Outgoing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz
(Washington) World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz agreed to resign yesterday after weeks of controversy over his handling of pay increases for his girlfriend. His resignation will take effect June 30, and Wolfowitz managed to negotiate a toothless statement by the World Bank board of directors that "a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals" in the saga.
By all accounts Shaha Riza - Wolfowitz's significant other - is a talented administrator, speaking Arabic, French, Italian, Turkish and English. Riza majored at the London School of Economics and received her master's degree in international relations at Oxford.
Still, a series of pay increases changing Riza's pay from $133,000 to $193,000 in just under two years is bound to raise a few eyebrows. This is especially problematic when her new assignment to the US State Department - while still being paid by the World Bank - pays Riza more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who earns $186,000 per year.
Admittedly, Wolfowitz has a small point in his claims that the outrage over the nepotism scandal is politically motivated, but this does not excuse the fact that he got his hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar. What I find particularly telling is the Washington insider attitude that Wolfowitz displays in his efforts to downplay the issue of favoritism toward his girlfriend.
After all, Wolfowitz surely reasons, this is how the game is played in D.C., and he likely feels unfairly singled out for behavior that happens all the time in our nation's capitol. The offices of government, lobbyists, and foundations are revolving doors with the friends, relatives, and lovers of the connected Washington elite.
And you know what? In one sense Wolfowitz is right: he was only operating by the established - albeit unwritten - rules of Washington politics. Wolfowitz is merely one small example of the incestuous, corrupt world of the highest levels of the federal government, and $60,000 in raises to Shaha Riza ain't much when compared with the biggest Washington leeches.