Sylvia Burwell: Who Is She and Why Did She Go Through Vince Foster's Garbage?

April 15, 2014 - 3:01 PM

With Kathleen Sebelius being shown the exit as Health and Human Services Secretary, President Obama decided to tap Sylvia Burwell, the director of the Office of Budget and Management as her replacement.  But, who is she?  Besides her alleged skills at number crunching, she's the one who closed the World War II Memorial, amongst other things, during the government shutdown last fall (via NBC News):

A single person shut down the entire U.S. government for the first time in 17 years.

Not a congressman, but an unelected woman named Sylvia Burwell who, as the relatively new director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent the email that initiated the process that has closed national parks[ WWII Memorial falls under their jurisdiction], visitors' centers and even the "panda-cam" at the National Zoo.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

Yet, David Catron at the American Spectator who wrote a profile on her, which isn't flattering in the least; also noted that she's indefatigably loyal to her superiors.  Case in point, she dug through garbage to find certain documents after the 1993  suicide of Vince Foster, then-Deputy White House Counsel (via the Washington Free Beacon):

Foster's death was officially ruled a suicide. The Clinton White House eventually admitted to misleading investigators about how senior officials had seized and disposed of files relating to the first couple's controversial investments in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed real estate venture.

Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers admitted that then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who had recovered documents relating to the Whitewater controversy from Foster's office after his death, did not turn over the documents to the Clinton family's personal attorney, contrary to what White House officials had claimed. Nussbaum had actually given the documents to Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, who placed them in a White House safe for five days before being turned over to the family attorney.

Under questioning, Sylvia Mathews [then, a White House aide] and her colleagues denied impeding a police investigation into Foster's death after his body was found in a northern Virginia park. According to the New York Times, Mathews testified "in laborious detail about what she had found in Mr. Foster's garbage on the night he died."

Yet, what about her other accolades? Burwell did work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she had a senior level position until 2011 when she became the president for the Wal-Mart Foundation. She has prior government experience working under Jack Lew between 1998-2001 as deputy director of the OMB.  So, where's her wealth of experience and knowledge concerning health care?

While Sebelius detractors have a lot to say about her tenure, at least she did have some experience with bungled health insurance market when she served as Kansas' Insurance Commissioner in the mid-90s to early 2000s.