The White House is asking Rep. Darrell Issa to withdraw a subpoena of a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and is offering instead to hold a private briefing on activities in the administration's political affairs office. In a letter sent Monday, White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston offered to brief Issa, a California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on the role of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach on Tuesday. That's one day before the office's director, David Simas, is under subpoena to testify on potential violations of the Hatch Act.
A few years ago, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pretended to be outraged by President Obama recording campaign messages from the White House. Issa realized there was no legitimate controversy, but the California Republican complained bitterly in order to create, in his words, "good theater."
Apparently, Issa, unable to manufacture any real White House "scandals," is ready for some more theater.
Ordinarily, there's a usual pattern to stories like these: Issa raises allegations against Obama administration officials, which the White House dismisses as baseless. But this story is a little different: Issa has subpoenaed Simas, not to respond to any allegations in particular, but because the Oversight Committee chairman just wonders whether a hearing might turn something up.
Responding to White House attorneys, who urged Issa to be more responsible, the congressman's office said overnight that the subpoena stands, at least for now. Simas is supposed to appear tomorrow, not because of suspicions of wrongdoing, but apparently because Issa is in the mood for more "theater."
The Hatch Act is, of course, a serious measure, intended to limit federal employees' political activities. Indeed, the Bush/Cheney White House was found to have violated this federal law, back when Darrell Issa didn't care.
Also keep in mind, Issa subpoenaed Simas without a vote -- or even debate -- from the Oversight Committee, a pattern that's become quite common for Issa of late.
As we talked about last week, with the California Republican poised to lose his gavel at the end of the year, and no actual controversies to investigate, Issa has gone on a "subpoena binge," sending them out recklessly.
In all, Issa has now issued 98 subpoenas since taking over the Oversight Committee, more than the last three Oversight Committee chairs combined. Making matters worse, pre-Issa, most committee subpoenas were issued with the concurrence of the ranking member or a vote of the committee. Issa, on the other hand, has a habit of acting unilaterally.
This simply isn't how a powerful congressional panel is supposed to operate.