Obama appoints new acting OPM director
"I am humbled to have been designated by President Obama to serve as the acting director of OPM, an agency it has been my pleasure to serve for the past eight years," Whipple said in a statement. "I look forward to leading OPM until the president appoints and the United States Senate confirms the next director."
Though Whipple's statement noted that her appointment was only temporary, it is not yet clear why Obama chose to appoint an acting director. It has been widely reported that John Berry, director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, is the leading candidate to head OPM.
Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokeswoman for Berry, said she had not heard about Whipple's appointment before she was contacted by Government Executive. She said any questions about Berry's possible appointment should be directed to the White House.
Obama has appointed a number of other officials to acting positions at federal agencies within the past several days. Late on Thursday, he named Stuart Ishimaru acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Christine Griffin to be acting vice chairwoman. Paul Prouty, a 38-year veteran of the General Services Administration, was appointed acting administrator of that agency, replacing Jim Williams. And midday on Friday, Dennis Taitano, acting associate administrator for operations and management at the Farm Services Administration, learned that Obama was named him as acting head of FSA.
At press time, spokespeople for Obama had not returned e-mails asking why the president made these temporary appointments. The Office of Personnel Management also had not returned calls about Whipple's appointment.
Whipple is a longtime Democratic donor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington that tracks political money. OPM's departing acting director, Michael Hager, has made contributions to both Democrats and Republicans.
Whipple gave $2,300 to Obama's general election campaign in September, according to the center. She also supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bid in the presidential primaries, donating $3,300 to her campaign. Whipple contributed $1,000 to former vice president Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, $1,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $2,500 to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004.
Before her arrival at OPM, Whipple worked at the Justice Department and the New York state attorney general's office.
In 1994, she argued on behalf of the City University of New York in its efforts to oust Leonard Jeffries, then the chairman of the black studies department at City College, for anti-Semitic remarks he made in a 1991 speech. The case became a flash point for discussions about academic free speech and black studies, and was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Jeffries was removed as chairman of the department, though he remained a professor.