Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD7)

We know in early January that Darrell Issa put the word out to lobbyists and trade groups, asking them what federal regulations they wanted to see rolled back. And we’re starting to get the responses. The National Association of Manufacturers helpfully provided an itemized list. And yesterday, the Heritage Foundation, a Koch-funded think tank, offered up dozens of longtime regulations to do away with, including all future regulations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – none of which have been written yet.

But NAM and Heritage are pretty public organizations, and nothing in their laundry lists reflects anything they haven’t publicly advocated for in the past. What is unusual is the breadth of Issa’s request – he sent letters to hundreds of organizations asking them about regulations. Now, the Democratic ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, sent letters to all the same industry lobbyists and trade groups, asking them for copies of whatever they sent back to Issa.

Cummings previously requested these documents from Issa, but Issa plans to withhold them until a public release and analysis next Friday. So Cummings is going right to the source. Here’s how he phrased it to the American Meat Institute in a sample letter:

I fully support a balanced effort to reform regulations to promote job growth in a manner that does not sacrifice the core protections these regulations are intended to preserve. Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain copies of any responses to the Chairman’s letters directly from the Chairman. Without having the benefit of your response, Democratic Committee Members are being prevented from adequately preparing for a hearing the Chairman intends to hold in the coming weeks on this issue.

Issa is trying to make the Democrats on the committee and their staffs walk into a hearing blind, without the raw information needed to speak intelligently to the issues. In addition, Cummings said in a statement, “Withholding Committee records is not only a violation of House rules, but a waste of time that could have been avoided with the smallest degree of bipartisan cooperation.”

This auctioning off of regulatory policy to hundreds of corporate friends, as well as the partisan sideshow of deliberately withholdsing documents, feels like a misstep for Issa. However, if nobody actually knows about it, he’ll get away with it. Cummings is trying to raise the profile.

David Dayen

David Dayen