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Darrell Issa's Hatch Act

July 19, 2014

Judging from the flood of articles with titles like "Has Darrell Issa gone rogue?" and "When Darrell Issa goes 'rogue'," the grand inquisitor of the Obama administration may have finally gone too far even for his Republican colleagues. Having lost the spotlight on the GOP's fishing expeditions on Benghazi and the IRS, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman has resorted to scheduling duplicate testimony and inventing new charges out of whole cloth. And his latest slander--baselessly accusing the White House White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach of violations of the Hatch Act--may be his most pathetic yet. After all, in 2007 it was Rep. Issa who mounted a staunch defense of Lurita Doan, the embattled Bush GSA chief who later resigned after U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) concluded she had violated the Hatch Act's prohibitions on partisan political activity by government employees.
On Wednesday, Chairman Issa ended his committee hearing without testimony from the scheduled witnesses. But that abrupt end had less to do with the White House's defiance of a subpoena for Davis Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, than with the conclusion provided in the written statement of U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. As the Washington Post reported:

Issa has complained that the White House opened its political-affairs wing without consulting the Office of Special Counsel, which helps enforce the Hatch Act.
U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner submitted written testimony that said the political office appeared to be adhering to OSC guidance, based on how officials have described its function.
"To the extent that OPSO's activities are limited to those described in the White House correspondence, OPSO appears to be operating in a manner that is consistent with Hatch Act restrictions," Lerner wrote.

But when it came to Bush administration, the watchdog agency documented at great length in 2011, the violations of the Hatch Act came fast and furious. Among the leading rule-breakers was President Bush's pick for the General Services Administration, the federal government's premier contracting agency, And when Lurita Doan first came under withering bipartisan criticism in early 2007 for using her office to promote Republican Congressional candidates and awarding no-bid contracts to her friends, it was Darrell Issa who circled the wagons around her.
As Political Correction documented, time and again Issa came to Doan's defense, even going so far as to list her charitable contributions as proof of her virtue. That was hard to do with a straight face, given Doan's pathetic performance in front of his committee then headed by Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA). As NPR detailed in March 2007:

In her testimony, Doan preferred to emphasize her entrepreneurial efforts. But Democrats were interested in other things: a contract that she tried to award to an old friend; negotiations with Sun Microsystems, in which she became involved; and, more especially, the briefing. In January, Scott Jennings -- the top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove -- talked to GSA political appointees about the 2006 election results and the Republican goals for 2008.
In one exchange, the lead-off questioner for committee Democrats, Iowa freshman Rep. Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer, asked Doan, "Would you characterize his presentation as a purely factual presentation about the results of the 2006 election?"
Doan replied, "I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I can say I honestly don't have a recollection of the presentation at all."

You may have a recollection of that presentation. After all, those slides showing the GOP's top 20 target seats for the 2008 election were made public:
Nevertheless, Darrell Issa, the same man who accused Valerie Plame of perjury, attacked the families of murdered Blackwater employees and accused Congressman Joe Sestak of Hatch Act violations, portrayed Doan as a victim during that March 2007 Oversight Committee hearing:

Republicans stuck up for Doan. Darrell Issa of California noted that she has been running GSA for just eight months: "In your eight months, I think you've probably found what I found in my nearly seven years now: That this is a bureaucracy that will resist you at every point, isn't it?"
Doan's reply: "You're absolutely right."

Doan ultimately resigned from GSA on May 1, 2008 after "the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a government watchdog agency, conducted its own probe of those claims and concluded that she made the remarks and violated the Hatch Act, which generally prohibits employees of federal agencies from using their positions for political purposes."
For her part, the loyal Bushie Lurita Doan repaid the favor. In October 2008, Doan attacked the man Issa would eventually replace. "Most Americans have grown familiar with your lack of candor, misleading statements, and bitter partisan machinations, and certainly, your report serves as yet another example of the same ol' same ol' from Henry Waxman." And In January 2011, Doan reemerged on the pages of Townhall to praise "Issa's Early Effect":

Congressman Darrell Issa's chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has already had an effect on Democrats in the Obama Administration, even before Issa has hosted a congressional oversight hearing. The announcement of the resignation of Josh Sharfstein, the Deputy Commissioner at Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is likely just the first of many such resignations that will occur as Executive agency leaders in the Obama Administration realize that their misguided policies can't stand up to public scrutiny...
Expect an exodus of other political appointees from other federal agencies as soon as public scrutiny reveals more Obama Administration abuses of public trust. Many Democrats have depended on operating in the dark because they know their policies are indefensible. Liberal Dems who know that their policies cannot be defended are going to leave before Issa's hawk's eye turns on their activities.

As it is turning out, the only exodus underway appears to be from the ranks of Darrell Issa's Republican allies. That's because Darrell Issa and his hawk eye have finally jumped the shark.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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