The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Darrell Issa: Unintimidated

Posted on | February 17, 2011 | 9 Comments

“Issa to investigate Obama? They must be scared to death of what Issa could learn. They must be scared to death of what Issa could produce, because they’re now out to do what they did to Robert Bork. Go down the list, Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, any number of people, Ken Starr. Now it is Darrell Issa’s turn.”
Rush Limbaugh, Wednesday, Feb. 16

As couple days ago, I blogged about the Left’s smear campaign against Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) the newly-installed chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It’s apparent that these tactics won’t stop Issa, who has just subpoenaed records relating to the Countrywide mortgage scandal:

The chairman of a House oversight panel issued a broad subpoena Wednesday seeking documents related to a controversial VIP lending program run by Countrywide Financial Corp., with the goal of finding out which public officials benefited.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) sent the subpoena to Bank of America Corp. (BAC) , which acquired Countrywide in 2008. Countrywide’s former chief executive, Angelo Mozilo, has long faced allegations that he approved loans for favored borrowers in violation of the company’s lending policies.
The subpoena is Issa’s first as chairman of the oversight panel after Republicans assumed control of the House last month. Issa had clashed in fall 2009 with the committee’s former Democratic Chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D., N.Y.) over whether to investigate the program. Towns ultimately agreed to a narrower subpoena.
Towns received two mortgage loans under the program, The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2009. At the time, he contended that he had no knowledge that he was in the program and didn’t receive any special treatment.
The loan program, known as “Friends of Angelo,” provided loans at rates and terms more favorable than what Countrywide offered to the general public. Lawmakers have been scrutinizing whether those VIP loans were also aimed at influencing public officials.

(Via Jammie Wearing Fool and Instapundit.) Here is Issa’s official statement on the investigation:

“Countrywide orchestrated a deliberate and calculated effort to use relationships with people in high places in order to manipulate public policy and further their bottom line to the detriment of the American taxpayers even at the expense of its own lending standards,” said Issa. “This subpoena will allow us to obtain the information needed to answer the outstanding public interest questions regarding the full size and scope of the VIP program. The American people have a right to know the totality of who participated in the Countrywide’s VIP program and what they did in return for access to it. Our role is to get all of the facts so that the American people can judge for themselves who should be held responsible and accountable.”

The differences between the Issa probe and the limited investigation conducted under Towns’s chairmanship are explained by Politico‘s Jake Sherman:

Last year, the subpoena directed Bank of America to give all documents identifying House members to the House Ethics Committee. This year, the subpoena directs all documents to the Oversight Committee.
Also, whereas last year the committee spared senators — who are governed by their chamber’s ethics panel — this year they will be part of Issa’s probe. Issa’s aides would not say they’ll shield senators who might surface in the probe — last year they said they’d hand documents over to the Senate ethics committee — although they don’t have the authority to punish them.

Two words: Chris Dodd. In 2009, when I was covering the “IG-Gate” story — the pattern of Obama administration pressure against inspectors general — the reluctance of the Democratic majority to conduct serious oversight investigations was obvious:

Behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last week, I asked a Republican source about the investigative efforts of Democratic staffers for the House Oversight Committee.
“Honestly?” the source said. “They’re useless.” . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago [about the unexpected retirement of the Amtrak IG], however, Republican sources on Capitol Hill have complained that Democratic staffers on the Oversight Committee have not shown much zeal for the investigation. Sources say Democratic staffers have skipped meetings and conference calls to which they were invited by GOP investigators, who are attempting to work with Grassley’s staff in order to prevent unnecessary duplication of efforts. Sharing documents and scheduling interviews with witnesses, allowing Republican and Democratic investigators from both chambers an opportunity to question these witnesses, is a demanding logistical task. And GOP staffers complain that this task seems to be lacking in terms of bipartisanship.

Now with the GOP in the majority, Issa has a much larger investigative staff and, most importantly, wields subpoena power and the chairman’s authority to schedule public hearings. This is going to be the “action” committee to keep an eye on in coming months.

Tuesday I went down to D.C. to attend the Heritage Foundation’s weekly blogger briefing — I hadn’t attended in a few months, and felt I ought to “show the flag” — and then went over to Capitol Hill to visit some friends. What a happy coincidence that among the members of the House Oversight Committee, we find the name of our good friend Ann Marie Buerkle.

After dropping by the Longworth Building to visit Congresswoman Buerkle’s office, I went over to Issa’s office in the Rayburn Building and chatted briefly with his spokesman, Kurt Bardella. Suffice to say that Issa’s team isn’t in the least bit intimidated by “Ace” Smith and the “cutthroat” operatives Democrats have sicced on him.

Having spent most of 2010 doing campaign coverage, now it’s time to cover the Congress we’ve elected. Over the next few months, I hope to visit Capitol Hill on a weekly basis and try to get behind-the-scenes coverage. It’s 72 miles one-way (144 miles round-trip) from my house to the Capitol, so at 20 cents per mile, that’s $28.80 per trip. Parking at Union Station is $15. Perhaps some congressional staffers will want to join me for an off-the-record lunch, so figure $25 for that, and if I stick around to schmooze my sources at happy hour, maybe another $30.

All in all, each D.C. trip can be expected to run between $50 and $100, so please give generously to the Shoe Leather Fund. Winning a historic landslide election is kinda cool, when it puts the chairman’s gavel in Darrell Issa’s hand, and now we’ve got some serious investigations going on.


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