April 17th, 2008 by Jesse Lee
From the Education and Labor Committee:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A former high-ranking Bush political appointee is avoiding a potential criminal investigation into his misconduct while running a NAFTA-related agency because he has diplomatic immunity, according to a recent Inspector General report. U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today asked the Bush administration what it is doing to waive that immunity so that the IG’s investigation can proceed.
From 2004 until his resignation in 2006, the official, Mark Knouse, was the executive director of the secretariat for the Commission for Labor Cooperation, a three-nation panel created by NAFTA to examine labor issues and promote labor standards in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Knouse, a Pennsylvania lobbyist, resigned amid allegations that he had used CLC funds – which come from taxpayers in the three countries – to fund his own outside lobbying activities, including meals with clients and trips to meetings.
Last week, the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor issued an audit report in which it concluded that the CLC could not demonstrate that nearly $10,000 in travel expenditures incurred by Knouse and another CLC staffer actually “supported the CLC mission.” The IG also found that, under Knouse’s leadership, the CLC spent $1 million without demonstrating that “it actually received the goods or services for which it paid.”
The IG’s auditors were unable to refer the matter to the IG’s investigators – who would conduct a criminal investigation – because Knouse “was entitled to diplomatic immunity from prosecution, and the CLC did not respond to the OIG’s request to waive this immunity.” The CLC’s Council of Ministers, which comprises the labor secretaries from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and which forms the CLC’s leadership, has the authority to waive Knouse’s diplomatic immunity, but apparently has not done so.