The GOP's post-election hit list: Obama, ACORN, scientists [updated]
Until recently, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was perhaps best known for making millions as the voice of the Viper car alarm system and then funding a campaign to recall former California Gov. Gray Davis (D). He eventually decided not to run in the recall election, probably because the state's voters thought he was on the cockeyed side of conservative and would prefer Arnold Schwarzenegger running the government.
But Issa's appetite for using exceptional political tools to press those he opposes apparently hasn't diminished. And soon he may be in a position to make even greater use of those tools. Should the Republicans take back the House, Issa is poised to become the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and he is promising a series of investigations -- he even wants to double his staff -- into the Obama administration and others. Into what, exactly? Slate's Dave Weigel reports:
There are two lists: One of oversight totally neglected by Democrats, one of hearings requested by Republicans that never happened. The first list: federal agency performance management, federal emergency management, federal IT systems, federal financial management, the Presidential Records Act, ACORN, Countrywide, food safety, stimulus spending, the SEC, TARP, and "the independence of inspectors general." The second list: Food Safety, Homeland Security, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Health care reform oversight, stimulus spending, the Minerals Management Service, and Climategate (which Issa's staff calls "Politicization of Science").
Some of these might deserve a hearing. But ACORN? Even if Issa investigates related organizations that still, you know, exist, he's beating a dead NGO.
Worse: Climategate. Apparently Issa's staff doesn't see the irony of threatening a politicized investigation into the politicization of science. The record, after all, has been set straight -- by multiple independent investigations, all of which essentially cleared the scientists involved in the Climategate e-mail hack controversy. Maybe I'm being too hard on Issa. Maybe he really does want to conduct a fair review of the scandal, which global warming skeptics still insist evidenced scientific malfeasance. But, given that he'd be running an oversight committee, I imagine the hearings would be conducted with more sympathy for those skeptics than the facts recommend. Also, he pretty much said so.
Of course, when the Democrats took over Congress in 2007, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) used the committee to oversee the Bush administration more aggressively than previous Congresses -- partially because of the whole torture thing -- and he investigated all sorts of things. But not every inquiry was worth it. Even Waxman admitted that some of his hearings on steroid use in baseball weren't all that helpful, for example.
Which is to say: There's a fine line between oversight and wasting everyone's time. If Issa chooses to indulge the right's ideological preoccupations instead of carefully leading his committee, he'll stray far into the latter category.
Update, 3:30 p.m.: In an e-mail, Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella writes that I'm not "close to a fair representation of Issa's agenda," listing a series of things the congressman has looked into as ranking member on the committee, such as salmonella in eggs, the now-defunct Minerals Management Service and AIG. Bardella continues: "One of the first things he'd like to do is push for granting subpoena power to all [inspectors general], as only one currently has it. We would be better served if the people charged with directly over-seeing the bureaucracy had the authority needed to pursue legitimate discovery."
I'm not necessarily worried that everything Issa does with the committee will be a waste of time -- I'm concerned about the ideological tinge of certain things on his to-do list, such as Climategate. I'd be very happy for Issa to prove my concerns unfounded.
Bardella also notes: "The double-his-staff line is completely over-blown -- the current staff of the Majority is twice the size of ours -- naturally -- IF he were to become Chairman, that ratio would flip. This is hardly the same as Issa going out of his way to make some unprecedented staff grab." Fair enough.
| September 23, 2010; 11:19 AM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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