Before he took over as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Darrell Issa said he would conduct “seven hearings a week” to investigate the Obama administration because -- as he told Rush Limbaugh -- Barack Obama “has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”
Issa knows something about corruption. According to the New Yorker, he was investigated three different times for stealing cars, leading to two indictments for grand theft.
He was also investigated for arson/insurance fraud, prompting David Plouffe to call him “Mister Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler.”
After Issa’s business burned down, the St. Paul insurance company’s investigation found accelerants in four places and concluded that the fire started in at least two places. Perhaps coincidentally, he had quadrupled the insurance coverage less than three weeks before the fire, and had removed everything of value from the building the day before the fire. He was never convicted.
Separately, he was arrested on concealed weapons charges.
Issa’s first investigation of the Obama administration involved the claim that it had floated an administration job to keep a Democratic congressman out of a Senate primary. Issa quietly shut down the investigation after it was revealed that the Bush administration had done the same.
His next try was the failed “Fast and Furious” gunwalking sting into Mexico by the ATF, which Issa declared “went all the way to the White House.”
Issa was partially correct: the program started with George Bush’s White House, where it was called Operation Wide Receiver. In fact, Issa misrepresented emails from that 2006-2007 Tucson case, Wide Receiver, as being from Fast and Furious to attack Eric Holder. The Justice Department IG determined that Holder didn’t know anything about the program until after it was shut down.
Issa’s next “scandal” was the failure of Solyndra, a solar energy company that he claimed got Energy Department loan guarantees because of cronyism and political corruption.
We subsequently learned that Solyndra had been approved for loan guarantees under Bush, and thus was pre-approved for loans under Obama’s stimulus program. Issa’s committee could document no cronyism and no presidential involvement.
Issa also probed the Department of Homeland Security’s response to Freedom of Information Act requests, saying the matter “reeks of a Nixonian enemies list, and this committee will not tolerate it.” There was no enemies list and, once again, no presidential involvement.
Issa next accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving false information to Congress about her role in security arrangements for the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. He tried several ways to implicate Obama in the tragedy, including by altering talking points.
It turned out Clinton wasn’t involved in the security decisions and the White House wasn’t behind changes to the talking points, which were drafted by the CIA to protect their secret Benghazi programs.
Issa is still working to manufacture a scandal he can tie to the White House. The latest is his claim that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups by delaying their 501(c)4 designation, the rule permitting “social welfare” organizations to collect tax-deductible contributions without having to disclose their donors. It is the IRS’s job to adjudicate such applications, many of them by political groups claiming to be social welfare groups. Sixteen IRS employees who identified themselves as Republicans, Democrats and independents said in testimony there was no political motivation nor outside influence.
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George reported that there were 296 “potential political cases” reviewed through December 2012. The I.R.S. received 199,689 applications for tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012, which means the 296 cases represent less than .15 percent. That number was so small as to make the discrimination charges ludicrous. Moreover, no applications were denied.
The IRS internal review found “no evidence of intentional wrongdoing” and “no evidence of involvement from anyone outside of the IRS.”
Subsequent information showed that the most scrutiny was reserved for “occupy” groups, such as Occupy Wall Street, according to the New York Times, although the lookout lists included other progressive groups.
It later turned out that Issa had directed George to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations.” (All IGs take orders from Congress, not the executive branch.) George claimed that information on liberal groups was somehow withheld from him, but ranking member Elijah Cummings pointed to information previously released about liberal groups being “targeted” that contradicted George. The IG has now agreed to reopen the investigation.
The real scandal here looks to be Issa trying to fabricate a scandal.
(A version of this appeared in the Mankato, MN Free Press.)