ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wolfowitz, the World Bank, and the Poverty Pimps

The WSJ has this excellent article on the Wolfowitz kerfluffle at the World Bank. I've read coverage of this matter from other sources (including this Wikipedia entry about Wolfie's Algierian gilfriend) and, as is usual with most MSM accounts, none of them provide a clear narrative of what occurred. It seems that the more baseless the charge, the more the MSM tries to confuse the coverage (see the Plame scandal):
From the WSJ:

The Wolfowitz Files
The anatomy of a World Bank smear.

Monday, April 16, 2007 12:01 a.m.

The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.

Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.

The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.

The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:

"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)

That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.

Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino [WB General Counsel] noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."

Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President [Wolfowitz], with the General Counsel [Danino], communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources [Xavier Coll] "so as to implement" it immediately.

And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll], the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.

Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.

Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.

In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, [Mr. Melkert, Ethics Committee Chair] averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."

And when anonymous World Bank staffers began to circulate emails making nasty allegations about Ms. Shaha's job transfer and pay in early 2006, Mr. Melkert dismissed them in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz on February 28, 2006, because they "did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee." Yet amid the recent media smears, Mr. Melkert has minimized his own crucial role.

All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza's pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn't true, it's clear that his enemies--especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own--are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.

Equally cynical has been the press corps, which slurred Mr. Wolfowitz with selective reporting and now says, in straight-faced solemnity, that the president must leave the bank because his "credibility" has been damaged. Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.

The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness. We're glad the Bush Administration isn't falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch. Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.

Of course, as with most kerfluffles, the Bush Administration is slow to respond and when it does is woefully inept. True to form, the person under attack apologizes (for what, we don't know), hoping that the matter will be forgotten by his or her enemies. Unfortunately, the MSM, smelling blood in the water, only increases the frenzy and fails to look at the actual facts of the case.

Need an example of inaccurate coverage from the MSM? How about this story from the WaPo, which opens:
Wolfowitz Dictated Girlfriend's Pay Deal
World Bank Board Weighs Its Options

By Karen DeYoung and Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 14, 2007; A01

World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz personally dictated the terms under which the bank gave what it called his "domestic partner" substantial pay raises and promotions in exchange for temporarily leaving her job there during his tenure, according to documents released by the bank's executive board yesterday.
[...]

Nowhere is it mentioned that he was instructed to "dictate the terms" by the Ethics Committee. The title would be more accurate if it was the following:
Wolfowitz Instructed to Dictate Girlfriend's Pay Deal
Alas, accuracy in reporting is something I've given up on long ago.

Wolfowitz acted above board in this situation, since he recused himself from any matters involving Riza, only to be forced to be involved by the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee then said that this was unacceptable and recommended that Wolfie instruct the VP of HR to give Riza a promotion and pay raise due to their demand that she leave the World Bank. After following their instructions, he was congratulated for handling the matter in an expeditious and professional manner. He is now under attack for following their instructions. That Wolfie & Riza pushed for the release of the documents involving this matter shows that they know there is nothing there. Unfortunately, the MSM doesn't care about the facts (as evidenced by this NYTimes article which leaves out the most important details).

Perhaps they saw to juicy a target, with Wolfie being a Jewish Neocon (ie "evil") who happened to be dating an Algerian Muslim. Perhaps those in the EU who dislike the Bush Administration, America, and Jews in particular couldn't help themselves in setting Wolfie up for this...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler