Rep. Issa Responds To Report That He Failed To Disclose Hosting Donor At Hearing

March 18, 2011 9:51 am ET — Matt Gertz

On Wednesday, we pointed out that at a February hearing, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) hosted Western Growers Association president and CEO Tom Nassif, a major Issa donor. While introducing Nassif and purporting to provide "full disclosure," Issa mentioned that Nassif was a "personal friend," but not that Nassif and his organization's political action committee had donated nearly $20,000 to Issa's campaigns.

Yesterday, The Washington Post picked up the story, reporting that such selections do not "violate congressional rules, but watchdogs say it raises the question of whether expert panels are assembled based on their donations." The Post also got the following response from Issa's spokesman:

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill noted that agriculture is one of the largest industries in California and, therefore, Nassif was an important part of the hearing on "Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation."

"Mr. Issa certainly thought that [Nassif's] testimony was both important and relevant to the hearing taking place," Hill said. Nassif did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Hill's response fails to address the questions raised by Nassif's testimony. The Western Growers Association is not the only agriculture trade association in the country; there are any number of individuals in similar positions who could have provided testimony on experiences similar to those of Nassif. But Issa didn't choose one of those other people to testify, he chose his donor. Why pick Nassif over someone else? Why refuse to disclose that he was a major donor?

It seems clear that Issa was hoping to give a favor to a donor without anyone else finding out. Getting to enjoy the spotlight of a committee hearing is a nice little perk for someone who contributed $4,800 to the committee chair's last re-election campaign. It probably won't be difficult now for Issa to get his "personal friend" to kick in for his 2012 campaign.