Under the new redistricting for the House of Representatives, the cities of Carlsbad and Encinitas will have a new incumbent for the next election. The last thing that Issa wanted was to have his new constituents introduced to him by a critical article in the left leaning New York Times.
If you know that a major newspaper is about to do an article that is part of a series on Congressional corruption, you could work with the reporter to make sure it’s accurate. The other strategy is to refuse to answer any questions, trusting that errors would seep through that could be used to refute the entire article as an irresponsible smear. This was Representative Issa’s strategy, and it looks like it worked.
Not only has the substance of the article been overshadowed by his claim that the article was libelous, but it has made most local media gun shy about reporting another newsworthy story.
The series of articles (available from the Time’s website) had included two legislators from each party to make the larger point; the individuals being examples of the damage that was done by the current lax ethical norms. The other featured legislators engaged in a dialog with the paper to improve accuracy; only Issa refusing to even respond to phone calls.
As chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa has the broad authority to look at
every aspect of our vast federal government. In such a forest of agencies there is abundant low hanging fruit; some such as the ill conceived Mexican gun running sting approved under the Obama administration, and others of vastly greater importance, that represent endemic corruption of both parties by powerful special interests such as the financial industry.
In 2008 the repeal or lack of enforcement of laws overseeing financial institutions brought our country, and the world, to the brink of financial collapse. One company representative of this industry, Goldman Sachs, not only survived, but benefited greatly from the TARP bailout that was initiated under the Bush administration and continued under Obama.
In order to prevent such a disaster from occurring again, the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010” was signed, which has become one of the targets for repeal or evisceration by the new Republican majority in the house, with the effort lead by Issa’s committee.
The very day that the Times article came out, Atlantic Monthly Online disclosed a relationship between Issa and Goldman Sachs. Going beyond the corrupting effect of battalions of lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, Issa seems to have pushed the envelope. He hired a lawyer who had been a vice president of Goldman Sachs under the name of Peter Simonyi to be in charge of writing revisions of the 2010 law. The reason this was not known to the public is that he had subsequently changed his name to Peter Haller.
The New York Times can ignore spurious accusations of libel, but smaller media outlets are hesitant to incur the wrath of a powerful legislator threatening lawsuits who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress.
So, we can be sure that the Union Tribune, on whose pages the libel claim appeared, will not follow up with a challenge that Issa actually initiate such a suit-or withdraw the accusation; as the Times, after correcting two items, has defended the substance of its article.
The Supreme Court under the recent Citizens United case has opened the floodgates of corporate wealth dominating campaign advertising. We know that corporations such as Goldman Sachs can finance the ads that inundate us during elections, but we didn’t know that one of their recent executives was drafting the laws under which they will operate.
North Coast San Diego now has a member of Congress with the power to make a difference in political life. This gives us, the voters, the potential to influence the direction of the committee that he chairs — whether it shall be focused on partisan gains for next election, or on reforming the endemic corruption of government that threatens us as a nation.
This is the ever-greater historical challenge, one that will only be undertaken if we, Issa’s constituents, demand it.
Al Rodbell is an Encinitas resident. Read more of Mr. Rodbell’s work at Alrodbell.blogspot.com.
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