Archive for ‘Darrell Issa’

August 1, 2009

Dodd-Gate and IG-Gate: The Connection

OK, Byron York ate my lunch on IG-Gate Friday, so I was calling Hill sources trying to scare up a break. Called one source to ask him about the Justice Department angle York was looking at.

“Have you seen York’s column?”
“Sorry, but it’s been all Countrywide all day up here.”
“Ah, our old friend Senator Dodd!”
“Yeah, it’s been crazy.”

Michelle Malkin devotes her latest column to Chris Dodd and the Countrywide VIP scandal, and she joins Instapundit in linking to an AP story about House Democrats refusing to investigate:

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he has other work to do on the causes of and fixes for the financial crisis and will not interfere with other investigations of the VIP loans.

And here we see how the Dodd-bone is connected to the IG-bone, as it were. For weeks, Republican sources on the IG-Gate story have been suggesting that Democrats on the Hill are less interested in finding the truth than in playing P.R. games. The American Spectator July 14:

Investigations of the inspector general firings are “moving forward in a bipartisan fashion,” I was told . . . in separate face-to-face meetings with both Democrat and Republican staffers on Capitol Hill. The Democrat said it with apparent sincerity, while the Republican’s repeated the same words with transparent irony.
Exactly how “bipartisan” are these investigations? Republicans remain skeptical of Democratic sincerity. Some telephone interviews with key witnesses have been scheduled as bipartisan conference calls. Sometimes Democratic investigators are on the call; other times, they’re no-shows.

The same theme was repeated in my July 21 report at the Hot Air Green Room:

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.”
More than three weeks have passed since Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) joined the committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, to launch an investigation into the case of former Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold Jr. . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago, however, Republican sources on Capitol Hill have complained that Democratic staffers on the Oversight Committee have not shown much zeal for the investigation.

This is all very delicate business. Democratic chairmen control every committee in Congress now, and nothing is going to happen in terms of hearings and subpoenas until the Democrats say so. Therefore, the Republican minority, both staffers and members, don’t want to alienate the majority by making direct, public accusations of mala fides.

A couple of weeks ago one GOP staffer breached that protocol in an interview with The Hill about the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch merger investigation:

“You would think that the majority would be just as vested as we are at exposing who knew what and when,” said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for committee Republicans. “What exactly is the majority afraid we’ll find?”

Obviously, the spokesman wouldn’t have fired that kind of hard shot without authorization from Issa, which gives you an idea of how intensely frustrated Republicans on the Hill are about this clear pattern of non-cooperation. So now let’s go back to Larry Margasak’s AP story about Dodd and Countrywide:

The senior Republican on Towns’ committee, California Rep. Darrell Issa, has been trying for months to get Towns to subpoena Bank of America for Countrywide’s records. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that he asked Towns again this week to issue the subpoena. . . .
Daniel Frahm, a Bank of America spokesman, said the bank is ready to turn over the Countrywide VIP documents if it receives a subpoena. The bank’s lawyer sent Issa the same message in a June letter.
“They have it packed and ready to go,” Issa said in the interview.

Early into my reporting on IG-Gate, a source told me that it’s important to ask the right questions. OK, so back to the Walpin investigation. As I reported last week, Republican investigators on the AmeriCorps firing are curious about what role pressure from Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) played in the events that led to the firing of IG Gerald Walpin.

California blogger Eric Hogue brought attention to a March interview in which Matsui vowed that the St. HOPE Academy scandal involving Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson wouldn’t prevent Sacramento from getting its share of “stimulus” money. Gerald Walpin told me Tuesday that he’s curious about the Matsui connection, too. (So far, I’ve been unable to get a response from Matsui’s people.)

The questions now being asked on Capitol Hill have taken an interesting turn, as Byron York’s column in the Examiner makes clear:

Within days of Matsui’s [March] statement, a settlement was reached. Johnson was unsuspended, and in a particularly unusual move, acting U.S. Attorney [Lawrence] Brown issued a press release hailing the arrival of stimulus funds. “The lifting of the suspension against all parties, including Mayor Johnson, removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented form receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds,” Brown wrote.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee want to know why a U.S. attorney was touting his own actions in bringing stimulus money to the city. That’s not the normal role of prosecutors. “We need to hear whether the settlement in this case was tainted in any way by political influence or political factors,” says the senior Republican aide.
So far, Brown has refused to answer any questions. In June, Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a list of 20 questions to Brown and received no response. A follow-up in July was similarly ignored. “Your unwillingness to be cooperative with our investigation raises further questions about your role in this matter,” Issa wrote Brown.

Ah, so here we are back to Issa again, you see? Issa says Brown is not cooperating on the AmeriCorps probe. Issa also says that the committee chairman, Towns, is not cooperating on the Countrywide probe.

