Morning Report 1/24/06 Wolfie at the Door


Preaching against corruption at World Bank, he practices it — and staff rebels

Huffing and puffing, Paul Wolfowitz continues to try to blow down the door to the World Bank. But this is no fairy tale because, at the same time, Wolfie is promoting his three little pigs.

One of Wolfie’s key aides is Robin Cleveland, who had a key role in the smarmy — and little-noticed — Boeing tanker scandal that reached high into the Pentagon and the White House. But with Cleveland as now one of his top advisers, WB president Wolfowitz is claiming that he’s fighting corruption.

I’d call that chutzpah. I wonder what his Arab girlfriend, a British national named Shaha Ali Riza, would call it.

Insiders tell me that Riza got a $50,000 raise, to an annual salary of $170,000, before (as I reported earlier) Wolfie arranged to ship her to the State Department to work with Dick Cheney‘s daughter Elizabeth Cheney, where the two women are operating what amounts to a slush fund at State’s Middle East bureau.

So far, Wolfowitz’s attack on the planet’s most powerful development bank is going much better than the ill-fated war on Iraq, of which he was chief architect.

But not if the bank’s increasingly rebellious staff can help it.

The latest counterattack against Wolfie came yesterday in the form of a memo from Alison Cave, chair of the Staff Association, the formal, in-house voice of the bank’s nearly 10,000 employees, that talked of an “increasing disconnect” between Wolfie’s executive office and “staff at large.”

The staff, already upset about Wolfie’s previous trust-busting at the bank, are steaming about Wolfie’s installation of Dick Cheney’s former flack, Kevin Kellems, as not only a “senior advisor” to Wolfowitz but also “director of external strategy.” And they’re dismayed by the naming of another confidant with high-level GOP ties, Suzanne Rich Folsom, as the bank’s chief corruption fighter. (Her husband is former president of the International Republican Institute.)

Cave’s memo to the staff read in part:

The Staff Association has heard from staff across the institution — representing all grade levels — expressing concerns over recent staff announcements.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed has been one of dismay at the perceived lack of consultations by the Office of the President.

Staff were particularly offended by senior management’s dismissive depiction of staff concerns in the press, ascribing them to a “handful of disgruntled staff,” and to “an effort to undermine efforts to go after corruption on bank projects.”

Staff of this institution are highly responsible and professional; we uphold Bank guidelines against corruption on a daily basis. These comments only underscore the increasing disconnect between EXC and staff at large.

That’s the polite language typically used inside the bank. But as one insider tells me, “The bank staff see themselves as employees of an international organization, not a GOP think tank or a mom-and-pop shop subject to the whims of its politically appointed — and temporary — boss.”

The Washington Post‘s Paul Blustein reports this morning on the staff rebellion, noting:

With a worldwide staff of nearly 10,000, the World Bank lends about $20 billion annually to developing nations for projects aimed at reducing poverty. To the relief of the staff and most of the executive board representing the bank’s 184 member countries, Wolfowitz has not significantly changed the policies of his predecessor, James D. Wolfensohn. But disquiet has mounted in recent weeks over a small group of high-level American staffers with GOP connections — Folsom and Kellems prominent among them — with whom Wolfowitz consults on nearly all major decisions.

The most powerful is Robin Cleveland, who worked with Wolfowitz in her capacity as the top national security specialist at the Office of Management and Budget and now serves as his chief adviser. Folsom is an attorney specializing in ethics issues who came to the bank in 2003, prior to Wolfowitz’s arrival; she worked for various Republican causes and for Bush’s parents during the 1980s.

But Blustein neglects to mention Cleveland’s entanglement in the Boeing/Pentagon tanker scandal that cost Air Force Secretary Jim Roche his job. E-mails revealed that Cleveland, while an official at the White House’s OMB, was angling to get a relative a job at Northrop Grumman, where Roche had been a top executive before George W. Bush‘s handlers hired him at the Pentagon.

Here’s how Amy Klamper described it in a September 2004 CongressDaily story:

In a May 9, 2003, e-mail to Roche, Cleveland requested the secretary’s endorsement of her brother, Peter, in obtaining a position with Northrop Grumman. Cleveland supplied her brother’s relevant employment information and cited his qualifications for the job.

After forwarding the information to Northrop Grumman and offering his endorsement, Roche wrote to Cleveland: “Be well. Smile. Give me tankers now.” In a subsequent sentence, he qualified the statement as a joke.

It is unclear whether Cleveland took Roche’s comments seriously, but two days later, in a May 11, 2003 e-mail, Cleveland’s brother thanked her for helping him secure an interview with Northrop Grumman. She replied that she hoped it would work out “before the tanker leasing issue gets fouled up.”

Lt. Col. Michael Caldwell, a spokesman for Roche, described the secretary’s e-mail in a Sept. 23 statement as “a light-hearted exchange between two longtime friends and colleagues,” and asserted that no expectations were attached to it.

Uh-huh. Check this out, as Klamper’s story continued:

Before May 2003, OMB appeared to be in staunch opposition to the Air Force’s tanker proposal. Although differences between the Air Force and OMB over the details of the tanker lease continued, a shift in OMB’s position on the tanker lease became apparent after Cleveland and Roche exchanged e-mails. According to a document reviewed by CongressDaily, Roche, Cleveland and Pete Aldridge — then the Pentagon’s acquisition chief — met with two top Boeing executives May 15, 2003.

A second meeting between Cleveland and Boeing personnel was referenced in a May 16 e-mail among Boeing staff in which Cleveland’s name appeared. In the e-mail, Boeing executive Andrew Ellis said Cleveland had detailed OMB’s concerns with the lease, and had suggested ways to address the concerns of White House Chief of Staff [Andy] Card. In a subsequent May 22 e-mail from Boeing executive Jim Albaugh to Boeing executive Randall Simons, Albaugh states “OMB and Robin are on board.”

Yes, Andy Card, one of Bush’s key handlers. The Boeing scandal never got the play it deserved. But who can keep track of all the chicanery?

Meanwhile, Wolfie appears to have assembled a fine corruption-fighting team at the World Bank.

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