Two Republican congressmen on Wednesday pressed the Obama administration to release vetting information pertaining to its policy "czars."
President Obama's "czars" have come under scrutiny from conservatives because they are not confirmed by the Senate.
Criticism of the advisers intensified after the resignation of green jobs "czar" Van Jones due to his signature on a petition alleging the Bush administration played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, among other controversial statements.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) sent a letter to White House counsel Greg Craig requesting the info.
"According to publicly available information, a pattern of behavior and associations maintained by some individuals runs contrary to the very core of our democracy," Issa and Smith wrote in the letter released today, referencing controversies surrounding Jones, Energy and Environment Czar Carol Browner, and FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd.
"There is also grave concern that, in the absence of the requirement for Senate confirmation, the Administration may be appointing individuals who would not otherwise withstand Congressional scrutiny," continued the letter.
In the letter, Issa and Smith also requested information related to the "czars'" pay level and authority.
It is interesting to note that the two Republicans say the administration employs 45 czars. The actual number of czars has been a disputed matter. Other reports have put the number around to 30.
The Democratic National Committee responded to the letter, calling Issa a "hypocrite" for not criticizing "czars" that served under the Bush administration. In a release, the DNC included video of Issa of Fox News saying that he did not object to Bush's "czars."
Full letter after the jump.
The Honorable Gregory B. Craig
Counsel to the President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20050
Dear Mr. Craig:
Since taking office, President Obama has appointed a number of senior Administration advisors, otherwise known as "czars." These appointees, most of whom are not confirmed by the Senate, are lesponsible for coordinating high-level Administration policy within the Executive Office of the President and across the agencies. Some of these policies address the President's domestic agenda, including
healthcare initiatives, the expenditure of $700 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program ("TARP") funds, and the regulation of the auto industry. Others, however, focus upon homeland security, the intelligence community, and our military efforts overseas. While these are important issues affecting our country, there is considerable confusion surrounding the exact nature of these positions, the level of decision-making authority granted to them by the President and Department heads, and the vetting undertaken by this Administration during its hiring processes. These issues, in turn, raise concerns with
respect to the privileges bestowed upon the Legislature by Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and with this Administration's promises of transparency and accountability.
According to publicly available information, there are 53 czar positions. Of these, approximately 45 are currently filled. Though the degree of importance varies from czar to czar, some of these officials wield considerable power and decision-making authority. For example, TARP CzarHerb Allison is responsible for managing $700 billion in bailout funds. Likewise, Stimulus Accountability Czar Earl Devaney oversees the
tracking of $787 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending. With respect to U.S. efforts overseas, Afghanistan Czar Richard Holbrooke is the senior-most official responsible for coordinating civilian and military efforts on behalf of the Administration. Together, these three individuals oversee nearly $1.5 trillion in spending and manage some of the most high-prohle Administration initiatives'
Other Administration czars have significant impact upon policies affecting the
American people, though their job descriptions are less clear. Energy and Environment
Czar CaroI Browner, who works within the Executive Office of the President, advises the
President directly on energy and climate change policy. Diversity CzarMark Lloyd, who
repofts to FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick, is tasked with leveling the playing f,reld
in the communications marketplace. Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, who resigned on
September 6,2009, held the official title of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise,
and Innovation within the White House's Council on Environmental Quality. Though his exact duties remain a mystery, he was purportedly responsible for developing policies
that promote the creation of environmentally friendly jobs.
The latter group of presidentially appointed positions gives rise to a number of issues that this Congress must address. The first issue is whether these positions rise to the level of appointments that necessitate the advice and consent of the Senate. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Ofhcers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law. . .". The Constitution also provides that Congress may vest in the President the authority to appoint certain inferior officers. This means that the authority vested in certain officers and their ability to effectuate policy is proportional to the need for Congressional approval. The level of authority possessed by Carol Browner, Mark Lloyd, Van Jones, and other similarly situated individuals may, indeed, rise to this level.
There is also grave concern that, in the absence of the requirement for Senate confirmation, the Administration may be appointing individuals who would not otherwise withstand Congressional scrutiny. According to publicly available information, apattern of behavior and associations maintained by some individuals runs contrary to the very core of our democracy. For example, former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones was a selfdescribed communist, and when asked about his job in the Administration, he described it as a "community organizer within the federal family." As EPA Administrator for eight years under President Clinton, Energy and Environment Czar CaroL Browner presided over an agency festering with racial problems, according to a February 23,2007 Time Magazine story. Shortly before her czar appointment, reports indicated that she was a commissioner of an organization called Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties, At the National Conference for Media Reform in 2008, FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd described Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's takeover of privately owned media outlets as "incredible and democratic." These types of statements and ideologies raise serious questions as to whether this Administration lacks the appropriate standards for its senior unconfirmed political appointees.
