Disturbing news out of Capitol Hill for those who work with and in
media. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight
Committee, has turned the investigative powers of his office on a top
adviser and media-relations professional on his own staff.
According to media reports the staffer is suspected of secretly sharing communications between his office and other reporters with a New York Times reporter working on a book about the incestuous nature of Washington. The allegations raise serious questions about how the office is handling sensitive information regarding investigations it is conducting into Obama administration activities. If true, the allegations threaten to undermine the established code of conduct between reporters and sources, especially in the highly competitive political arena.
Information about the office’s disturbing practice of secretly sharing communications with reporters was leaked, wiki-style, to reporters at competing organizations. Those outlets pounced, creating a firestorm of coverage over what I’m calling the Issa-Leaks controversy.
Chairman Issa has publicly vowed to investigate even the most paper-thin or minute allegation of wrongdoing within the Obama administration. He has portrayed himself as the standard-bearer for Washington ethics. Now it’s his credibility on the line.
If Issa wants to quell the long-term fire of Issa-Leaks, he may need to fan the flames a bit in the short term. Issa should release to the public all of the e-mail communications between the staffer he is investigating, the reporter involved and himself. Only through complete transparency and the outcomes that follow can Issa save his own credibility as the top investigator for the Republican majority. If he doesn’t come clean, he risks the integrity of his other investigations by undermining the authority of his office by covering up the actions of his staff. If no wrongdoing occurred, the release of information will exonerate all involved.
The media, especially when scorned, will not rest until the truth comes out. Moving quickly and telling the truth can mitigate long-term damage and salvage reputations. How Darrell Issa handles Issa-Leaks will tell us much about how he will handle his partisan investigations of the administration. Issa should come clean and release all of the e-mails.
David Di Martino is CEO of Blue Line Strategic Communications Inc. The views expressed in this blog are his and do not necessarily represent Blue Line’s. Follow David: @bluelinedd.