MARCH 26, 2009
In the latest of many cabinet mishaps, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be second-in-command at the nation’s environmental agency has abruptly withdrawn amid a grant fraud investigation into a defunct group he once headed.
Obama had touted Jon Cannon to be Deputy Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but undesirable skeletons of the past quickly surfaced upon initial vetting and this week he pulled out of Senate confirmation hearings.
A former EPA lawyer, Cannon was on the board of directors of a nonprofit (America’s Clean Water Foundation) that shut down after getting busted by the government committing fraud with nearly $26 million in public funds and violating conflict of interest rules.
A federal investigation found that the group did not comply with financial and management standards involving the multi million-dollar government grant, cheated in its accounting, could not support costs, submitted incorrect proposals to the government and violated conflict of interest rules by awarding a contract to a member of its board of directors.
America’s Clean Water Foundation eventually folded and its directors went on their merry was as if nothing ever happened. In a statement posted on the EPA website, Cannon claims he withdrew after learning that his old group “has become the subject of scrutiny.” He adds that the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position and that he doesn’t want to present any distraction to the agency.
With around 17,000 employees and a $7.1 billion budget this year, the EPA aims to protect human health and the environment through science, research and education. The agency was involved in a political tug of war during the Bush Administration, with top scientists claiming that they were pressured by the White House to alter the findings of their work.
Cannon is not the first Obama cabinet nominee to abruptly quit amid scandal. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination for Commerce Secretary when the feds announced they were investigating him for giving a shady California company a lucrative state contract after it donated big bucks to his Political Action Committee. Tom Daschle was forced to withdraw as Health Secretary because he owed more than $100,000 in taxes on his exorbitant income as a health consultant.
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