Thus, it is vital that the Administration explain its hiring process, including what criteria it uses to vet senior-level appointees, the means by which it gathers background material, and which Administration officials, particularly within the Presidential Personal Office, are responsible at each level of the hiring process. Additionally, the Administration must provide specific information regarding the nature of each position and the duties performed by each czar. This information will assist this Congress in determining whether, in the absence of Congressional scrutiny, the Administration is employing the proper standards for hiring these public servants, and whether this Congress will need to legislate fuither on these matters.
As such, we respectfully request that the Administration provide the following
information regarding these senior ofhcials:
1. The names of all Administration'czars',their job titles, the nature of their duties, the matters in which they exercise discretion, their employing agency, and the physical location oftheir offices;
2. Dates of Presidential appointment and tenure of employment;
3. The total compensation of each individual including, but not limited to, salaries, bonuses, stipends, or any other such benefit or emolument;
4. All records and communications, including employment contracts, referring or relating to the requests set forth in items 1,2 and 3;
5. A detailed job description of any person described in item 1 including, but not limited to, the areas of responsibility, any budgetary responsibility, the number of employees under their supervision, authority to hire and terminate personnel, and the name of the czat's immediate supervisor;
6. A detailed description of the organizational structure of these persons, including any relevant documents and illustrations, such as organization charts;
7. A detailed work history including, but not limited to, any existing or proposed policies that impact the private sector or alter the existing federal government structure;
6 (sic). All records and communications referring or relating to the policies and procedures by which these individuals are selected, teviewed, "vetted" or otherwise approved for appointment;
7. (sic) All records and communications referring or relating to the development of any policy or procedure for the selection, review, and approval of these appointees;
8. All records and communications referring or relating to the selection, review, and approval of each appointee referenced in item 1. This includes records of any oral or written responses submitted by
Administration candidates in response to information requests or forms provided by the Administration; and
9. Indicate whether, in keeping with promises of transparency and accountability, this Administration will, without subpoena, agree to make these individuals, both confirmed and unconftrmed, available to testify before relevant House and Senate committees ofjurisdiction regarding their duties and policymaking decisions.
We respectfully request that the Administration provide the requested information no later than September 29,2009. Please note that, for purposes of responding to this tequest, the terms "records," "communications," and "referring or relating" should be interpreted consistently with the attached Definitions of Terms.
As you are aware, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pursuant to House Rule X, it has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee's legislative jurisdiction as well as "any matter" within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees. This broad jurisdiction includes the oversight of Executive Branch operations and administrative functions.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this very important matter. We look forward to working with the Administration to resolve these matters of transparency and accountability to the American people. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Thomas Alexander, Senior Counsel, at(202)225-5074.
Definitions of Terms
1. The term "record" means any written, recorded, or graphic matter of any nature whatsoever, regardless of how recorded, and whether original or copy, including, but not limited to, the following: memoranda, reports, expense reports, books, manuals, instructions, financial reports, working papers, records notes, letters, notices, confirmations, telegrams, receipts, appraisals, pamphlets, magazines,
newspapers, prospectuses, interoffrce and intra office communications, electronic mail (e-mail), contracts, cables, notations of any type of conversation, telephone call, meeting or other communication, bulletins, printed matter, computer printouts, teletypes, invoices, transcripts, diaries, analyses, teturns, summaries, minutes, bills, accounts, estimates, proj ections, comparisons, messages,
correspondence, press releases, circulars, financial statements, reviews, opinions, offers, studies and investigations, questionnaires and surveys, and work sheets (and all drafts, preliminary versions, alterations, modifications, revisions, changes, and amendments of any of the foregoing, as well as any attachments or appendices thereto), and graphic or oral records or representations ofany kind
(including without limitation, photographs, charts, graphs, microfiche, microfilm, videotape, recordings and motion pictures), and electronic, mechanical, and electric records or representations of any kind (including, without limitation, tapes, cassettes, disks, and recordings) and other written, printed, typed, or other graphic or recorded matter of any kind or nature, however produced or reproduced, and whether preserved in writing, film, tape, disk, videotape or otherwise. A record bearing any notation not a part of the original text is to be considered a separate record. A draft or non-identical copy is a separate record within the meaning of this term,
2. The term "communication" means each manner or means of disclosure or exchange of information, regardless of means utilized, whether oral, electronic, by document or otherwise, and whether face-to-face, in a meeting, by telephone, mail, telexes, discussions, releases, personal delivery, or otherwise.
3. The terms "referring or relating," with respect to any given subject, means anything that constitutes, contains, embodies, reflects, identifies, states, refers to, deals with or is in any malìner whatsoever pertinent to that subject.