Oversight head to release business requests for regulation rollbacks

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has promised to publicly release responses he receives from 150 companies, trade groups and think tanks that he asked to compile wish lists of regulations they would like rolled back.

“Chairman Issa fully intends to publicly release all of the responses he receives,” said spokesman Kurt Bardella, although he noted that his boss planned to do so once he's received all of them and he and his staff have had the chance to analyze the suggestions.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Friday called on Issa to release the 150 letters he recently sent to the corporations and groups and to post their responses.

Bardella said there is no reason to post the letters online because the same letter was sent to all the companies, associations and think tanks, and media reports have cited the entirety of its contents. He also said The Hill published the full list of companies who received the letters earlier this week, so that’s already public, too.

“CREW should really do their due diligence popping off just to make news,” he said.

Incoming Republicans and Issa have pledged to run a more transparent Congress, and Issa has  demonstrated a commitment to transparency in the past. Last year, he earned an award from the Project of Government Oversight for publicly releasing hundreds of thousands of documents related to the AIG investigation, thereby revealing the full details of government’s decision to pay billions of dollars to AIG counterparties.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Chairman Issa that our government must be more transparent, and CREW looks forward to working with him on this important issue,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “To that end, it is incumbent on the chairman to post on the committee’s website all the letters that he recently sent to corporations and trade associations requesting feedback on government regulations, as well as any responses he receives. Releasing this information will help further his stated goals and foster public confidence in his committee.”

Issa’s letter sparked an intense debate over whether it is appropriate for lawmakers and the White House to be asking corporate interests for a list of the most onerous regulations. Democrats and campaign finance watchdogs, according to opponents, have criticized the letter for a number of different reasons. Watchdogs have focused on the fundraising ties between the businesses and Issa, while Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the panel, has criticized the GOP for abandoning middle-class families in favor of moneyed special interests.

Issa sent the letter to a wide spectrum of business interests, including broad trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Financial Services Roundtable, as well as Fortune 500 companies such as Exxon Mobil, Bayer and the Ford Motor Co.

Issa also wrote to groups with more specialized interests, such as the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, the Fertilizer and Salt Institutes, the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association and the Color Pigments Manufacturers Association.

The vast assortment of business interests on the list demonstrates Issa’s determination to come up with as many regulations as possible to consider rolling back.