Rep Darrell Issa from California thinks that the Cincinnati IRS office method of investigating applications for non-profit status, “was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it.”
This might be shocking to those who have not been following Rep Issa’s Congressional career, but a closer look reveals a different agenda. When Congressman Issa took over control of the house, he claimed that the Obama was “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”. He also predicted that his investigations into this corruption would save the taxpayers $200B.
His committee has generated over 700 requests for information, issued dozens of subpoenas, and held hundreds of hearings. But for all of that activity, there have been few follow-ups and more importantly, even fewer reports, and no prosecutions or convictions.
Let’s see if Rep. Issa has delivered on his two big agenda items; uncovering corruption and saving the taxpayers money.
To support his promise to save $200B, he used this Medicare example. “We can save $125 billion in simply not giving out money to Medicare recipients that don’t exist for procedures that didn’t happen.”
When asked where his $125B number came from, Issa’s press office pointed to the Office of Management and Budget. That office, however, said the $125B figure covered all government payments, not just Medicare. The OMB report cited by Issa’s office also detailed how the Obama administration’s focus on Medicare fraud had reduced improper payments from 12.4% to 10.5% saving $4B.
Issa tried to make a big issue out of Solydra’s failure. “There’s been this attitude that government can weigh in with loan guarantees and money and pick winners, specific company winners, and losers.” ”We see that as a backdoor easy way to end up with corruption in government.” Issa got more than 170K pages of documents on Solyndra, requested another 1M pages, and after a year, came up empty. “Is there a criminal activity? Perhaps not,” Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told POLITICO. “Is there a political influence and connections? Perhaps not. Did they bend the rules for an agenda, an agenda not covered within the statute? Absolutely.” Shortly after making that comment, it turned out that Issa had himself sent a letter to the Department of Energy requesting that they “bend the rules” on a loan to Solyndra. Issa was also the featured speaker at a Romney fund-raiser hosted by Solyndra’s main lobbyist.
Finally, Issa was particularly incensed that Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak was offered an administration job in exchange for dropping out of the primary race against Arlen Spector.
He called the Sestak matter “Obama’s Watergate” and called repeatedly for an investigation, suggesting at one point that there could have been “up to three felonies” involved. He also called for a special prosecutor to conduct a “formal investigation into whether a crime was committed” in the Sestak offer.
Where did that one go?
The same place all of the others ones have gone – nowhere. After learning that this practice was common in the Bush White House, he dropped the whole thing. “Once we knew, as we discovered, that it turns out that Republicans and previous administrations thought it was OK in spite of the absolute black and white letter of the law, it got bigger — it got bigger than President Barack Obama.”
So that brings us back to the IRS investigation and Issa’s claim that it can be traced back to Washington.
He claims that he has testimony from IRS employees to support his claim, but refuses to release the full transcripts of the testimonies. He claims that his committee has subpoenaed the administration for more documents, but his office later said no additional subpoenas have been issued.
And that Washington connection? It turns out that the tax attorneys who serve as a resource for those processing applications for tax exempt status work in Washington. Those were the people that were providing the IRS Cincinnati office direction on how to deal with applications from groups who appeared to be participating in prohibited political activity.
The funny thing is that for someone obsessed with the “scandals” of the current administration, Rep. Issa was himself a key participant in a REAL political scandal.
It was Bush’s political purge of 8 US Attorneys. Turns out that Rep. Issa was one of the politicians requesting the dismissal of the attorney in his district because of her successful prosecution of Republican San Diego Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham. He wrote a letter complaining that his local attorney should have been focusing her attention on immigration violations rather than the $2.4M bribery that eventually sent “Duke” Cunningham to jail. That attorney was later dismissed even though her HR record praised her for her work on the Cunningham case and had no entries suggesting she was somehow neglecting her immigration enforcement responsibilities.
So where does this leave us?
As far as the IRS is concerned, the spin is already moving away from Watergate and toward lack of oversight. So rather than being guilty of concocting the plot, the White House is now guilty of knowing about it and not doing anything.
“My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election,” Issa said. “I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”
The next inevitable step has already been floated by Karl Rove in a weekend dustup on ABC with David Plouffe. After debating the topic, Rove said, “I didn’t suggest it was being driven by the White House.”, but finished up by blaming the president anyway and said those at the top in the Obama administration should have done a better job in policing the IRS.
Thus this story follows the same arc of many others in the Issa resume. Big claims of scandal, followed by innuendo based on partial reporting of the data, followed by reframing of the original claims as the facts contradicting the original claims become better known, followed by silence – no report, no indictment, no trial. The trial of course would be redundant, since the only trial that matters is the trial that was already held in the court of public opinion.
Issa has even backed off on his claim regarding Obama’s corruption.
“I’m certainly saying this administration is going to have to straighten up and fly right. It’ll be our job to make sure government money isn’t wasted.”
“I’ve never made that a personal statement, tried never to make that a personal statement about the president, so if that’s backing up from it, I’m not saying the president is personally corrupt. But his administration has to change direction, particularly as to taxpayers’ money.”
So what is Issa’s agenda? Why does he continue to play this “rope-a-dope” game of making reckless claims and then backing off from them?
Perhaps his own words will give us more insight,
“Oversight is not and should not be used as a political weapon against the occupant of the Oval Office. It should not be an instrument of fear or the exclusive domain of the party that controls Congress.” USA Today 11/11/2010
“You know, there will be a certain degree of gridlock.” On the Rush Limbaugh Show 11/19/2010
Issa’s agenda is simple. Just like the rest of the Congressional Republicans, he is going to do everything that he can to drag down the public image of this President and tie his administration up in knots responding to whatever “scandal” his committee can concoct.
This cynical tactic was created by McConnell and Boenher in hopes that they could somehow regain power by grinding government to a halt and then blaming Obama for the consequences.
The best hope to resolve the gridlock Republicans have created? Vote them out in 2014.
Next up, what happened to all that talk about the budget?