What Did Chairman Issa Know?
Kurt Bardella, until recently a spokesperson for House Oversight and Government Reform Committeee Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), was fired after Politico revealed that while cooperating with New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich on a book project, Mr. Bardella shared email correspondence. Rep. Issa claimed he was unaware Mr. Bardella had leaked other reporters’ emails to Mr. Leibovich. Rep. Issa’s explanation, however, doesn’t match the facts.
In a press release announcing Mr. Bardella’s termination Rep. Issa stated:
“In November 2010, Kurt did seek permission from his supervisors to participate in a book project with Mr. Leibovich. His request was granted, but nothing that he described to his supervisors ever included the indication, intent, or possibility that he would be sharing reporter e-mail correspondence with Leibovich for his book. Kurt’s supervisors, including the committee’s Director of Communications Frederick Hill have told me that they did not learn about what Kurt was doing with reporter correspondence until the committee was first contacted by Politico last Friday evening.”
Yet Ryan Lizza, who had spent time with Rep. Issa and his staff while preparing a piece on the congressman for the New Yorker, tells a different story. He reports Mr. Bardella had been quite open about working with Mr. Leibovich. In response to questions, Rep. Issa’s chief of staff, Dale Neugebauer, told Mr. Lizza he was aware of the extent of Mr. Bardella’s cooperation.
Further, contrary to Rep. Issa’s claim that an initial review of e-mail correspondence revealed no evidence “to support speculation that internal committee or congressional documents or conversations were inappropriately shared,” Mr. Bardella freely admitted to Mr. Lizza disclosing emails from a staff member for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Given these facts, Rep. Issa’s “initial review” clearly was inadequate, suggesting the congressman and his staff are unable or unwilling to conduct a thorough inquiry into exactly what Mr. Bardella was sharing with Mr. Leibovich and who knew about it. In other words, is Mr. Bardella just the fall guy?
Perhaps the Office of Congressional Ethics, which has no bias or stake in the outcome, should take a look. You can read our detailed analysis of the whole affair here.