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Grassley brings pressure on Amtrak IG

Senator Chuck Grassley is a snake. Grassley is a Clinton-hating, Republican menace to society. The Iowa senator is raising questions about the credibility of the Amtrak office of Inspector General.

While my disdain for Grassley’s reprehensible brand of politics is nearly boundless (have you caught on to that yet?), I fear he may be on to something as regards Amtrak. If federal dollars are being misspent at Amtrak, they are not being used to refurbish urgently needed wrecked rail cars and keep the railroad running.

There is something weird about the sudden and unexplained leaving last November by former CEO Alex Kummant. One must believe the “hands on” style of management practiced by Amtrak board members may hae had some negative fiscal consequences. The finaancial management is Amtrak has caused many observers to wait for the chickens to come home to roost.

Here is the Grassley letter.

E. Bret Coulson

Deputy Inspector General Management & Policy

Office of Inspector General


National Railroad Passenger Corporation

10 G Street, NE

Washington, DC 20525

Dear Mr. Coulson:

As a senior member of the United States Senate and as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance (Committee), it is my duty under the Constitution to ensure that Inspectors General, which were created by Congress, are permitted to operate without political pressure or interference from their respective agencies.  Inspectors General were designed for the express purpose of combating waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuring that federal agencies were held accountable for their actions.  I understand that Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, Jr. has retired today.

Based on contacts that my staff had with Mr. Weiderhold on two recent occasions (April 2, 2009 and June 4, 2009), I understand that the OIG has suffered from repeated and continuous interference from the agency.  After the most recent discussion, it was agreed that the OIG would provide, among other things, a White Paper and specific examples of agency interference with OIG audits and/or investigations.  To date, the OIG has not yet provided any documents.  As you know, any interference such as that was described in these previous discussions is a direct violation of the Inspector General Act of 1978.

In light of Mr. Weiderhold’s unexpected retirement, please provide the previously requested documentation immediately.  I am deeply troubled that these aforementioned meetings with my staff and discussions of the OIG’s independence concerns predicated this personnel action with IG Weiderhold.  Furthermore, I am even more concerned that there is a lack of accountability, based on the OIG’s reported lack of independence, for the $1.3 billion in stimulus funds that Amtrak has received from American taxpayers.

Due to these recent events, I specifically request all materials at the IG’s office be preserved immediately.

In addition to providing the requested documentation, please provide an immediate briefing to my staff on the level of proper oversight the OIG has over of the $1.3 billion dollars of American taxpayer money, and what role the previously discussed independence issues with the agency played in the elimination of former IG Weiderhold.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and I would appreciate a response to this inquiry by June 19, 2009.


Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member of the

Committee on Finance

cc: The Honorable Thomas C. Carper



National Railroad Passenger Corporation

Joseph H. Boardman

President and Chief Executive Officer


National Railroad Passenger Corporation

Two final thoughts. It might have helped if the Bush administration had made timely appointments to the Amtrak board. Additionally, the congressionally induced state of constant frantic struggle for survival is a perfect environment in which to grow aorporate cculture of carlessness.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

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June 2009