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“The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth”: Darrell Issa Should Be Answering Questions Instead Of Asking Questions

Yesterday, much to the chagrin of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) decided it was time for some sunlight in the IRS investigation. Committee investigators conducted lengthy interviews with IRS officials in Ohio, and while Issa was content to release cherry-picked excerpts from those interviews, Cummings released all 205 pages, letting everyone — voters, reporters, and policymakers — get the full picture.

And while I’ll confess reading the transcripts last night was remarkably dull, I continue to believe they should effectively end the controversy.

Republican and Democratic committee staffers interviewed IRS official John Shafer on June 6 about the agency’s decision to scrutinize a tea party group’s application for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. Shafer, who identified himself as “a conservative Republican” and said he’d worked for the IRS since 1992, said that he and a fellow screener initially flagged a tea party group and continued to do so with subsequent applications in order to maintain consistency in the process.

Throughout much of the interview, Shafer describes the mundane bureaucratic challenges of dealing with incoming applications for nonprofit status. He said his team flagged the first tea party application because it appeared to be a high-profile case, and he wanted to make sure all high-profile cases received similar attention.

Was the White House involved? “I have no reason to believe that,” Shafer said. Did he communicate to the then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman about the screening of Tea Party cases? “I have not,” Shafer added.

I imagine there will be additional hearings and debate, but I’m not altogether sure what more there is to talk about. Every claim Republicans have made, and every effort to create a conspiracy theory involving the White House, appears to have been completely discredited.

Indeed, at this point, I’d like to see Darrell Issa stop asking questions and start answering them.

For example, did Issa try to deliberately mislead news organizations and the public with selectively edited portions of information he knew to be incomplete?

Did Issa violate congressional ethics rules by using his chairmanship to cherry-pick misleading quotes from official transcripts?

Did Issa act alone or did he coordinate his activities with others?

How much public money has Issa spent as part of these endeavors? How much more does he intend to spend going forward?

Remember, we’ve seen controversies like this before. In 1998, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee shared misleading excerpts from official transcripts with reporters in the hopes of creating a political controversy. Indeed, this came directly from the office of the committee’s then-chairman, Dan Burton. When the deception came to light, Burton was forced to accept the resignation of one of his top investigators of suspected wrongdoing in the Clinton White House.

(The investigator’s name was David Bossie — who went on to form a little group known as Citizens United. You might have heard of it.)

At first blush, it looks like Issa pulled a very similar stunt. Will there be similar consequences?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Fringe Activitist”: Shock-Jock Publicity Seeker Darrell Issa’s Summer Fun Already Underway

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was on “Fox & Friends” yesterday, fielding questions about various ongoing political controversies, when he said something interesting. In reference to the chairman on the House Oversight Committee, Priebus boasted, “I’ve got a good feeling that Darrell Issa is going to have quite a summer.”

As it turns out, Issa’s summer fun is already underway.

Several top aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, are targets of the latest subpoena for information about the drafting of talking points after the siege last fall on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the Obama administration’s refusal to cooperate fully with a House investigation left him “with no alternative but to compel the State Department to produce relevant documents through a subpoena.”

What do you know, it really is 1997 all over again — a far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, hoping to undermine a Clinton, is needlessly sending out subpoenas over a trumped up political controversy.

The attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi was a deadly national security crisis, which left four Americans killed, but the effort to create a political “scandal” has run its course. Indeed, it effectively ended a couple of weeks ago with the release of internal administration emails that helped prove that the White House’s claims were accurate; there was no cover-up; and Republican accusations are without foundation in fact. It’s reached the point at which House GOP staffers are mocking their own party’s nonsense on this issue.

So why is Issa issuing subpoenas to Clinton aides anyway? Largely because, as the chair of the Republican National Committee put it, Issa is eager to “have quite a summer.”

If this seems eerily familiar, there’s a good reason for that — Issa is following in Dan Burton’s footsteps.

Remember Burton and his wildly unhealthy hatred for President Clinton?

Burton was at his most famous in the 1990’s, when he led many of the investigations against President Bill Clinton. “If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he’d [Clinton] be gone,” Burton declared in 1998. “This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him.”

Over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Burton led the House Government Reform Committee and unilaterally issued 1,089 subpoenas to investigate allegations of misconduct. That roughly translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.

Burton once held hearings — for 10 days — on the Clintons’ Christmas card list. He ended up targeting 141 different Clinton administration officials with subpoenas, including at least one instance in which Burton and his staff were so reckless, they subpoenaed the wrong person (they were looking for someone with a similar name).

Burton also fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test the theory that former White House counsel Vincent Foster was murdered.

Burton, of course, wasn’t just some shock-jock or publicity-hungry provocateur; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe activist with a chip on his shoulder.

The Indiana Republican has since left Congress, but his legacy remains. Indeed, his successor on the House Oversight Committee is picking up where Burton left off.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Silence From Mr. Issa”: Will A GOP Aide Be Fired Over Benghazi Email Changes?

Now that we know a GOP congressional aide misleadingly edited — intentionally or not — Obama administration emails on the Benghazi attack, one wonders if he or she will face repercussions. There’s some precedent here. Former GOP Rep. Dan Burton used to hold Darrell Issa’s job as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and used it to aggressively go after Bill Clinton on a host of controversies of various degrees of merit, much as Issa is doing now.

In 1998, as Burton was investigating alleged campaign finance violations from Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, his office released a doctored transcript of an audiotape of a former Clinton aide. Burton’s top aide took the blame for the deception and resigned, as the New York Times reported on May 7, 1998:

The top investigator for the House inquiry into President Clinton’s 1996 campaign finance practices resigned under pressure today, amid growing bipartisan criticism of his role in releasing edited tapes of Webster L. Hubbell’s jailhouse conversations. The aide, David N. Bossie, has been for 18 months the point man and alter ego of the inquiry’s chairman, Representative Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who heads the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. But since Mr. Burton released transcripts of some of Mr. Hubbell’s prison conversations late last week, the lawmaker has weathered intense attacks by Democrats maintaining that exculpatory information was edited out of the transcripts.

The situation is a good analog for the Benghazi emails in that Republicans made some small alterations to otherwise accurate raw information which fundamentally changed the meaning to advance their political agenda.

The difference is that other Republicans joined Democrats in expressing outrage at the misleading editing 15 years ago. Burton even had to apologize to fellow Republicans after then-Speaker Newt Gingrich said Burton was running the investigation like a “circus.”

Today, at least so far, Republicans have been mum on the apparent tampering of White House emails for political gain by one of their own. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the GOP staffers who leaked the Benghazi emails made an honest mistake when transcribing emails they were shown in a closed-door briefing with intelligence officials, but no one has come forward with an explanation and a mea culpa.

Meanwhile, Democrats were not satisfied with Bossie’s resignation. They noted that Burton himself released the transcript, and they called on the congressman to resign as well. “A committee staff member should not be made the scapegoat for Chairman Burton’s mistakes, missteps and misdeeds,” then-House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt said. Indeed, Burton himself said, “I take responsibility for those mistakes,” but never resigned or faced censure.

We still don’t know the full story of the edited Benghazi emails, but if someone intentionally fabricated information and then leaked it to reporters, that would seem to undermine the credibility of the entire investigation. Obama has fired someone for less this week.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, May 17, 2013

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, House Oversight Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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