Castor Proves White House Bane as Issa’s Pit-Bull ProberElizabeth Dwoskin
No one in the White House looks forward to a call from Steve Castor.
The lawyer in charge of the Republicans’ numerous probes of the Obama administration -- the Internal Revenue Service targeting of Tea Party groups, the handling of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi -- is known for inundating officials with demands for answers and documents.
His boss, U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California, frequently goes on television to accuse the administration of stonewalling.
Behind the scenes, Castor and his staff of 35 assemble details, line up witnesses for the committee to question, and write voluminous, minutely footnoted reports that boil down shades-of-gray situations into black-and-white narratives with heroes and villains.
“We’re in the storytelling business, the business of putting the pieces together,” Castor says.
Coaxing whistle-blowers to come forward is one of an investigator’s most important skills, says Castor, who’s been with the committee for eight years.
Issa’s hearings “lack credibility,” says Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who once led the committee.
“The purpose of an oversight investigation is not to simply try and make the president look bad,” Waxman says.
Castor rejects the notion that he’s pushing an anti-Obama story line.
“We follow the facts,” he says. “This administration is uncomfortable with oversight.”
Castor, who became the committee’s general counsel this year, obtained his law degree from George Washington University in 2001, joining Philadelphia-based Blank Rome LLP that year. In 1998, the Pennsylvania State University graduate earned a master of business administration from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
During Castor’s time with the committee, it has probed Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist with Republican ties who was sentenced to four years in prison for corruption and tax offenses after pleading guilty in 2006, as well as the U.S. General Services Administration’s excessive spending on conferences for employees.
The panel has also led efforts to uncover steroid use in major league professional sports, including hearings focused on pitching ace Roger Clemens. Clemens was charged with lying to Congress and was found not guilty in a 2012 jury trial.
Issa and Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa drove the congressional investigation of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau’s Operation Fast and Furious, in which hundreds of weapons were supplied to straw purchasers as a way to track their routes to Mexican drug gangs. Issa and Grassley battled with the administration for months over obtaining documents and details about the program, as they sought to trace management failures involved.
Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first cabinet secretary to be held in contempt of Congress, after he was cited for his refusal to cooperate in the investigation.