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House Government Oversight chairman Darrell Issa updates on Solyndra, Fast & Furious and other Obama adminstration oddities

Monday, October 24, 2011

HH: Camp Pendleton, I’ve got to drive right through the heart of my next guest’s Congressional district, that would be Darrell Issa, who is chairman of the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, both San Clemente and Pendleton. And don’t you have all of Pendleton, Chairman Issa?

DI: I do. I have had all of Camp Pendleton for eleven wonderful years. It’s the heart of my district, and I’m glad you’re visiting those men and women who have toured the worst part of the world so many times.

HH: Well, I look forward to it. I haven’t been down there in a few years, and I’m going to go over to the Expeditionary Force and check it out, so I’m looking forward to it. Congressman, you have been busy, and we’ve got a lot to cover. I want to cover the letter you and Senators Vitter and Inhofe sent last week, and I want to talk about Fast & Furious, Solyndra, and of course, anything else that you’ve got on the Oversight Committee. But let’s start with this letter to the Scientific Advisor at the White House. How are you going to follow up on this investigation, or this request for information, Mr. Chairman?

DI: Well, as you know, we always give them one week to do nothing, and then we give them another week to answer why they’re doing nothing, and then we follow up with greater assistance. And you know, this has been one of the challenges of this administration, is they’ve been trying to run the clock out on just about everything, whether it’s their continued legislating through the regulatory system, meaning passing laws, bypassing Congress ever since they lost control. This week, we’re reviewing, this week and next week, we’re to be reviewing some of EPA’s excesses. And if you can’t do anything else, and you can’t get an answer, what generally happens here in Washington is you hold a hearing, and you let the American people judge for themselves. And more and more, that’s what we’re doing, is putting people in front of the camera that have been injured by this administration, and make it very clear that it’s not going to change until this administration is changed, or changes itself. And I don’t see the latter happening.

HH: Now Chairman Issa, your colleagues from the Central Valley, both Democrat and Republican, must be very interested in the fact that you are interested in the Delta Smelt and the government-ordered drought that has been fixing, hurting farmers there for so long. What do you expect to accomplish? Do you expect to get the Department of the Interior to turn the water back on in the Central Valley?

DI: Well, we expect that they’ll begin asking the question of how much longer are you going to have Californians suffering, and disproportionately poorer Californians, the tens of thousands of farm workers who are laid off or unable to find work. The unemployment rate in those areas is just huge. I’m optimistic in so many things, Hugh. My belief is that at some point, they’re going to realize that people matter more than Smelt, particularly when the science does not support that this bait fish has a direct link to any endangered species. And that’s the part people keep forgetting. We’re not protecting an endangered species. We’re protecting bait that may or may not lead to some other species not being as plentiful. And that’s what’s so absurd about the Department of Interior and this whole turning off the water. The other thing, and Hugh, I want to make a point. I drive through the Central Valley, I see those things, and they call it a Congressional dust bowl.

HH: Yeah.

DI: Now it’s not a Congressional dust bowl. It’s the administration’s dust bowl. This is being done not because of a specific mandate of Congress, but because of a bad interpretation under this administration that’s affecting both Republicans and Democrats. And quite frankly, it has to be changed.

HH: Now Mr. Chairman, you just mentioned the EPA. Just this morning, a client of mind received a notice of violation, and you know, we’ll get it fixed, but it threatens $50,000 dollars a day in fines if something goes wrong there. And I’m thinking of Sackett Vs. EPA, and this amazing case that’s to the Supreme Court. Are you going to look into that, and what the EPA has done to the Sacketts over the course of the last many years?

DI: Well, we’re looking at looking into it right now, and we, we have so much backed up, I’m afraid, with EPA. Right now, boiler mact is front and center, because here you have a mandate by the EPA that they then went to the court asking for the court to grant them relief rather than admitting what everyone knows, which is they don’t have the science to actually execute on a rule they made, which means the ultimate cost/benefit is we simply lose because we don’t have the ability to comply. And that sort of craziness, you know, you can’t even make this stuff up, that the EPA would pass something, no science, and then say well, there’s no need for a cost-benefit analysis. Of course there is. You’re simply shutting down America, because you’re asking for a standard that you don’t even know yourself how you could meet.

