Issa Accuses Obama of `Playing Faster and Looser' With Rules Than Bush

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, poised to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee if Republicans regain the majority on Nov. 2, accused President Barack Obama today of “playing faster and looser with the rules” than former Republican President George W. Bush.

The comparison, defending earlier remarks Issa made on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in which he called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” came during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”

As evidence, Issa pointed to a Pentagon practice, under Obama, of recruiting private contractors to work for the government with promises of better benefits and higher salaries.

He offered no further proof of subverted rules in Obama’s Democratic administration. And he was more forgiving about the administration’s offer of jobs to a pair of Democrats -- U.S. Representative Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and former state legislator Andrew Romanoff in Colorado -- if they chose not to pursue primary challenges against two incumbent senators. The candidates ran.

“It appears as though presidents have been doing this, even though it’s illegal, for a long time,” Issa said.

He also said he has no plans to further investigate the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud allegations against the Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“The process there worked perfectly,” Issa said, referring to a report issued Oct. 15 by the agency’s inspector general that found no evidence a lawsuit filed against the Wall Street firm was driven by politics. “We’re satisfied.”

Corral Votes

The inspector general agreed to take a look at the case after Issa questioned whether the SEC filed the lawsuit to help Obama corral votes for then-pending legislation to overhaul the country’s financial markets.

In the interview, Issa reiterated his call for tougher, more frequent scrutiny of the Federal Reserve because it controls “trillions of dollars of guarantees” that aren’t included with the money Congress spends each year.

“We do have to have a select team in the House and the Senate, really be able to look in-depth behind the curtain, rather than simply have the Fed chairman come up and lecture us,” he said. One issue is to examine in retrospect how much money the Fed committed at a particular time compared with what the central bank said it was doing, Issa said.

Over the past two years, Issa’s committee has disclosed internal Fed e-mails that he says showed cover-ups of bailout payments to creditors of American International Group Inc. and details of Bank of America Corp.’s takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co.

Regular Oversight

“There needs to be regular oversight,” he said. “This is no different than our clandestine services. It doesn’t have to be all public. The audit of the Fed does not have to be put on the Internet.”

Issa plans to investigate hiring practices in the administration, particularly within the Department of Defense. His spokesman, Frederick Hill, explained that the congressman was talking about the Pentagon’s practice, under the Obama administration, of “going to employees of contractors, trying to recruit them to bring them in house” by “telling them they’d get better benefits or better salary.”

“It’s an illegal practice,” just as illegal as it is for private contractors to try to recruit government workers on the same project, he said.

Defeating Contractors

The Obama administration has “pushed their preference to limit the number of contracts and do more in-sourcing,” Hill said. “They are trying to do that by defeating contractors” by “bringing their employees” into the government or “not letting them work effectively on their contracts.”

Issa singled out Vice President Joe Biden for his failure to monitor that money. The California Republican said neither he nor Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Ed Towns, a New York Democrat, has met with Biden about the stimulus.

“Vice President Biden was supposed to be the great overseer of stimulus money,” he said.

At the same time, he lavished praise on Earl Devaney, the inspector general for the Department of the Interior who’s been given the job of overseeing stimulus spending, saying, “He’s done as good a job as anyone who was ever handed $800 billion of oversight, little budget and no time to do it.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick O’Connor in Washington at poconnor14@bloomberg.net; James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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