So there’s a whole lot of non-cooperation going on — not all of it involving Issa or these two particular investigations — and the question that intrigues me is whether all this non-cooperation is merely a coincidence. We must resist the urge to slide into connect-the-dots DKos “question-the-timing” mode. But if there’s no evidence that there is a cover-up or a conspiracy at work here, it’s sure as heck starting to look like a pattern.

Lots of questions, as York says, and you should definitely read his entire column. As Dan Riehl said today, York is “is doing some terrific work for The Examiner. Best hire they’ve made since I’ve been looking in.” And I agree completely. The healthy competition on this story — Jake Tapper of ABC and Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post have also done excellent reporting on IG-Gate — is something that folks on the Hill very much want to encourage. The more media, the merrier, as far as they’re concerned.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t give full credit to Michelle Malkin, whose June 17 column on the Walpin case got me paying attention to the IG-Gate “dominoes.” And she is, after all, the author of the Best. Book. Evah!

When you’re working a competitive story like this and another guy eats your lunch, you can’t pretend you just accidentally misplaced your brown bag. So I hope you enjoyed that sandwich, Byron.

However, I don’t aim to be missing too many meals in the future. I’ve recently finished a 3,000-word article about IG-Gate for the September print edition of The American Spectator (subscribe now), and I just outlined to Mrs. Other McCain my plan for The Mother Of All Shoe-Leather Trips to D.C., so I can work the Hill for several days in a row.

Readers, please hit the tip jar, and be sure to see all the updated links at Bob Belvedere’s IG-GATE BLOG.

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July 22, 2009

The Mother of All IG-Gate Updates

On the Internet, stuff gets scattered around so that you never see it all in one place. Today’s IG-Gate Update at the Hot Air Green Room pushes the story forward:

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.”
More than three weeks have passed since Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) joined the committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, to launch an investigation into the case of former Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold Jr. . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago, 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. . . .

Read the whole thing, because toward the end, I make this point:

This is a huge story, involving multiple investigations, and 1,200 words here don’t even begin to summarize the 1,400 words there [at The American Spectator on Monday], to say nothing of the 400 words I did last night about the SIGTARP report.

Like I said, read the whole thing, and follow the links, because this is one big sprawling mother of a story. The best I can do in any single chunk is to bring in new facts, new quotes, new angles, and link to as much other the other stuff as possible. (That Green Room article includes more than 25 links, including the link to the Spectator article, which has more than a dozen links.)

If you’ll go to Bob Belvedere’s WWU-AM and scroll down, he’s got a huge IG-Gate link dump with my reporting, Byron York’s reporting, columns by Michelle Malkin, reports from ABC News, the Washington Post, etc. There’s a lot of stuff out there, in other words, and you need to see it all if you want to try to understand this thing.

“Try,” I say, because I don’t even claim to understand it all yet. My sources talk about things and sometimes I can tell they’re trying to drop me a hint of something they want me to write about, e.g., “Who Is Eleanor Acheson?” It’s important to ask the right questions, as one of my sources said.

On the one hand, there is the temptation to focus on one aspect of the story — the Washington Times keeps calling this “WalpinGate,” which is too narrow — but on the other hand, you’ve got to be careful not to waste time playing “connect-the-dots” with things that might not really be connected. Yes, there’s a pattern, but that doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy.

Still, as I predicted on June 18 — right after Michelle Malkin’s first column on the Walpin case slapped me upside the head — this story isn’t going away anytime soon. June 18 was the same day IG Fred Wiederhold delivered his report to the Amtrak board and suddenly retired, and also the same day Chuck Grassley made public his letter about the International Trade Commission IG, Judith Gwynne.

So barely a week after Walpin got his June 10 quit-or-be-fired ultimatum from White House lawyer Norm Eisen, there were two other IG cases. Then we have the case of the watchdog who’s still hanging tough, SIGTARP, Neil Barofsky. The bailout watchdog showed yesterday how much trouble he can cause, and it’s therefore no mystery why Treasury’s giving Barofsky a hard time. (My money’s still on Barofsky as the IG most likely to get a Cabinet secretary sent to federal prison.)

IG-Gate is a big mother, you see. Because I’m on deadline for a print magazine article, there’s no time for me to do a complete aggregation now, but here are the major IG-Gate articles I’ve done so far:

Each of those items is chock-full of links to other items. As you can see, just six weeks into this story, there’s a lot of stuff out there — and, no doubt, a lot more to come. Just keep hitting the tip jar.

One of these days, I plan to hit the American Spectator with the mother of all expense reimbursement requests — “$800 for fireworks?” “Promotional activity. Perfectly legitimate, Al.” — but in the meantime, Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Just in case you’re wondering why Professor Reynolds loves this story so much, I once again remind you to read the whole thing. The professor’s drooling at the prospect of The Mother of All Chris Dodd Updates.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IG-Gate Rule 3 memo, which offers more tasty watchdog morsels.