By Doug Porter
Congressman Darrell Issa’s investigation into HealthCare.gov’s dismal performance during its first two months online has turned into a full-blown executive-congressional confrontation over concerns raised about the security of documents under subpoena.
On Wednesday acting in his role as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa accused Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of criminal obstruction. The administration has let the Republican Congressman know they won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because they can’t trust him to keep secret information.
Congressman Darrell Issa’s game plan ought to be obvious by now. He announces a major investigation into an executive branch agency, holds a press conference or three implying this will be the scandal bringing down the Obama administration, leaks a bunch of partially redacted documents, holds hearings and… nothing ever happens because there is no scandal.
It’s happened with Solyndra, trade negotiations, the ATF Fast and Furious investigation, Benghazi and the IRS, just for starters. A bunch of damming stories get published, the “information” oozing out the back door of Issa’s office gets disproved, or shown to be taken out of context, but to no avail because right wing pundits are by then running around with their hair on fire.
Now as Issa’s angling for way to bring down Obamacare, the Health and Human Services Department has drawn the line.
Issa has already had access to the documents he’s requesting “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but that’s not good enough. Nobody in the news media is going to trust the Congressman without some kind of proof anymore, so he is seeking physical copies.
In a letter Thursday, Assistant Secretary for Legislation Jim Esquea told Issa that “the committee’s unwillingness to commit to undertake measures to address the security risks associated with further disclosure is troubling, particularly in light of reports that sensitive materials were disclosed through various investigations.” Administration officials worry that Issa intends to put them in the public domain, which Esquea argues could compromise the security of the site.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the oversight committee, who’s been repeatedly clashed with Issa over past investigative failures, agreed.
“Some of these contractor documents have information that could give hackers a roadmap for destroying the Healthcare.gov website,” Cummings said in a statement. “The question is not whether the committee should have access to security information about the website — HHS has offered to provide full access to any committee member or staff.”
Stay tuned folks, this could get interesting. As Paul Waldman, writing in the American Prospect, puts it:
…Issa has turned out to be a strikingly incompetent clown, screwing things up spectacularly every time he tries to embarrass the administration and being so transparently sleazy in the way he goes about his work that he never succeeds in pinning anything on Obama.
Oh, Lookie! More Developer Money Going to Kevin Faulconer
Matt Potter over the Reader has been staying on top of the political donations pouring into the runoff campaigns for mayor. His report today makes note of a “distinctly high-end residential developer from Canada”, one Nat Bosa, who’s just kicked in a second $10,000 donation to the Republican Party of San Diego County in support of Kevin Faulconer’s campaign.
The man behind the company, Canadian condo king Nat Bosa, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, recently told the Los Angeles Times that his spree of building posh downtown San Diego condo towers, interrupted by the great recession, is about to resume, this time with even more stratospheric prices.
“San Diego is definitely ripe,” Bosa said, explaining that buyers have finally snatched up many of the empty condos that flooded the market several years ago. “It’s time to move forward to the next phase.”
The units, the most expensive ever built by the developer here, are expected to go from high six to high seven figures.
“For now, this is San Diego’s Sydney Opera House,” Bosa immodestly told U-T San Diego last year. Bosa has long been a backer of causes dear to the local GOP real estate lobby; during Republican Carl DeMaio’s city-council tenure, Bosa’s firm gave $12,500 to DeMaio’s San Diegans for City Hall Reform. Last year the company sank $20,000 into DeMaio’s unsuccessful mayoral bid.
Those of you who were concerned about organized labor being “tapped out” following the first round of voting will be pleased to learn that Potter reports the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 135 and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO have recently kicked in $50,000 and $10,000 respectively to a pro-Alvarez independent expenditure committee.
The Mt. Soledad Cross Battle Drags On
Federal judge Larry Burns issued an order yesterday saying the display of a 43-foot Latin cross on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and therefore should be removed.
I’m sure UT-San Diego rushed to put the story above the fold on its front page today because local right-wingers go into a frenzy every time another judge issues an order in this case.
The fact that nothing will actually happen—the order has been stayed pending resolutions of all appeals—doesn’t faze these folks. Expect a flood of letters to the editor in the Daily Fishwrap telling us about Jesus ordered that cross to be put on Soledad and the communist conspiracy to take it down.
The display was challenged in a lawsuit by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents, all of whom were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.
A press release from the ACLU quotes Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, saying.
