Today, Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a subpoena to David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, to provide testimony regarding a possible violation of the Hatch act by that office. From Politico:
The hearing will center on Issa’s charge that the White House is “[abusing]…taxpayer funds for political gain.”
“In an effort to appease its political allies, the Obama Administration broadcast its intention to re-open a political office within the White House to assist in partisan election efforts and fundraising. This follows a serious pattern of behavior at the highest levels of the Administration,” Issa said.
The move by Issa drew immediate fire from Representative Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee chaired by Issa. Cummings alleges Issa’s use of subpoena has been abusive and overbroad in general, of which this is a specific example, as well as having been issued without benefit of committee vote. Cummings further argues there has been no hint or indication of any wrongdoing on the part of the White House political office.
In a letter to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, Issa complained the White House had not been responsive enough to requests for documents and information about the political office… The White House has turned over 185 pages of documents related to the political office, and offered to provide a briefing to committee staff. Issa, though, said those efforts were not enough
Issa has further stated he may withdraw the Simas summons if the briefing provided by the White House is sufficiently broad as to leave no questions remaining for Mr. Simas to answer. The hearing will additionally call Carolyn Lerner, head of the US Office of Special Counsel (whose duties, among others, include providing guidance on Hatch Act matters to federal employees), whose office has said the forerunner of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach– the White House Office of Political Affairs– was guilty of misuse of taxpayer funds in violation of the Hatch Act, and is alleged to have said the current iteration of the political office was founded without benefit of advice from the Office of Special Counsel.
I’m not completely certain where Issa is going with this. It may be, as Cummings alleges, Issa is a bit PO’d about Trey Gowdy stealing his thunder when Boehner appointed him to head the new investigative committee and is issuing subpoenas right and left to overcompensate. Frankly, while there may be some basis of truth in that– never underestimate the vanity of a politician, or their need for the spotlight; most of ’em would board-check a high school cheerleader to get in front of a TV camera– it’s also true Cummings himself is not immune to this disease, and there may be just a tad of hyperbole involved. It’s hard to put a lot of faith in anything Cummings says about Issa– or vice versa— as their relationship is poisonous. It’s also possible Issa is on to something. He hasn’t made a big score yet by actually proving anything, but I haven’t seen him try anything where the allegations weren’t at least credible. So far, there does not appear to be any evidence of wrongdoing. And yet, if it is true they opened a nakedly political office without benefit of advice from Office of Special Counsel, one has to wonder why. That’s part of what OSC is for.
So, the show goes on. Time will tell if the ticket price was well spent.