Barack Obama promised that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” Trying to hold the president to his word is keeping Rep. Darrel Issa (R., Calif.) very busy these days.
On Tuesday, Issa launched an investigation into suspicions that the SEC and the White House colluded in charging Goldman Sachs in order to advance the administration’s financial-regulation agenda.
Then on Earth Day, Issa took action to determine whether secret meetings between the administration and automakers helped persuade Detroit to endorse federal fuel-economy legislation. “It is unclear whether the Administration used leverage created by the possibility of a taxpayer bailout of GM and Chrysler to secure their cooperation and support for new fuel economy standards,” writes Issa. “Given the clear conflict-of-interest issues at play . . . it was imperative that the Administration act with the utmost transparency. Instead, the White House imposed an unprecedented level of secrecy.”
Issa’s letter to auto CEOs requesting information came after the New York Times reported a “vow of silence” was key to assuring that automakers endorse a national fuel standard under the EPA and DOT.
“Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board,” reported the Times, “said [climate czar Carol] Browner quietly orchestrated private discussions from the White House with auto industry officials. Nichols and Browner decided to keep their discussions as quiet as possible, holding no group meetings and taking care to not leak updates to the press.”
“‘We put nothing in writing, ever,’ Nichols said. ‘That was one of the ways we made sure that everyone’s ability to talk freely was protected.’
And a way to make sure that American taxpayers pay for massive Big Government subsidies for Big Auto to meet arbitrary 35 mpg fuel standards.