Rep. Issa's Fast And Furious Investigation Tainted By Politics

July 01, 2011 12:34 pm ET — Brian Powell

As the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is supposed to be doing the people's work — making sure that government is working efficiently and that legislation is designed to effectively address our nation's obstacles, and ensuring the process is free from corruption. The committee's investigation into a controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) gun trafficking program is an excellent opportunity to do just that. Issa, however, has decided to use his platform's power to sling rocks at the Obama administration.

Instead of problem solving with colleagues to find a solution to illegal gun trafficking to Mexican cartels, Issa has shut down open dialogue. When committee Democrats attempted to ask ATF witnesses whether they had the tools they need to fight this problem, Issa silenced the inquiry and even the statements of his own witness. He seems content to treat this investigation primarily as an opportunity to smear Democrats and the Obama administration.

The Houston Chronicle highlighted an example Issa's dismissive attitude toward competing ideas, relaying his press secretary's sour reaction to a forum held by committee Democrats who wanted to look further into the U.S.-Mexico gun trafficking problem: 

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. — senior Democrat government reform committee — Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, who serves as a non-voting delegate from the District of Columbia, questioned a panel of gun law experts and released a report titled "Outgunned," which concluded law enforcement officers don't have the tools they need to curb Mexico-bound gun trafficking.

"We had asked for a day of hearings and haven't gotten a response yet, so we went ahead and proceeded with our own forum," Cummings said.

Becca Watkins, press secretary for the committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that Cummings' timing for the forum — while the House is in recess and representatives are back in their districts — and the forum itself are distractions from the focus on Fast and Furious.

"Cummings, for the entirety of this investigation, has worked to obstruct our investigation into Operation Fast and Furious," she said. "When he holds a hearing about gun control, it underscores that for us."

Even Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse, who has pushed conspiracy theories in support of Issa's mission, admitted the goal of this investigation for "some Republicans" was in part "embarrassing" the president (though of course he couldn't resist also taking shots at the Democrats). From Fox News' America Live on June 30:

LA JEUNESSE: Well Gretchen, as you know, the federal program was known as "Fast and Furious," and both parties are trying to use the controversy to their political advantage. Now, to some Republicans, that means exposing what they consider a Justice Department cover-up and embarrassing the Obama administration for authorizing this operation that killed people.

To some Democrats, it offers an opportunity to advance an anti-gun agenda and blaming weak gun laws here for the violence in Mexico.