Darrell Issa continues this week to apply a wildly different standard of disclosure to himself as compared to the Obama Administration. Issa’s request for a wide-ranging document release from the Department of Homeland Security concerned alleged politicizing of FOIA requests didn’t devlier what he was looking for, so he’s now refocusing and expanding the request. As the Hill reports, Issa is
asking for copies of e-mails between key White House officials. He is also seeking a series of interviews with top-level staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of his probe into the Obama administration’s transparency.
Last week, Issa requested that 180 agencies send him records showing how fast they respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. He also asked the agencies to explain why some FOIA requests are delayed more than others.
Using the issue as cover, Issa recently called for in-depth tracking of all people and organizations that submit Freedom of Information Act requests. Ostensibly intended by Issa as a way to avoid politicizing the process, it would provide a shocking amount of tracking information to the federal government, and is part of a broader trend by Issa to chill dissent and citizen oversight.
In lodging a complaint over Homeland Security’s responsiveness, Issa wrote:
This directive is inconsistent with your pledge to identify and produce documents expeditiously, and it raises questions about the Department’s commitment to the President’s effort to create an ‘unprecedented level of openness in government’
The tone and content of this objection is particularly odd, however, given that Issa himself has consistently rejected such calls for openness out of his own office. He has declined to publicly post the letter he sent to industry groups and conservative think tanks soliciting agenda items for the Oversight Committee. He has resisted releasing the responses he’s gotten from the letter, agreeing only to release them in mid-February with spin added by his office and leaving CREW to seek the letters on their own. Odd that, if Issa is sincerely concerned about transparency as a way to address concerns of politicizing government, he would be so deeply opposed to being open about his own dealings.
Further, Issa’s concerns about alleged politicizing of government doesn’t seem to fit with his angry response to President Obama’s suggestion that Congress make its lobbyist ties public. Rather than welcome the opportunity for citizens to have more information about who’s influencing their elected officials, Issa turned bitterly defensive. He lashed out at Obama for not being perfect either, and tried his best to make the case for lobbyist confidentiality. If Issa is concerned about politicizing the process and wanting more transparency, it’s odd that he would attack even the notion of improved lobbyist disclosure.
If Darrell Issa is serious about a more open, less political government, he needs to provide the model himself. He can’t just talk the talk, criticizing the Obama administration for not being responsive enough to him specifically- he has to walk the walk by taking ownership of his own actions and applying the same standards to his own office. He owes it to the country and his constituents.