L’affair Wolfowitz has been trickling out for some time now, but today I think it finally reached the point at which Paul Wolfowitz can quite clearly no longer lead the World Bank effectively. When you read the report of the World Bank’s ethics committee, it’s abundantly clear that Wolfowitz was intimately involved in getting his girlfriend as much money as he possibly could.
Wolfowitz was very upset that he couldn’t simply recuse himself from matters concerning his companion, and that instead she was being forced to leave the Bank and work on secondment elsewhere. He then directed the Bank’s human resources department “to compensate her for both the lost opportunities related to promotion and the pain, suffering, and damage to her professional reputation that has been involved in her forced departure”.
Which is the first we’ve heard of such pain, suffering, and damage.
What’s more, Wolfowitz tried his best to engineer not one but three promotions for his partner, which helps explain how she ended up the best-paid person at the State Department, before even taking into account that her $193,590 salary comes tax-free.
Sebastian Mallaby also points out today that the scandal extends to Wolfowitz’s closest aides:
Kevin Kellems, an unremarkable press-officer-cum-aide who had previously worked for Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, pulls down $240,000 tax-free — the low end of the salary scale for World Bank vice presidents, who typically have PhDs and 25 years of development experience. Robin Cleveland, who also parachuted in with Wolfowitz, gets $250,000 and a free pass from the IRS, far more than her rank justifies. Kellems and Cleveland have contracts that don’t expire when Wolfowitz’s term is up. They have been granted quasi-tenure.
Wolfowitz’s fate now hangs with the Bank’s board, and many board members dislike him. However, the US is likely to fight reasonably hard to keep him in place, if only because the convention that the president of the World Bank must always be an American now looks increasingly anachronistic. If and when Wolfowitz leaves, there’s a good chance that his successor will not be an American at all.
That said, the Washington Post reports today that “few bank insiders suggested that Wolfowitz’s job is in jeopardy”. It’s possible that Wolfowitz will hang on, an unpopular lame duck. Which would be the worst possible outcome in terms of energizing the Bank’s staff to do its vital work of fighting poverty.