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Republican lawmakers question ATF official's 'double-dip' arrangement

Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley want to know why William McMahon is on paid leave and working in the private sector after the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking program.

August 22, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau
  • William McMahon supervised the Phoenix-run Fast and Furious program.
William McMahon supervised the Phoenix-run Fast and Furious program. (House of Representatives )

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers investigating the Fast and Furious program want to know why a top official who oversaw the failed gun-tracking operation was allowed to stay on paid leave while taking a second full-time job in the private sector — an arrangement that is netting him two six-figure salaries.

William McMahon, then the deputy assistant director for field operations for the federalBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, supervised the Phoenix-run Fast and Furious program, which allowed weapons to be illegally sold so they could be tracked to Mexican drug cartels. Instead, thousands of U.S. firearms were lost on the Southwest border.

After the program was shut down in early 2011, McMahon was reassigned. Later, he was permitted to go on full-time administrative leave, apparently to keep him on the federal payroll for his retirement.

"Rather than imposing consequences for his admitted failures" for Fast and Furious, "the ATF appears to be rewarding McMahon," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a letter this week to B. Todd Jones, acting director of the ATF.

"Through this unusual arrangement, ATF has essentially facilitated McMahon's early retirement and ability to double-dip for nearly half a year by receiving two full-time paychecks, one from the taxpayer and one from the private sector. This is not the culture of change that you promised to bring to ATF."

Officials acknowledged that McMahon is still an ATF employee, with the title of special assistant to the director. They declined to discuss the matter further, citing privacy issues for McMahon.

"ATF has received the letter that was sent by Sen. Grassley and Rep. Issa," ATF spokesman Drew Wade said. "The letter is being reviewed and ATF will respond accordingly."

McMahon could not be reached for comment. According to the lawmakers, his second job is as executive director of the Global Security and Investigations Group atJ.P. Morganinvestment bank in the Philippines.

Last month, in the first of several reports on Fast and Furious, the lawmakers said McMahon did not adequately supervise the ATF's Phoenix field office and "admitted" that he had failed to read documents before authorizing them. In addition, they said, he gave "false testimony regarding his role in authorizing applications for wiretaps in" Fast and Furious.

Under Fast and Furious, agents allowed about 2,500 firearms to be illegally sold in an effort to track them, but most vanished. Two were recovered where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot and killed south of Tucson in December 2010. Others have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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