Julie MarshRepresentative Darrell Issa, a Republican Representative from California, will be the new Chairman of the House Oversight Committee when the 112th Congress convenes on Wednesday. During the lame duck session, he warned Congress and the Obama administration that he intended to focus on waste, fraud, and abuse under what he called "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."
Issa has since clarified that he meant to refer to the [alleged] corruption of the administration, not of President Obama himself. Even so, his basis for the allegation is that the Obama administration inherited $1 trillion in TARP funds and received $1 trillion of stimulus funds, and that "has a corrupting effect."
Money and power have the potential to corrupt? There's a revelation. However, I'd submit that's a problem for all politicians, regardless of party or office.
But the concern in the case of Darrell Issa's Oversight Committee is that he's already betrayed his assumption that corruption exists in this administration -- all he has to do is find it, dammit! Will suspects be dunked in the Potomac River to see if they sink or float? Perhaps some of those stimulus funds can be used for burning floaters at the stake.
Of course corruption exists in this administration! Corruption existed in the Bush administrations, both 41 and 43. Corruption existed in the Clinton administration, the Reagan administration, the Carter administration. Corruption is a political fact of life.
I actually think the concept of the Oversight Committee is hilarious. Talk about the fox watching the hen house. No elected official or appointee from either party acts with nobility and integrity at all times. But it stands to reason that when the House is controlled by one party and the administration is of the other party, there's a political advantage in unearthing misappropriations and elevating them to scandals. And since Republicans haven't exactly been too strict with their own spending habits, it makes sense that Issa would seek to highlight the same among Democrats.
What bothers me -- apart from the fact that there are still unanswered questions from several previous administrations; so much for the effectiveness of the Oversight Committee -- is the likelihood that civil servants with neither money nor power will be the ones who pay. Congressional censure is a joke. Even impeachment means practically nothing in the grand scheme. But five- and six-figure legal fees, borne by the mid-level government employees who will likely be subpoenaed as part of the investigations, can be devastating. (Though of course not for the lawyers who collect them.)
I expect that the committee, under Issa's chairmanship, will turn up some problems. I also expect, as with previous administrations, it won't change a damn thing about the way Congress and the presidency operate.