HH: Well, I hope when that, the boiler rule is done, you get to the Sacketts. But let’s go to the one that I think probably most people want to hear about, Fast & Furious. When you first talked about this on the show maybe nine months ago, a lot of people said huh. And now, it’s front page. Where does it go next, Mr. Chairman?

DI: Well, we are momentarily expecting an answer from the Attorney General about when he will appear before our joint committee. We’ve been doing the investigation. And quite frankly, he’s had an invitation from both committees to come and explain the inconsistencies in his testimony. And that’s the first and foremost, is people have to have faith that their elected and appointed officials will tell the truth. And right now, that’s in doubt.

HH: Do you expect the Attorney General to testify under oath at this hearing anytime soon?

DI: I do. He was under oath last time when he…and Hugh, I’ve been chastised for this, but when I say he failed to meet his duty of candor, which is political speak for you’re supposed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And clearly, we were misled when he said that he’d only heard about Fast & Furious a few weeks earlier. And we’d like to have a multiple question, clear, honest answers of what did you know, when did you know it, and why didn’t you stop it.

HH: Well, good luck in that. Let’s turn then to Solyndra and the other Department of Energy loan guarantees, Chairman Issa. This looks like a cesspool. This looks like an endless amount of investigatory material. Has the Department of Energy and the White House been forthcoming on the details of these loans?

DI: No, they haven’t been, but we are beginning…some of it’s public record. We are beginning to accumulate it. One of the things that I’m very honored leading a group of researchers, as investigators, a lot of times they go around administration stonewalling and get the information. And some of it just boggles the imagination. I’ll give you one that’s not a front page scandal. But can you imagine that under this green energy loan program, or loan guarantee program, we loaned a Russian company the money to buy Ford Motor Company’s steel mill in Detroit?

HH: Yup. Wow.

DI: Now you’ve got to get up in the morning saying okay, what part of American jobs, what part of green is steel? And if we were going to do a loan guarantee to make this a no-brainer, why did we have to do it with a Russian company? And the answer boggles the mind, especially the whole point of…I thought aluminum and titanium were greener, because they’re lighter. The last time I heard, steel’s not exactly the new efficiency item in automobile production.

HH: Your colleague, Mary Bono Mack, is focusing in on Solar Trust, and on First Solar. These are big projects out in her neck of the woods in the Inland Empire of California. How many of these funny loans do you have to look at?

DI: Well, you know, the Energy and Commerce Committee needs to look at a lot of these, and they need to sort of ask well, were these good loans, bad loans. My committee is much simpler. Should we be making them at all? Are these inherently a bad idea? And more and more, what we’re realizing is that loan guarantees have gotten to be the standard where people make their decisions based on where the loan guarantees are, rather than these guarantees being limited to very unusual situations in which there but for the special guarantee, something wouldn’t exist. And in the case of solar, what we’ve discovered is there but for these guarantees, it not only wouldn’t have existed, but it shouldn’t exist, because we as America have now backed industries that are not going to be competitive, that are going bankrupt at an amazingly fast rate. And there’s a prediction, and I think it has some merit, that unless there’s some sort of special mandate to buy these products, that solar production in the United States will come to a complete halt, because we simply are not competitively priced against most of the developing world, particularly China.

HH: Last question, Mr. Chairman. There are a lot of big venture capitalist people and money behind many of these green energy projects. Will you be asking any of them to testify as to the nature and the extent of their investments, losses, gains, etc?

DI: Yes, we will.

HH: Do you know when those hearings are going to begin? And do you have anyone in particular in mind for that witness panel?

DI: Well, they’ll begin around the first of the year. We want to make sure that Energy and Commerce complete the Solyndra portion of it. We don’t want to be getting in the middle of their investigation, as you said about Mary Bono Mack and others. My committee picks up what falls between the cracks of other committees. And often, what we do is we pick up when there’s a bigger issue. So Energy and Commerce is doing a really good job right now, but come January, we are going to be looking at the bigger picture of waste as a matter of practice in this administration.

HH: Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

End of interview.

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