Issa accuses Emanuel of ‘scare tactics’

The House investigative committee’s top-ranking Republican wants White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to answer for allegations that he used “Chicago-style scare tactics” to intimidate lawmakers who say the economic stimulus has failed.

In a letter sent to Emanuel on Tuesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) demanded to know how involved the chief of staff was in an effort to “threaten” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer after Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the president’s Recovery Act was a failure.

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According to reports, Emanuel directed four Cabinet secretaries to send what Issa characterized as “threatening letters,” in which they asked whether Brewer preferred to “forfeit the money [they] are making available to Arizona,” in light of Kyl’s comments one day prior. Kyl, according to one secretary’s letter, had “publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren’t presently under way.”

Kyl made the remarks on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

The White House did not respond to The Hill's request for reaction to Issa’s letter, which accuses Emanuel of “resorting to the playbook of the Chicago political machine.”

On July 13, the day following Kyl’s appearance on “This Week,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan sent similarly worded letters to Brewer asking whether the governor was going to reject stimulus money.

LaHood has already publicly denied that there had been any such collusion, however.

At a July 24 Budget Committee hearing, LaHood was pressed on the issue.

New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett (R) asked his former House colleague, “Did anyone inside or outside the administration encourage you to write that letter — whether you need the encouragement or not — did anyone encourage you to write that letter?”

LaHood responded, “No.”

Garrett then asked, “Did anybody talk to you about writing that letter?”

LaHood again said no.

Issa did not mention LaHood’s testimony in the letter he sent to Emanuel on Tuesday. Issa says he wants a detailed response to his questions in one week.

Issa suggested that it is implausible that four different Cabinet secretaries wrote to Brewer on the same day about the same issue without coordinating their efforts.

He wrote, “The fact that the letters were coordinated by you to maximize the level of intimidation is supported by the timing, structure and content of each letter. Not only were the four letters all sent the day following Sen. Kyl’s remarks, but they were also remarkably similar in tone and sentence structure.”

Issa wants information on what role Emanuel played in writing or encouraging others to write those letters and “all communications between you and Secretary LaHood, Secretary Salazar, Secretary Donovan and Secretary Vilsack referring or relating to the decision to send the July 13 letters to Gov. Brewer.”

According to GOP committee sources, Issa has not yet asked for a formal investigation into the matter.