Vivek Kundra, the White House's chief information officer, has been placed on leave after Yusuf Acar, a technology manager in the D.C. government who previously worked for Kundra, was arrested on bribery charges.
The investigation does not involve Kundra. The White House, in a statement, said Kundra's leave came from "an abundance of caution," after a series of embarrassments with Obama appointees.
Though Acar was a minor figure in the D.C. government's technology operations, he had authority over hardware and software budgets which, according to an FBI agent investigating the case, allowed him to conduct a wide-ranging bribery operation. The agent's affidavit has some grandiose quotes from Acar and his alleged accomplice, a D.C. tech executive named Sushil Bansal, which are worthy of deposed Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Maybe Acar will write a book, too? Here's the transcript of a phone conversation between Acar and a cooperating witness ("CW"):
ACAR: Nothing. Eric's deal, okay? I was clear about that. I said I want fifty. You should, you should get fifty. And then whatever left behind, you should, he should get it.
ACAR: It's hundred thirty dollar PO, hundred twenty dollar PO, he should get twenty. That's more than enough. More than [expletive] enough. We are- The risk is not equal, I'm sorry. The risk is not
CW: Yusuf (UI) is not equal. I mean, you know what can happen if God, God forbid, you know, if today things, uh, things uh crash.
CW: You don't even have a couple hundred dollars that you can, for your family, to survive.
ACAR: No, nothing. I mean, I will jump on the next plane, go to Turkey and disappear. That's fine.
CW: And you don't have nothing!
ACAR: Yeah. Exactly.
CW: (UI) you going to run away with what, a couple hundred? What are you going to run with?
CW: I mean, Yusuf, I'm telling you we need to talk to this guy.
ACAR: Look, I mean, look.
CW: We need to talk to him.
ACAR: [CW], this is beginning, okay? This is just like uh a scratch on the surface. We have a six million dollars. Six million mother [expletive] dollars. You and I should make at least three of that.
CW: And, and, and then we have only four months to do this.
Later, Acar asked the witness, "Are we going to jail?"
The key question for Obama's White House isn't Acar's crimes, which the FBI seems to have documented quite completely. It's how such a wide-ranging bribery scandal unfolded in Kundra's own office without his awareness. No one is saying Kundra is anything but innocent. But how can he be expected to manage the government's vast technology budget if he let such large sums slip out the door at a much smaller agency?