I was at an annual meeting of Pharmaceutical compliance experts earlier this month. I sat next to a vice president of Pfizer and we were talking politics. This administration made him a rich man, but he came to Pfizer after retiring from a regulatory agency and he had an ornery Democratic streak in him. We talked politics. Soon we had discussed how the Terri Schiavo case was just one example of how Tom Davis (VA-11) is so quick to use his Committee Chairmanship of the Reform Committee to threaten to hold a hearing on subjects outside the scope of the Government Reform Committee, where he is chairman. He admitted companies are quick to pay campaign contributions if they think it will head off a hearing, even a good one.
On the other hand, Tom Davis explained why he fails to investigate Abu Gharib prison scandal:
"We aren't going after the mini scandal du jour, to try to embarrass the administration on a hearing that's going nowhere," said Davis, Republican of Virginia.
"There's no such thing as a good hearing. If you're very lucky, you'll get a chance to make a point. But the hearing is completely controlled by the organizer. The message is controlled by the organizer."
"We are not in the business of hearings. The most basic hearing diverts us, and costs us a lot. We lose at least $75,000 in executive time lost, and for consultants who help us prepare. It's easily worth paying a $50,000 campaign contribution to avoid a hearing."
Tom Davis is head of the Government Reform Committee; Although he says he can deliver, he has been instrumental in his failure to use this power to call hearings to prevent the flourishing of corruption under his watch. Davis has repeatedly refused requests to schedule investigations of the many instances of incompetence and corruption in Congress and in government. Instead of investigating government issues, the core responsibility of the committee, he has used taxpayer money to investigate baseball and the Terri Schiavo case that have nothing to do with Federal government responsibilities.
Experts agree congressional committees have set aside their role as leaders in investigating the executive branch and powerful industries. The current Congress has largely spared major corporations and has done only minimal oversight of the Republican administration, according to a review of congressional documents by The Boston Globe. After comparing the Government Reform Committee under Tom Davis to the committee under previous chairs, the Boston Globe concludes that under Davis, even the most flagrant corruption can flourish with no accountability.
Yet, Tom Davis blocks investigations of real abuse and scandal, like the Abu Gharib prison scandal: "We aren't going after the mini scandal du jour, to try to embarrass the administration on a hearing that's going nowhere," said Davis, Republican of Virginia.
Instead, Davis is an opportunist who abuses his subpoena power. Here are some examples:
January 2006: Department of the Treasury has the largest encrypted network among its 850+ locations of any civilian agency. Tired of waiting years for a better secure network, the Department awarded its own contract to build a new telecommunications system to AT&T Corp. However, the Agency incurred Davis's wrath. Davis told reporters at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that he might schedule a hearing about ending the contract's funding. Davis spokesman Drew Crockett confirmed Davis' threat to cut its funding. The contest made the news here, here, here, here and here.
August 2005: Davis threatens the Defense Department with a Reform Committee investigation if Artel, a client of his wife's firm, is not awarded a contract for a service the department didn't want.
June 2005: Davis threatens Major League Baseball with an investigation if the new team from Washington, DC is sold to a consortium that includes billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
March 17, 2005: Congress holds a hearing into steroid use in Major League Baseball. Several players have been subpoenaed to testify. Through a spokesman, Davis said MLB "should embrace the opportunity to set the record straight with the public."
Of course, now we know they hate hearings and pay handsomely to make them go away. Even if they have a message to deliver, they don't want to deliver them at a hearing.
MLB had slowed down oversight by Davis with contributions to Davis and to the National Republican Congressional Committee, including $15,000 each in 2004 and 2005 during the lead up to these hearings.
April 2005: Davis blocks the Vienna SmartGrowth by threatening a Reform Committee investigation.
March 2005: Davis signs subpoena of Terri Schiavo for a Reform Committee investigation.
An examination of committees' own reports found that the House Government Reform Committee held just 37 hearings described as ''oversight" or investigative in nature during the last Congress, down from 135 such hearings held by its predecessor, the House Government Operations Committee, in 1993-94, the last year the Democrats controlled the chamber.
Party loyalty does not account for the difference: In 1993-94, the Democrats were investigating a Democratic administration.
A Congressional Report in 2006 specifically identifies 15 key oversight issues involving President Bush and the Administration that the House Committee on Government Reform and Congress has failed to investigate
Read more here, here, and here.
Davis has donated his millions to over 100 races, in 40 states. (Click to find the candidate in your district You owe it to your state to help defeat him, no matter where you're from. Luckily, he no longer continues in office unchallenged. Donate to and volunteer for Andy Hurst today.