vant to Barack Obama.”

EIF is work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Cor­po­ra­tion for Na­tional and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice (CNCS), the par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­iCorps.

It’s the same CNCS that last year sus­pended Sacra­mento mayor and Obama crony Kevin John­son from re­ceiv­ing fed­eral funds af­ter then-in­spec­tor gen­eral Ger­ald Walpin blew the whis­tle on mas­sive fraud and abuse of Amer­iCorps dol­lars for per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal gain.

It’s the same CNCS that then sat by and meekly watched Team Obama and the U.S. At­tor­ney in Sacra­mento rail­road Mr. Walpin af­ter the Novem­ber 2008 elec­tion for do­ing his job.

It’s the same CNCS that has hired Michelle Obama’s for­mer chief of staff, Jackie Nor­ris, as na­tional ser­vice ad­viser to en­sure — in her words — that cor- po­ra­tion of­fi­cials are their “No. 1 cheer­lead­ers.”

It’s the same CNCS that smeared Mr. Walpin as “con­fused” and “dis­ori­ented” — and then sacked the hon­est, in­de­pen­dent watch­dog for rais­ing ques­tions on be­half of tax­pay­ers.

And it’s the same CNCS that last month ad­min­is­tered a mere slap on the wrist to the largest Amer­iCorps pro­gram in the na­tion for mas­sive fis­cal mis­man­age­ment. As Youth To­day, a niche pub­li­ca­tion that cov­ers the na­tional ser­vice sec­tor, re­ported re­cently, “CNCS docked the City Uni­ver­sity of New York (CUNY) $345,700 for this year, re­duc­ing its grant from $900,000 to $554,300.”

Mr. Walpin had un­cov­ered a raft of grant vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing crim­i­nal back­ground check lapses and “per­va­sive prob­lems of el­i­gi­bil­ity, time­keep­ing and doc­u­men­ta­tion” in an au­dit ear­lier this year. He chal­lenged du­plica­tive ed­u­ca­tional awards of more than $16 mil­lion. CUNY re­fused to re­turn ex­cess funds that it had drawn down, failed to re­vise pro­ce­dures to pre­vent such grant abuse and re­fused to pro­vide proof doc­u­ment­ing that its Amer­iCorps par­tic­i­pants ac­tu­ally ex­isted.

Mr. Walpin ad­vised Amer­iCorps’ par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, CNCS, to cut off any new fund­ing and re­ex­am­ine past gov­ern­ment fund­ing to­tal­ing up­ward of $75 mil­lion. But in­ter­nal notes from CNCS dis­cus­sions show that they had more “con­cern about po­ten­tial for dam­age be­ing done” and were irked by the “bad tim­ing” of Mr. Walpin’s au­dits. In the end, the agency set­tled for cut­ting its cur­rent grant by less than half and keep­ing CUNY on the dole.

So much for a “new era of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Mr. Walpin is su­ing to get his job back as the Obama po­lit­i­cal ma­chine takes over the na­tional ser­vice jug­ger­naut. It’s a David vs. Go­liath, made-for-TV plot line. But when the gov­ern­men­tun­der­min­ing mes­sage threat­ens the White House nar­ra­tive, it’s not fit for prime time.

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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