DHS Inspector General Nominee Gets Warm Welcome in Senate

If approved, John Roth will be the first Senate-confirmed nominee to fill the position in almost three years.

Carper: Aims at "patchwork" regs.
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Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Jan. 8, 2014, 1:39 p.m.

Sen­at­ors from both sides of the aisle lauded Pres­id­ent Obama’s nom­in­ee to be the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity’s in­spect­or gen­er­al — a post that has been mired by con­tro­versy in re­cent years.

John Roth, who over­sees the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s of­fice of crim­in­al in­vest­ig­a­tions, test­i­fied be­fore the Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day, in what was largely a friendly hear­ing.

“I’ve said to some of our staff here”¦ if you are as good as an IG as you are as a wit­ness, we could be in pretty good hands,” said Chair­man Tom Carp­er, D-Md., to­ward the end of the hear­ing.

If con­firmed — a move sen­at­ors in both parties pre­dicted — Roth would be the first Sen­ate-con­firmed in­spect­or gen­er­al the de­part­ment has had in al­most three years. Sen­at­ors gave Roth a laun­dry list of is­sues they would like him to fo­cus on in­clud­ing bor­der se­cur­ity, in­form­a­tion tech­no­logy, and case back­log.

Charles Ed­wards, the pre­vi­ous act­ing in­spect­or gen­er­al, stepped down in Decem­ber. Ed­wards was un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion by aud­it­ors, and faced al­leg­a­tions of ab­use of power, with­hold­ing doc­u­ments, mis­spend­ing of funds, nepot­ism, and mak­ing his staff do his home­work for his Ph.D.

But Ed­wards hasn’t been the only con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure with­in the de­part­ment. If con­firmed, Roth will over­see an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Ale­jandro May­or­k­as, the deputy sec­ret­ary at DHS. May­or­k­as is be­ing in­vest­ig­ated in con­nec­tion to the U.S. Cit­izen­ship and Im­mig­ra­tion Ser­vice’s EB-5 pro­gram. EB-5 visas are giv­en to in­vestors who in­vest at min­im­um between $500,000 and $1 mil­lion in a busi­ness.

Con­gres­sion­al staffers told the As­so­ci­ated Press last year that in­vest­ig­at­ors are ex­amin­ing what, if any, role May­or­k­as had in help­ing former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton’s broth­er, An­thony Rod­ham, get an in­vestor visa for a Chinese ex­ec­ut­ive, des­pite pre­vi­ous re­jec­tions.

Sen­at­ors touched on that in­vest­ig­a­tion dur­ing their com­ments to Roth.

“In the IG’s com­mu­nic­a­tions with Con­gress in what cir­cum­stances would it be ap­pro­pri­ate to share in­form­a­tions with mem­bers or staff of one party, but not the oth­er,” Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill, D-Mo., asked, ref­er­en­cing the May­or­k­as in­vest­ig­a­tion. In that case, whis­tleblowers con­tac­ted the com­mit­tee’s minor­ity staff, but not the ma­jor­ity staff.

“The minute you try to play ball with one side or the oth­er”¦ That means an im­me­di­ate loss of cred­ib­il­ity,” Mc­Caskill ad­ded.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity has been plagued by low mor­ale and lead­er­ship va­can­cies, and mul­tiple sen­at­ors clas­si­fied the de­part­ment as something of a work in pro­gress. Roth said he was “un­der no il­lu­sions” about the myri­ad of chal­lenges he’ll face if con­firmed.

DHS ranked last in over­all sat­is­fac­tion amongst 19 large fed­er­al agen­cies, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased late last year.

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