U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, accused President Barack Obama of “playing faster and looser” with the rules than former Republican President George W. Bush. Issa, a California Republican, is poised to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee if his party wins a majority in the House in the Nov. 2 election.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. We’re with Congressman Darrell Issa. Thank you for being with us, congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA: My pleasure.
HUNT: If the Republicans take control, you will be the head of the Reform -- Government Reform Committee, investigations committee.
ISSA: Thank you for saying reform, because people forget that that’s really our prime job.
HUNT: You want to understandably examine some of the huge financial expenditures of the government. One of them is TARP. Bloomberg ran figures this week and reported that that $309 billion investment to Wall Street, the banks, the taxpayers will get a $25 billion return or profit, 8.2 percent, I think, better than money markets, better than Treasuries. Is that a good deal for taxpayers then?
ISSA: Well, that part of the outcome is good. One of the challenges in TARP was it wasn’t well defined, and some of it’s been misused. And as you know --
HUNT: So what will you -- what will you look at?
ISSA: Well, part of it’s going to be that we’re now -- just today they’ve begun reporting that our Freddie-Fannie bailout, which is, you know, past $140 billion, could double.
ISSA: And that money’s not coming back. There’s no return on that. So there’s the good part of TARP, the bad part of TARP, and then there’s a question of, should Congress ever again hand a president walking-around money and allow him to give it out, get it back, give it out, get it back.
HUNT: Well, let me ask you, too, about the Federal Reserve, because you’ve raised questions about the Fed and its lack of transparency. What kind of secrets of the Fed would you like to change or reveal when you’re doing those inquiries?
ISSA: We try to hold government accountable, but particularly when they control trillions of dollars of guarantees on behalf of the American people without an appropriation, I think there needs to be regular oversight. 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. But 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.
HUNT: And what can you get out of the Fed that we’re not getting now?
ISSA: Well, certainly I think what you can get is in real time, how much are they committing? And if you look retrospectively and find out they committed a lot more than they told you at the time, then you can begin looking at the delta between what they say and what happens.
ISSA: Right now, nobody ever gets to look and say, “What did they predict? What did they think they were doing? And what happened?”
HUNT: And that’s clearly on your agenda, the Fed is --
ISSA: It’s clearly on the House’s agenda. It’s clearly on the people’s agenda.
HUNT: Let me ask you about the stimulus. How much fraud do you think there has been? And how much do you plan to investigate it?
ISSA: Well, we have one of the best people that you could ever have dealing with stimulus. We have Earl Devaney, IG, career bureaucrat, but bureaucrat not so much.
HUNT: He’s done a good job?
ISSA: He’s done as good a job as anyone who was ever handed $800 billion of oversight, very little budget, and no time to do it. He’s leveraged existing databases. He’s even beginning to advise other groups, including some of the stand-up agencies, on how they can find more fraud, particularly the Medicare-Medicaid. I’m hoping he stays involved in government.
HUNT: SEC, you were quite critical of the -- when they brought the Goldman case, thinking there may have been politics involved. The inspector general, you know, he issued --
ISSA: He did --
HUNT: -- a report a week ago, in which he said there was no politics involved. Are you satisfied? Or do you want to find out more?
ISSA: I work closely with the IGs. And the process there worked perfectly. We suggested that it didn’t look good.
ISSA: He agreed. We even gave him some additional input. He agreed. He did his investigation.
HUNT: You’re satisfied?
ISSA: We’re satisfied.
HUNT: So, therefore, that’s over?
ISSA: That’s over.
HUNT: Okay. You said Barack Obama is, quote, “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” On corruption --
ISSA: My goodness, you’re listening to Rush Limbaugh.
HUNT: Yes, I am. On corruption, which presidents does he rank with? And what are his most corrupt acts?
ISSA: First of all, when you look at Sestak and Romanoff, this attempt to clear the primary, that’s an example where he’s not the most corrupt. It appears as though presidents have been doing this, even though it’s illegal, for a long time.
HUNT: Right. But where is he the most corrupt?
ISSA: I think the process that we’re dealing with, where insourcing, for example -- and this is right on my committee -- we have every day in the defense and non-defense community, executives of the government tapping people on the shoulder saying, “You know, your contract’s not going to be renewed. We’re going to insource that. You should take this job now for a pay raise.”
We’ve had example after example. Yes, we plan on investigating it. I want the American people to get products and services at the lowest possible price. I don’t want to determine that it should be in-house or out-of-house.
HUNT: But does that rank with Watergate and Teapot Dome as one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times?
ISSA: Well, that’s the question, is, what’s modern times? Certainly, you’re right. Teapot Dome’s a good example. Look, Andrew Jackson was the most corrupt president probably --
HUNT: Do you think Obama’s more corrupt than any president that you’ve known in the last 20 years?
ISSA: He certainly is playing faster and looser with the rules with very little justification than George W. Bush did. George W. Bush played fast and loose with the rules after 9/11 trying to make us safe. He did what he thought he had to do, and he did it with pretty -- a lot of bravado.
It’s very different when you just simply say, “We’re going to insource things,” and all of your government begins insourcing without legitimate justification. The EPA acting without obeying its own rules, there’s a number of parts of government that have been working quickly --
HUNT: But do you still think he’s one of the most corrupt presidents --
ISSA: I think he has failed to administer his -- to oversee his administration in any kind of a meaningful way. Vice President Biden was supposed to be the great overseer of stimulus money.
ISSA: And he was supposed to do all this oversight. Chairman Towns -- and I checked with him recently -- and I, neither one of us have had a meeting with the vice president, and we’re the House committee of jurisdiction.
HUNT: Well, let me ask this, then. On the Republican right, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Tancredo, they all raised the prospect of Obama may have committed impeachable offenses. Is there any -- any chance -- any chance that impeachment could be on the Republican agenda if you win control of the House?
ISSA: Not a chance at this point. I don’t see it happening. Look, disagreeing with the president -- the president using his authority, maybe even misusing it, that’s not what impeachment’s for. Do we have disagreements? Yes. Do we want to see that the president strictly adheres to process? Yes.
One of the ones that my committee investigates, as I said, Romanoff and Sestak, these were -- these were misconduct. But guess what? The Bush administration, high-ranking executives said they did the same thing.
ISSA: So what we have is a pattern of misconduct that isn’t partisan, that isn’t this president. That’s not an impeachable offense, but it’s an offense that needs to change.
HUNT: California Congressman Darrell Issa, the potential next chairman of the House Reform Committee, thank you very much for being with us.
ISSA: Thank you, Al.
HUNT: And when we come back, is big money driving the midterm campaign? And Senate races tighten in Colorado and Kentucky. The last word, right after the break.
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