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Posted at 9:11 PM ET, 02/28/2011

Darrell Issa investigating committee spokesman regarding e-mails

By Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane

Updated 11:00 p.m.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House oversight committee, has launched an investigation into whether a communications aide improperly shared e-mails from reporters with another journalist who is writing a book.

Issa's communications director, Frederick Hill, confirmed that the congressman will look into "concerns" raised by Politico's editor-in-chief. In the meantime, press secretary Kurt Bardella remains on staff and is expected to report for work Tuesday, Hill said.

The investigation puts Issa, who as House oversight chairman has the power to investigate and subpoena administration officials, in the unusual position of turning his scrutiny on a member of his own office.

Bardella, 27, has served as an Issa spokesman since January 2009; he previously handled communications for Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Known as a rising star on Capitol Hill, Bardella was described by his boss in a recent New Yorker profile of Issa as "my secret weapon;" in the same profile, Bardella said that his goal is "to make Darrell Issa an actual political figure."

Politico reported Monday night that its editor-in-chief, John F. Harris, wrote Issa on Sunday to express concern that Bardella may have been secretly copying New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich on correspondence with other journalists.

Leibovich -- like Harris, a former Washington Post reporter -- is writing a book on Washington's political culture. It is unclear how the alleged e-mails came to Harris's attention.

"The practice of sharing reporter e-mails with another journalist on a clandestine basis would be egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances," Harris wrote Issa. He pointed to "information suggesting" that reporters from Politico and other publications "may have had their reporting compromised by this activity."

Asked by Politico on Monday afternoon to elaborate on his communications with Leibovich, Bardella declined to go into detail. "Am I bcc'ing him on every e-mail I send out? Of course not," Bardella told the publication, before adding, "I'm not going to get into the details of proprietary conversations about Mark's project. I'm not."

Issa told Politico on Monday that Bardella had assured him that he "does not share information between one reporter and another." But the congressman said he wanted to speak to Leibovich personally on Wednesday to ascertain "what kind of cooperation he was expecting."

Bardella's "collaboration with the book author is what I want to get to the bottom of," Issa said.

As of late Monday afternoon, Politico reported, Leibovich said he had not heard from Issa or his staff. Leibovich declined to comment to The Post.

The investigation into one of his own staffers comes at a highly sensitive time for Issa.

Two weeks ago he subpoenaed Countrywide Financial Corp.'s parent company, Bank of America, to turn over all records related to a VIP mortgage service that Countrywide provided to thousands of prominent figures, including members of Congress and members of the Bush administration's cabinet.

At the same time he also issued his first subpoenas to the Obama administration, demanding that the Department of Homeland Security turn over documents related to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Issa's profile increased dramatically in the months leading up to the November elections, which propelled the Republicans into the House majority and turned the former back-bench congressman with a large, but until then, unfulfilled ambition into one of the most powerful chairmen on Capitol Hill.

Once Republicans took control of the House, Bardella shifted his work into projecting a less-aggressive image for Issa.

Even so, the aide was embroiled in another controversy last month: Howard Kurtz, a former Washington Post media critic who now writes for the Daily Beast, revealed that he had conducted an interview with Bardella during which he thought he was actually speaking with Issa.

Kurtz published the interview as though he had spoken with Issa; Bardella wrote a note the next day to point out the error, according to Kurtz. (Kurtz did not publish a correction until six weeks later, after the author of the New Yorker profile, Ryan Lizza, had apparently "gotten wind" of the mistake from Bardella.)

Bardella did not return a call for comment Monday on Politico's report. After Politico published its story about the Issa investigation Monday night, Bardella updated his Facebook status to say, "thankful for good friends ..."

-- Staff writer Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

By Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane  | February 28, 2011; 9:11 PM ET
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People like Issa truly scare me, because of their overweaning ambition and arrogance. I get the faint whiff of the old Sen. McCarthy in the offing. I am also reminded of the way Nixon subordinates conducted themselves at the behest of the president. Abuse of power is so easy to be something that guys like Issa can "fall accidently on purpose" into making happen.

Posted by: flyfisher_20750 | February 28, 2011 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Darrell Issa, ethics cop, car thief-

Posted by: hairguy01 | February 28, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Muzzling a member of his own staff, eh. This clearly demonstrates that Mr. Issa wants to be the Joe McCarthy of the 21st century. I wish the writers of this piece had the guts to say this. Maybe, they don't know a thing about Joe.

