Partisan spat has oversight panel leaders trying to hit the right notes

The initial chorus of bipartisan harmony from the House's principal oversight panel hit a discordant note Thursday, when its lead Republican accused Democrats of being tone deaf to one alleged case of perjury while aggressively pursuing another.

The blast was sounded by House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., after Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., announced a new investigation of allegations that Merrill Lynch executives lied to the committee last year.

Earlier this week, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused Merrill Lynch of misleading Congress in November by saying it would pay out over $5 billion in executive bonuses at the end of the year when it decided to award the money earlier.

Within hours of Towns' announcement of the committee probe, Issa fired off a news release accusing the chairman of "a double standard on pursuing allegations of perjury and obstruction."

Issa has accused former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines of giving false testimony to the committee in December by saying he was unaware that he received preferential treatment on a loan from Countrywide Financial. On Thursday, Issa asserted that his Democratic colleagues are looking out for their own by shielding Raines from the same scrutiny that will be applied to Merrill Lynch.

"This committee, unfortunately, applies one standard in deciding whether or not to investigate a prominent, wealthy and politically connected Democrat like Franklin Raines and another to those who aren't," Issa said in his release.

Towns reacted quickly to attempt to defuse the situation, responding in an interview that he does not object to Issa's call for scrutiny of Raines and is open to dispatching attorneys to investigate the matter.

"If [Issa is] requesting it, I don't have a problem with it at all," Towns said.

The exchange between Issa and Towns exposed what sources called a behind-the-scenes partisan spat between the committee's majority and minority staffs. Republicans have accused Democrats of dragging their feet on a Raines inquiry, noting that Towns' aides did not support a March 6 letter requesting further documentation on Countrywide's so-called Friends of Angelo VIP loan program, which charged below-market interest rates.

Democratic aides said they have been looking into the Raines matter and countered that Republicans have been more interested in scoring political points in public than coordinating a bipartisan inquiry.

Towns, known for his even-tempered style, shrugged off Issa's partisan shot as a holdover from the committee's rancorous past.

"They're so used to fighting around here," he said. "When they have a member who wants to work in a bipartisan fashion, it just takes a little while to get there."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.