House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to a senior Obama administration to testify on the Hatch Act. Issa is calling on David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, to provide testimony on that office's role in political campaigns. The Hatch Act is a 20th-century legislation prevents executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) hasn't had it easy lately.
His obsession with assorted "scandals" turned out to be pointless. His Benghazi probe proved to be so directionless that House Republican leaders took the issue away from him. His party has started to see him as inept. And worst of all, Issa's tenure as chairman will come to an end later this year after having accomplished practically nothing.
The California Republican doesn't seem to be handling the pressure well.
On the surface, there's no reason to think Simas actually violated the Hatch Act -- that's what the Bush/Cheney team did, back when Issa didn't seem to care -- which makes the subpoena hard to justify.
But just below the surface, note that Issa issued the subpoena without any debate -- or even a vote -- from the Oversight Committee's members. Issa's been doing that a lot lately.
In fact, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Issa today to urge the chairman to be more responsible: "Over the past several weeks -- ever since House Speaker John Boehner took the Benghazi investigation away from the Oversight Committee and transferred it to the new Select Committee -- you have been engaged in a subpoena binge, issuing more unilateral subpoenas than at any point during your tenure, and all with no debate or votes by our Committee."
Perhaps a chart can help drive the point home.
In the first five months of the year, Issa issued 10 subpoenas, for an average of two per month. In June, Issa issued 11, none of which seemed especially necessary.
It's not that Issa is throwing around subpoenas recklessly in response to new evidence or suspicions. Rather, it seems as if he's starting to feel antsy about a fruitless tenure.
Of course, congressional subpoenas are not toys and they're not supposed to be used to make a frustrated congressman feel better.
Update: Jennifer Bendery's report raises a key detail: Issa "has now issued nearly 100 subpoenas since becoming chairman ... more than all three previous committee chairmen combined."