In the annals of vetting, this will go down as the most laughable miss ever: Vivek Kundra, the D.C. official tapped by Obama to run government technology, pleaded guilty to a theft charge in 1997.
Kundra is currently suspended from his White House job as Yusuf Acar, a manager in the D.C. office Kundra headed, faces bribery charges unrelated to Kundra's 12-year-old theft. When Kundra, an advocate of free Web-based software like Gmail, was first named to the CIO post, tech enthusiasts hailed his nomination as proof that Obama took their concerns seriously. They have fallen strangely silent as Kundra's reputation has grown tarnished. One of Kundra's few remaining defenders, TechPresident's Micah Sifry, noted Kundra's work in "theft and fraud prevention" as he wrote Sunday, "We believe people are innocent until they're proven guilty, right?"
Right. Here's some guilty for you!
Maryland state records show that a Vivek Kundra pleaded guilty to a theft of less than $300, for which he received supervised probation before judgment and a fine of $500, $400 of which was suspended.
The Hot Air blog wondered if this was the same Kundra nominated by Obama. Wonder no more: A search of public records reveals that the Gaithersburg, Md. address listed in the case record matches a previous address for Kundra himself and a business, Kundra Consulting. Press biographies report that Kundra, who was born in New Delhi, moved with his family to Gaithersburg, Maryland, when he was 11.
What is "probation before judgment"? The Maryland Lawyer Blog:
Lawyers routinely tell their clients who receive a PBJ that they can legally state that they have not been convicted of a crime.... while a PBJ is not generally considered to be a conviction, there are times when it will be treated as a conviction and penalties will be assessed just as if a defendant was convicted. This illustrates the need for all lawyers to review their client's situation beyond just the facts of the charge. Clients, like everyone else, have a life which can sometimes be impacted by a PBJ in much the same manner as if they received a conviction.
A life in which, for example, they are named as a top official overseeing the government's technology infastructure. Kundra's lawyer at the time of the 1997 arrest, Gary Segal, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
There are two equally disturbing possibilities here: Either the army of White House lawyers vetting candidates just didn't bother to check Kundra's criminal records. Or they agreed that Kundra's probation-before-judgment maneuver meant the crime he admitted committing in court was nothing to worry about.
It certainly casts a new light on the accusations against Acar, who bragged to a government witness about bilking $6 million from the D.C. tech budget.
Kundra's 1997 theft case: