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Crisis Panel Lacks Time, Money to Answer Lawmakers

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission doesn’t have the staff or money to fully respond to an investigation by congressional Republicans into allegations of overspending and partisanship, its chairman said.

Phil Angelides, the former California treasurer who leads the crisis panel, said in a letter sent this week to the heads of the House Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees that he would try to turn over some of the information the lawmakers demanded. Still, he said, their request was so broad that the FCIC would likely be unable to comply before it goes out of business on Feb. 13.

“The document requests contained in your letter are quite expansive and production would require resources beyond the commission’s staff, financial and computer capabilities,” Angelides, a Democrat, wrote in the letter dated Jan. 31.

The 10-member commission, charged by Congress with delving into the origins of the 2008 financial collapse, released split findings last week. While the Democratic majority pinned much of the blame on Wall Street firms and Washington regulators, Republican members issued two dissents that criticized Democrats for failing to uncover the actual causes of the crisis.

Tucker Warren, the FCIC’s spokesman, said the panel has begun giving the lawmakers the requested information to the extent that it can and “will continue to do so between now and when the commission expires.”

National Archives

When the FCIC report was released last week, Angelides said the commission would post more information on its website about its investigation the day it shuts down. At some point, all documents, interviews and transcripts obtained during the investigation will be available to the public in the National Archives.

The crisis panel first came under the scrutiny of Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the government reform committee, in July after it asked Congress for an additional $1.8 million on top of its $8 million budget. Issa, a California Republican, has pledged to look into the group’s spending and said he also wants to investigate why its members were unable to come up with a unanimous conclusion for the final report.

In his letter, Angelides told the lawmakers that the FCIC has 20 staff members remaining, most of whom are working to gather the committee’s historical records for the archives. Fulfilling the lawmakers’ requests would require them to review almost 400,000 e-mails alone, Angelides said.

Legal Counsel

In the wake of the staff departures, the commission has hired Peter J. Kadzik, a law partner at Dickstein Shapiro LLC in Washington, to help with any inquiries. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus has scheduled a Feb. 16 hearing on the panel’s findings.

“The commission has secured legal counsel to ensure that it has the capability to appropriately respond to any request about our work,” Warren said.

The Angelides letter was addressed to Issa, Bachus of Alabama, and Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who heads an investigative subcommittee on banking issues. They sought documents from Angelides last month, telling him they were concerned with “continued management problems” at the FCIC.

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