Americans have a strong sense of fairness. They are repelled by the idea of punishing the innocent while rewarding the guilty. Unfortunately, a federal law enforcement agency may be doing just that to people involved in the Fast and Furious scandal.
Through the neglect and malfeasance of public officials, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to suspicious characters. They then allowed about 2,000 of these guns to be smuggled into Mexico to a drug cartel that has been waging an all-out war against its rivals and the Mexican government, which knew nothing of the operation. The scandal first saw daylight after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in a shoot-out involving one of the guns in question.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers demanded to know why Bill McMahon -- who as a top ATF official adopted a policy of willful neglect toward the misguided operation -- has received extended paid leave from his federal government job. This means he can draw a six-figure taxpayer-funded salary, keep building his taxpayer-funded pension, and simultaneously work for the private sector. He is currently employed by JP Morgan.
"Rather than imposing consequences for his admitted failures, the ATF appears to be rewarding McMahon," wrote Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter to ATF on Wednesday. "Through this unusual arrangement, ATF has essentially facilitated McMahon's early retirement and ability to double dip for nearly half a year by receiving two full-time paychecks -- one from the taxpayer and one from the private sector."
According to a congressional report on Fast and Furious, McMahon "received a wealth of information about Fast and Furious, but did not view it as his role as supervisor to ask questions about events in the field." Instead, he "admittedly rubber stamped critical documents that came across his desk without reading them." The lawmakers also state that McMahon gave false testimony to Congress about signing wiretap applications in Fast and Furious.
To his credit, McMahon owned up to some of these failures. That doesn't justify this sweetheart deal, Issa and Grassley assert, for "it appears ATF management was under no obligation to approve this sort of arrangement."
Issa and Grassley also compared ATF's beneficence toward McMahon to its treatment of the whistleblowers who brought Fast and Furious to light. They now find themselves under a black cloud within the agency. Eyewitnesses report that Scot Thomasson, head of ATF's Office of Public Affairs, expressed his feelings about the whistleblowers early on, saying, "We need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys (the whistleblowers) and take them down."
Even as McMahon lives large on two paychecks, Fast and Furious whistleblower John Dodson is still fighting to clear his name. He was transferred to another state and placed on leave after his superiors filed a complaint accusing him of making it all up. Issa and Grassley note that Dodson "is told he must wait until the Inspector General's report [on the scandal] is complete before the agency will even consider his simple request for a statement retracting the false statements made about him by agency leadership."
The inspector general's report will be released in roughly a month's time. We hope that justice will be done, and that a few of the many, many things that have gone wrong at ATF will be set right at last.