Whither the Oversight Committee?

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November 7, 2010; Source: Medialite | Come again? Darrell Issa is talking about being less partisan? Congressman Issa (R-CA) will be taking over as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when the new Republican majority takes the helm of the 112th Congress in 2011. Get ready for a wild ride with Issa as captain of the House committee whose purpose is to be, as Issa puts it, “the accountability committee.”

Issa promises, “I’m going to go after a lot of things and I’m going to do a lot of investigating.” Remember that as the ranking minority member of the Committee, Issa had advocated an investigation of Shorebank in the fear that Shorebank might score a special Obama Administration bailout because of its Chicago address and issued his own investigative report on ACORN and the SEIU after ACORN had been pretty solidly chased from the public scene–and from public sector contracts.

While Issa seems to be disinclined to join some of his new freshmen colleagues in pursuing President Obama’s impeachment, he is planning to spend the next two years chasing the Obama Administration by going “down ticket to the bureaucrat,” getting the government officials with line authority over specific issues to disclose wrong-doing. While he has plans for “finishing off the Angelo Mozilo, Friends of Angelo Program,” Issa also plans to take aim at Democratic legislators, particularly Barney Frank (D-MA), who many Republicans believe colluded to protect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What might nonprofits expect as targets from an Oversight Committee led by Issa? We don’t have to guess much. Issa laid out his plan for the committee in late September when he issued, “A Constitutional Obligation: Congressional Oversight of the Executive Branch”, detailing the issues that he and his Republican colleagues have raised with the Democrats over the past two years, including healthcare reform oversight, the “wasteful” stimulus spending (an investigation all but assured to rope in nonprofits in Issa’s search for “waste, fraud, and abuse . . . going undetected”), and school choice (which Issa thinks that the Democrats have somehow shortchanged).

Expect Issa also to take aim at President Obama’s so-called “czars” and possibly to take a look at National Public Radio for its firing of NPR and Fox commentator Juan Williams.  The man that the New York Times called President Obama’s “annoyer-in-chief” promises to be a beehive of annoying investigations in an otherwise gridlocked, do-nothing Congress. Based on his history, there’s not a prayer in the world that Congressman Issa’s Oversight Committee investigations will be “less partisan.”—Rick Cohen