Unsurprising: Rep. Issa Stacks The Witness Deck For Procurement Order Hearing

May 11, 2011 4:23 pm ET — Brian Powell

As President Obama's administration prepares an executive order that would seek to alleviate the effects of the infusion of corporate money into the political system after the Citizens United decision, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is now using his Oversight Committee power to attack the draft executive order and preserve the big business interests in loose campaign financing rules.

The Oversight Committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Issa this week criticizing his choice of witnesses for the scheduled hearing on the executive order. Cummings argued that Issa's witnesses "appear to represent only one side of the debate" and urged the chairman to call Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign finance advocacy group Democracy 21, to testify at the hearing.

Issa's choice of witnesses for his Oversight hearings have been called into question before. Predictably, his witnesses for this week's hearing are equally biased. Politico noted:

The list of confirmed attendees for Thursday's joint hearing - entitled "Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama's Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Business?" - appears stocked with witnesses likely to oppose the order, including federal contractor representatives and advocates for reducing regulation.

Issa's first witness is Alan Chvotkin, the executive vice president and counsel for Professional Services Council (PSC). PSC's political action committee gave Issa $2,000 in the 2010 election cycle and its president, Stan Soloway, has already publicly attacked the executive order in question. From FederalTimes.com:

Professional Services Council President Stan Soloway said in a news release that the proposal is based on "dubious legality and a complete lack of awareness of the realities of the federal procurement process."

"The draft order says it is necessary to ensure that politics are not allowed to impair the integrity of the procurement process," Soloway said.

"But by force-feeding irrelevant information to government contracting officers, who would otherwise never consider such factors in a source selection, the rule would actually do precisely what it is intended to stop - inject politics into the source selection process," Soloway added. 

Next up is D. Mark Renaud, a partner with the Washington, D.C. law firm Wiley Rein LLP. According to the Wiley Rein website, Renaud "defends individuals, corporations, candidates and other political organizations in FEC enforcement actions and other types of campaign finance litigation" and "advises corporations, nonprofits, trade associations, lobbying firms, PACs, candidates, leadership PACs and 527s with respect to campaign finance, lobbying and other political law compliance issues."

Issa's third witness is Bradley Smith, a former advisor to Mitt Romney, who wrote that attempts at campaign finance reform are "misguided efforts to change the system."

Finally, Issa has invited two representatives of federal contractor associations, M.L. Mackey from the National Defense Industrial Association and Marion Blakely from the Aerospace Industries Association. Their members would be subject to the greater transparency rules and thus are unlikely to be in favor of the executive order.