Issa intends to keep busy

ISSA INTENDS TO KEEP BUSY…. Rep. Darrell Issa (R), the right-wing Californian, has been chomping at the bit for two years to become the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and in the new year, he’ll get his chance.

But before he takes the gavel, Issa appears to be launching “an apparent charm offensive,” hoping to convince the political establishment that he’s really not as crazy as he’s appeared. Remember when he compared the White House job offer to Joe Sestak to “Watergate”? Issa says he no longer intends to look into it. Remember when he told Rush Limbaugh that President Obama is “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”? Issa says he no longer believes that.

So we should expect a kinder, gentler Darrel Issa in 2011? Don’t count on it.

California Rep. Darrell Issa is already eyeing a massive expansion of oversight for next year, including hundreds of hearings; creating new subcommittees; and launching fresh investigations into the bank bailout, the stimulus and, potentially, health care reform.

Issa told POLITICO in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold “one or two hearings each week.”

“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” Issa said.

Issa is also targeting some ambitious up-and-comers like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio — all aggressive partisans — to chair some of his subcommittees.

He also wants to organize aggressive oversight beyond his committee and plans to refer inquiries to other House panels, drawing even more incoming GOP chairmen to the cause of investigating the executive branch.

It’s the equivalent of a full-employment plan for D.C. lawyers. Issa will be handing out subpoenas like he’s handing out candy on Halloween. When former President Bill Clinton, who knows a little something about GOP witch hunts, said in September Republicans would pursue “two years of unrelenting investigations,” he knew what he was talking about.

To put it in perspective, the outgoing chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), was pretty aggressive towards the end of the Bush/Cheney administration, holding 203 oversight hearings in two years. Issa intends to hold 280 oversight hearings in 2011 alone.

This would be less disconcerting if Issa were more responsible, but he’s not. Just yesterday, the far-right Californian told ABC that the Obama administration “received $700 billion worth of walking around money in the stimulus and used it just that way…. I think his administration has a lot of explaining where the $700 billion went.”

Of course, this is pretty nonsensical. The Recovery Act has been entirely transparent, with unprecedented levels of accountability — there’s even a website to account for every dollar spent. Despite its size, the stimulus has “strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse” precisely because the administration has been so assiduous on this. Issa makes it sound like no one knows where the money went — but that’s backwards.

Worse, this notion that the Recovery Act was made up of “walking around money” suggests Issa doesn’t even pay attention to the subjects he claims to care about — stimulus money is spent, not at the discretion of administration officials, but by a publicly available merit-based formula.

The problem isn’t that Issa wants to hold the administration accountable; the problem is that Issa doesn’t seem to realize the difference between legitimate areas of inquiry and partisan nonsense.