Seems that Darrell Issa’s been getting restless holding hearings on Presidential libraries and Freedom of Information Act requests, ducking accusations that he’s used almost a million taxpayer dollars to subsidize his personal investment portfolio, and demanding that the Obama Administration’s unprecedented efforts to improve government transparency be slashed to pay for more tax cuts for billionaires.
So he’s decided to thrust himself into the national spotlight this morning. He’ll be bringing controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to DC to testify before the Oversight Committee today about what Issa absurdly describes as “over-compensation of public employees.” While “over-compensation” is in the eye of the beholder, reality tells us that public employee costs have fallen and compensation has tracked with the growth rate of the economy. What Issa’s stunt does suggest is that after a career of trying to undermine unions and workers at every opportunity, the richest person in the House of Representatives is rapidly devolving from a legitimate watchdog into simply a rich corporatist backed by the Koch Brothers, defense contractors and telecom companies who now has subpoena power to do their dirty work in DC.
While Issa is giving Scott Walker a national soapbox for his anti-worker crusade, he’ll be continuing a long history of anti-union activity just down the hall. Last week Issa held unprecedented hearings on the labor negotiations at the Postal Service that’s poised to save $3.8 billion, investigating the internal machinations of a labor union in the same style as Joseph McCarthy’s union-busting escapades in the 1950s.
And specifically on Scott Walker’s pet project of breaking public sector unions, Issa has been echoing the cry all year. In January he published a long editorial blasting public employees for earning a middle-class wage, hitting all the now-familiar Walker high points. He led with a dubious, Glenn Beck-style history lesson, and then went on to launch co-sponsorship of a bill that would hit the pensions of public employees across the country that were unlucky enough to rely on the stock market before it collapsed late in George Bush’s term. Now facing gigantic funding shortfalls because of the funding collapse at the hands of the Wall Street investment barons that Issa is desperately trying to protect, Issa’s proposed bill would essentially lock in the shortfalls faced by public employees by cutting off access to loans or other federal assistance that might help bridge the gap.
This is hardly out of the blue. In 2009, Issa was out early blasting the Employee Free Choice Act that would have made it easier for workers to organize for basic rights, and in the same vein, made the rounds blasting SEIU for a wide range of reasons. It ran the gamut from single-handedly destroying the California budget, secretly controlling the Obama Administration, having the “California And US Governments By The You Know What,” and openly admitting that the public sector is the last front on blocking unions:
[Unionized workers are] almost all in government or working for government, and as a result influencing government…That’s our problem: The union movement in America is a federal, state, and local worker and their contractors movement. It’s no longer a private sector movement at all.
Also in 2009, Issa used official government resources and committee staff trying to tie SEIU to ACORN and the Obama Administration and accusing them all of criminal activity and conspiracy. It’s perhaps no surprise that when he sent a letter in January soliciting advice on what agenda he should set for the committee, he wrote to 150 groups representing business owners and none representing their employees. Among their top concerns? Worker protection standards and project labor agreements. He then convened a hearing on “the coming crisis” of state and municipal debt and within weeks of taking the gavel invited representatives of business owners and managers to the committee where they complained about high federal standards for worker treatment and not a single witness offering the perspective of workers who are protected by those standards.
Issa has been a business owner most of his adult life — one with a particularly questionable legal and moral history of management. For years he’s been an enthusiastic opponent of worker protections and union rights, and now his rich corporate cronies finally have him in a position to try and do some damage. He’ll be giving Scott Walker a national microphone because Darrell Issa has a record of fully supporting the same anti-worker stances that Walker has pushed in Wisconsin. And since Issa has failed every time he’s tried to run statewide in California, he’s using his perch in DC to continue the state-level assault on fundamental rights.