“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces, but we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
The cross, which was dedicated in a 1954 Easter Sunday ceremony as “a gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” has been the target of various lawsuits going back decades. In 2006, following several unfavorable court decisions, local Congressmen got a bill passed obtaining the title to the cross and its surrounding property by eminent domain, and declaring the cross to be a national war memorial.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the First Amendment. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, it was remanded back to federal court which resulted in today’s order.
Paul Jacobs Out as CEO at Qualcomm
Qualcomm caught the business world by surprise this morning when it issued a statement announcing Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf was moving on up into the top spot. Moving out, but remaining on the board of directors will be Paul Jacobs, son of company founder Irwin Jacobs.
The move came shortly after a Bloomberg report cited “people familiar with the matter” who said the 44-year-old was possibly in line to become Microsoft’s next CEO, replacing Steve Ballmer. Mollenkopf is set to start as CEO of Qualcomm in March 2014. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm’s current CEO, will become executive chairman of the company.
The company recently disclosed, via a settlement with the New Yorks comptroller general, a total of $2,955,786 in politically related expenditures during the 12-month period ending this past September.
From Matt Potter at the Reader:
Recipients of the Qualcomm cash included the campaign funds of more than 60 members of the U.S. Congress, Senate, and both houses of the California legislature.
But the bulk of the money, $2,704,186, was spent to support 26 trade associations and lobbying groups, including the Business Roundtable, which received $471,120, and the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A., which got $170,000.
The high-powered Business Roundtable, whose members include Microsoft, Walmart, and a raft of other blue-chip corporations, pressed hard this year for a so-called immigration-reform measure. Qualcomm has wanted additional foreign-worker visas, though that effort has continued to languish in Congress.
Getting Rid of Managed Competition
The concept of farming out government functions to private enterprise remains an article of faith with the libertarian/conservative set. Voters in San Diego bought into that dream back in 2006, amid promises of fabulous savings and efficiencies.
Peter Brownell, Ph.D., research director at the San Diego-based nonprofit Center on Policy Initiatives, takes issue with the concept in a letter posted over at Voice of San Diego, calling managed competition a “lemon” and saying “It’s time for San Diego to haul this clunker to the junk heap.”
Let’s say you buy the car of your dreams and it turns out to be a lemon. It keeps stalling and breaking down, despite costly maintenance. The ride is bumpy and dangerous, and you never quite get where you want to go. When do you stop pouring money into repairs and get a new car?
The city of San Diego has clung to a lemon called “managed competition” for seven years now, and it’s time to let go.
Managed competition, originally pushed by the right-wing Reason Foundation, was mostly scrapped by the federal government after the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined in 2008 that there was no proof of cost savings, and no effective way to track deterioration of service quality.
All I Want for Christmas is a New Daily Newspaper
The Los Angeles Times is about to get some competition, according to an Associated Press story. Unlike other news organizations, the Orange County Register has been aggressively hiring more staff, insisting on more local news and continually expanding.
From AP via The Guardian:
The parent company of the Orange County Register plans to expand with a daily paper in Los Angeles, looking to further stretch its regional reach to nearly all of Southern California.
The new, seven-days-a-week paper will be known as the Los Angeles Register, Freedom Communications CEO Aaron Kushner told the Associated Press on Thursday night, a few hours after announcing the move to his staff in the Orange County Register’s newsroom.
Kushner didn’t give many specifics about plans for the paper but said it will be launched “quickly” and will be widely distributed in print in Los Angeles County. The Register’s story on the launch said it would come early next year…
Nobody knows if the audacious business strategy (What? Hiring reporters? Printing more news?) being pursued by Freedom Communications is actually making any money, but they continue to behave as though its working.
I wonder if they’d consider taking on the clown show out in Mission Valley?
War on Christmas Watch
Here’s an opportunity for readers of this column to get in on the fun. Turn your speakers up very loud, especially if you have “sensitive” or “traditionalist” types sitting nearby. Then hit “play” on the Jimmy Hendrix plays Little Drummer Boy and other Holiday Songs video below:
Who knows? Maybe somebody will complain about you to Fox News or Sarah Palin. h/t Greg Mitchell
On This Day: 1928 – George Gershwin’s musical work “An American in Paris” was premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. 1964 – In El Paso, TX, President Johnson and Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz set off an explosion that diverted the Rio Grande River, reshaping the U.S.-Mexican border. This ended a century-old border dispute. 1989 – South African President F.W. de Klerk met for the first time with imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, at de Klerk’s office in Cape Town.
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