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Monday, March 14, 2011 

ISSA WATCH:  Courage Campaign Calls for Darrell Issa to Disclose Meetings with Lobbyists

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 14, 2011

ISSA WATCH:  Courage Campaign Calls for Darrell Issa to Disclose Meetings with Lobbyists

Progressive Group outlines Oversight Chairman’s “Stunning Hypocrisy” on issue of Transparency



Los Angeles:  Following House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's most recent attacks on the transparency of the Obama Administration, the 700,000 member Courage Campaign has called on Issa to "lead by example" by publicly posting his meeting schedule online.

"Darrell Issa is attacking the President from a glass house built by right wing special interests, and is in no position to throw stones," said Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs.  "From his own checkered past, to the conflicts of interest on his committee, Darrell Issa has already tried to hide from the American people.  It's time for him to come clean and lead by example.  That's why we're calling on Mr. Issa to show the public who is really driving his oversight agenda."

Last week, in a letter to Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Issa said,"The current lack of transparency lends credence to the perception that bureaucrats are picking winners and losers in a politicized environment where the winners are favored constituencies..."

After soliciting the regulatory wish lists of more than 150 industry lobbyists and right wing think tanks when he assumed the Chairmanship of the Oversight Committee in January, Issa has rejected suggestions -- including one from President Obama himself -- that he publicly disclose with whom he is meeting.

In the weeks since, a growing disconnect has emerged between Mr. Issa's rhetoric and record on the issue of transparency -- including new questions about his colorful past, ethical misconduct by his staff, suggestions that Mr. Issa inappropriately used personal corporate resources to support his political campaigns, a watchdog report documenting widespread conflicts of interest on his Committee, and a series of committee hearings suggesting excessive influence from well-connected partisan special interests.

"From Wisconsin to Washington, middle class taxpayers are under attack from right wing special interests with unrivaled access to the halls of power," Jacobs added.  "That's what makes Darrell Issa's stunning hypocrisy on the issue of transparency so troubling and dangerous.  Who or what is Darrell Issa trying to hide?"

The Courage Campaign has launched an online petition calling on Mr. Issa to follow the lead of the White House and publish online with whom he meets.  Thus far, more than 14,000 people have signed the petition.

View the petition here:  http://www.couragecampaign.org/IssaDisclose

The Courage Campaign is a California based, multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality across the country.  Courage holds politicians accountable, works for reform, and trains and organizes activists to change their communities.  Learn more at www.couragecampaign.org.

Issa Watch is the Courage Campaign's national accountability project designed to hold Chairman Issa accountable for his record, rhetoric and performance as House Oversight Committee Chairman.  For more information, visit www.issawatch.com.

BACKGROUND:  Darrell Issa and Transparency--A Pattern of Stunning Hypocrisy

  • Issa has aggressively targeted reduction of business regulations as part of his oversight agenda -- specifically environmental, workplace safety, and financial industry regulations.  His first act as Chairman was to solicit more than 150 lobbyists and right wing think tanks for their regulatory wish lists.  Issa then refused to share the responses with minority party members of the committee. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/48523.html
  • The Watchdog Institute recently discovered that a number of staffers hired by Issa to work for the Oversight Committee have deep ties to right wing lobbyists and activist groups -- including several linked to right wing billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch.   The Koch's have spent more than $40 million lobbying against the EPA and other regulatory agencies since 2008, contributed more than $12,000 to Issa's campaigns during the same period, and gave more than $72,000 to Republicans on the Oversight Committee in the last election.  Issa has also invited Koch-financed researchers to testify before the Oversight Committee, and refused to respond to the Watchdog Institute's request for comments on its report.  http://www.watchdoginstitute.org/2011/02/28/industry-insiders-score-jobs-on-issas-team/
  • Issa has appointed Subcommittee Chairs with deep financial ties to the industries they are supposed to regulate.
  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Chairman of the TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs Subcommittee.  Bank of America and the American Bankers Association rank among McHenry's top five contributors, and the commercial banking industry has given him more than $200,000 since 2004.  McHenry also accepted more than $5,000 from discredited subprime lender Countrywide Financial -- the target of Issa's first committee subpoenas -- and then served in an investigation into CEO payout fraud targeting Countrywide.  http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cycle=Career&type=I&cid=N00026627&newMem=N
  • Since assuming the Chairmanship of the Oversight Committee, Issa has convened a series of hearings suggesting a bias towards well-connected special interests.
  • Issa's first hearing on the financial crisis and mortgage meltdown included ZERO witnesses from the banking or loan servicing industries, nor a single struggling homeowner.  Realty Trac data shows 1 in 10 homeowners in Issa's district face foreclosure.  Immediately following the hearing, Issa introduced legislation to eliminate HAMP, a federal loan modification program that has helped more than 1.4 million struggling homeowners stay in their homes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/26/darrell-issa-blocks-elijah-cummings_n_814277.html
  • Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella was recently fired for ethical misconduct -- specifically, for secretly sharing e-mail correspondence from reporters and other congressional staffers with a New York Times reporter working on a book project.  In firing Bardella, Issa largely denied knowledge of Bardella's activities. Subsequent reports have uncovered several inconsistencies in Issa's story, leading a non-partisan watchdog group to call for an ethics committee investigation into the matter.  http://www.citizensforethics.org/blog/entry/what-did-chairman-issa-know
  • Roll Call has suggested that Issa -- who is the wealthiest member of the U.S. House -- skirted campaign finance laws by using a website connected to his private businesses as a portal for his political campaigns.  A production company bearing a similar name to the website has also been featured on Issa-related videos posted to both his campaign and oversight committee websites.  None of Issa's campaign finance reports have disclosed any in-kind contributions from Issa-connected corporate entities, and Issa has since scrubbed his personal corporate website of any mention of his political work.  http://www.rollcall.com/news/-203757-1.html
  • Issa's colorful past includes arrests for felony car theft and weapons charges, allegations that he embellished his military resume, and a "suspicious fire" at a company he owned in 1982 -- for which the Washington Post said Issa was "under criminal suspicion."   A watchdog group has asked Issa to explain numerous inconsistencies in his story surrounding the fire.  Documentation is available here:http://www.scribd.com/doc/49110099/Issa-Files-First-Document-Request-Final

 

 

 

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