Magazine article Insight on the News

His Custom Is to Be in Paris in the Spring

Magazine article Insight on the News

His Custom Is to Be in Paris in the Spring

Article excerpt

Now that the attorney-general post has been filled and top Justice Department jobs are being shared, attention is turning to the law-enforcement agencies and who might head them and what is happening to the former bosses.

Over at the Drug Enforcement Administration, veteran agent Donnie Marshall, who was confirmed as administrator last June following Tom Constantine's retirement, is hoping that George W. Bush will decide to leave him in charge of the agency for the long haul. He was asked by the Bush transition team to remain but for how long is still in doubt.

Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly wasn't given that option. On the Monday after inauguration his deputy, Chuck Winwood, was placed in charge temporarily. But Kelly is harboring hopes of securing a job in the Bush administration. Loyalists within Customs, including several political appointees who Kelly transferred over to career posts last year, have engaged in a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign on his behalf, ensuring that upbeat pieces appear in the trade press extolling his many virtues.

But not all at Customs -- from the rank-and-file level up to more senior heights -- are as favorably disposed to their former boss. While acknowledging that he was an improvement to his predecessor, trade lawyer George Weise, who decided to leave after incurring the Senate's wrath for ignoring the law-enforcement side of Customs' role, few argue that Kelly has left the agency that much of a better place.

As one Customs insider put it: "Kelly did do some good things but most of what happened under him was more show than substance -- he was very adept at burnishing himself in the media and he knew what political bandwagons to jump on."

Some Customs critics question whether Kelly adhered to the rules as rigorously as he demanded others abide by them. As an example, Customs sources point to a couple of trips the commissioner took to France in 1999 on Interpol-related business in which per-diem expenses set by the State Department were exceeded. Last year, the Treasury Department's inspector general (IG) launched an investigation into the trips but exonerated the commissioner of any wrong-doing.

On those visits -- tree nights in March and a night in July -- Kelly stayed at the plush Hotel Royal Monceau, a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe and tennis ace Andre Agassi's favorite haunt. The hotel boasts, among other amenities, h swimming pool, a squash court, a gym and a fully equipped hammam, or Turkish steam room.

For the March trip, he was booked initially by the Customs attache into a four-star hotel in line with the government per-diem accommodation rate of $151 a night. However, after one night he and his wife decided better digs were called for and the Customs attache was ordered by the commissioner's staff in Washington to move Kelly into a suite at the Royal Monceau, along with a single room for his aide, David Cohen. …

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