Posted by: pbarnett52 | February 28, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Issa is a clown. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to impeach the Obama's dog Bo before he's done making a complete fool of himself.

Posted by: DrainYou | March 1, 2011 12:52 AM | Report abuse

" Talk about the " Teapot Dome " scandals. Well when " Issa is or Issa ain't my baby " leaves his plump post in 2012 , he can always get a job with Heraldo Rivera and his Gossip Show on Fox. Speaking of which, how the Hell can Fox keep putting up with Rivera and the Monotone, Greta Von Susteren . One's straight out of the " Hood " and the other threw away a costly Law Degree to go on TV to bore the Public to death.

Posted by: puck-101 | March 1, 2011 2:36 AM | Report abuse

We're currently in the midst of the greatest mortgage refinancing frenzy of the past 5 or 6 years. Rates are now the lowest they've been since mid to late 2003, I worked with a company called "123 Mortgage Refinance" I refinanced my current mortgage to 3.12% search online for them if you are planning to do refinance.

Posted by: nancydavis573 | March 1, 2011 3:03 AM | Report abuse

Issa is a career criminal along with his brother and there's a police/court file to prove it. Issa's job is to waste taxpayers money with fake investigations and harass the Obama Administration until the 2012 election. It was done when Clinton ran for office. Let's hope Issa doesn't use one of Karl Rove's old tricks when he leaked the lie that Gov.Richards was gay to sway the election in Texas. McCain can't forget how Rove announced McCain had a black child. Yes the GOP is dirty and they will lie about anything to get what they want. Check out the Issa criminal files online, it's interesting reading that even the Mafia would be proud of.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | March 1, 2011 5:31 AM | Report abuse

I don't see the big issue here. It is just e-mail from reporters, not from constituents or from other Congressmen. That's like sharing shipping notifications from Big wow. Journalists are almost nothing in terms of significance.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | March 1, 2011 5:40 AM | Report abuse

It is good to see a fair man running this committee now as investigations are not partisan - Darrell Issa, like Boehner is showing how the House of Representatives should be run according to the constitution and our forefathers. The days of single party dictatorship under tyrants like Botox Nancy are over!

Posted by: Realist201 | March 1, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

So,actually GOP Congressman Darrell Issa &
the Republicans had best stop silly bs two
bit investigations and begin Impeachment of
Barack Hussein Obama,or figure on their all
being on the unemployment line in 2012 and
2014,as an ever growing number of the American people want Barack Hussein Obama &
his whole incompetent Team Obama gone now!
Hey Congressman Issa & GOP do you hear us
now? Impeach Obama Here & Now!

Posted by: Jan1977 | March 1, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

It is good to see a fair man running this committee now as investigations are not partisan - Darrell Issa, like Boehner is showing how the House of Representatives should be run according to the constitution and our forefathers. The days of single party dictatorship under tyrants like Botox Nancy are over!

Posted by: Realist201 | March 1, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Realist201 has a very narrow view of reality.

Posted by: sassafrasnewport | March 1, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see that the good people of California who voted this clown in are spending their dollars wisely -- on investigations after investigations, and now investigations of his investigators. What about those jobs, California?

Posted by: sassafrasnewport | March 1, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

WOW - bccing other reporters; fake interviews and his boss has the nerve to talk about others. Clean up your own house.

Posted by: rlj611 | March 1, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Does this raise the image of the Keystone Cops? Is this bunch ready for prime time? First, Issa stiff arms his ranking minority member by issuing subpoenas that high level officials are scratching their heads over because they have no idea what the subpoena is all about. Now this business.

I suspect Obama and his staff are laughing up their sleeves at the amateur sleuths on Issa's silly committee.

Posted by: jaxas70 | March 1, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

He pointed to "information suggesting" that reporters from Politico and other publications "may have had their reporting compromised by this activity."

Quite right. If other publications have the same info, they might call you out if you lie.

Posted by: schnauzer21 | March 1, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Has Issa issued a subpoena to his communication's director yet?

I bet he is itching to because, he is the Master Issuer of the Subpoenas.

Posted by: kishorgala | March 1, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Looks like a fire in the firehouse.

Posted by: Natmeister | March 1, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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