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Fraternity Pranks From Issa, GOP On Oversight Committee

Darrell Issa, the voice of the Viper car alarm and the richest man in the House of Representatives, wants to make a name for himself. He’d love to be the Dan Burton of the modern era, shooting watermelons in his back yard and ginning up whatever conspiracy theory he can muster to weaken a Democratic White House and Democratic Congress.

In this case, Issa has tried repeatedly to use the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to subpoena documents from Countrywide, the mortgage lender accused of all sorts of nefarious lending practices. But Issa only really cares about one of these – the so-called “Friends of Angelo” VIP program that allegedly delivered favorable treatment to Democratic Senators like Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad. On this issue, despite what you may have seen in Michael Moore’s latest film, numerous investigations, including one by the Senate Ethics Committee, has dismissed claims of a sweetheart deal. The Justice Department is in the midst of an ongoing investigation on the subject.

But that hasn’t stopped Issa. He has tried to attach the subpoena for Countrywide documents in an Oversight Committee investigation into the Bank of America deal with Merrill Lynch (BofA now owns Countrywide). Issa had his staff camp out of the committee hearing room with a camera and shot Democrats leaving the room, turning the footage into a campaign video to the tune of “Hit The Road, Jack” and posting it on the GOP Oversight Committee website, which is paid for by the federal government. Oversight Committee Chairman Ed Towns responded by changing the locks on the hearing room doors.

Today, Ed Towns authorized a subpoena for records on Countrywide’s VIP program, essentially calling Issa’s bluff. Towns released a statement:

“The actions of mortgage lenders contributing to the foreclosure and financial crisis are of serious concern to many Americans and to the Members of this Committee,” said Chairman Towns. “That is why I have opened an investigation into whether mortgage companies employed deceptive and predatory lending practices, or improper tactics to thwart regulation, and the impact of those activities on the current crisis.”

“It is my goal to work through this matter in a bipartisan fashion and conduct a complete review of the role of mortgage companies in the current financial crisis. As part of this, we need to clarify unanswered questions about Countrywide Financial’s VIP program, so I am issuing a subpoena to gather information about how that program worked and whether it provided special benefits to government officials. I am prepared to issue additional subpoenas if other companies fail to respond to our document requests,” Towns said.

Towns added, “In line with the commitment to an ethical and accountable Congress, the subpoena to Countrywide covers records that could show special treatment for Members of Congress. For reasons of jurisdiction, the subpoena directs that any such documents be sent to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.”

One thing Issa doesn’t much mention is that he received $3,000 from Countrywide’s PAC last year, and Republicans actually got more in campaign contributions from the lender than Democrats. Maybe the results of that will come out with any new documents on the VIP Program.

I’m glad that these lending practices are getting investigated, and I’m happy to see the investigation go in whatever direction to reach the truth. But Darrell Issa is not at all credible as an investigator. He’s more like the president of a fraternity, making pranks and trying to humiliate the Delta House on the other side of the street.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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