Rep. Issa: Obama ‘feigns perfection’ without achieving it on lobbying rules

Congressional leaders offered a chilly response to President Obama’s call for lawmakers to match the White House in publicly disclosing their meetings with lobbyists.

The Republican in charge of government reform, Rep. Darrell
Issa (Calif.), rejected the suggestion out of hand and brushed back the
president by noting reports that White House officials met with lobbyists at
coffee shops to avoid their own disclosure rules.

“I think he feigns perfection without having yet achieved
it,” Issa told The Hill. “I do think when the president still has his people
traipsing across the street to the coffee shop so they didn’t technically meet
at the White House, quite frankly he has more to do.”

{mosads}In his State of the Union address, the president said, “Because
you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I
ask Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that
information online.”

Issa, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government
Reform Committee, politely suggested that Obama butt out of congressional
affairs and said the House is responsible for making its rules, not the White

“It’s very clear that this is another body, and as much as
[Obama] might want to control this body, I believe that Speaker Boehner is on
the road to taking us to a next higher level of accountability,” Issa said. “At
the same time, we have some constitutional responsibilities and rights and we
expect to use those.”

Issa also dismissed the idea on its merits and said the
president uses the term lobbyist “fairly indiscriminately.” At one point, the
chairman asked the reporter interviewing him, “Are you a lobbyist?”

“We meet with constituents far more than we meet with
lobbyists,” Issa said. “Yes, they are ‘lobbying’ for a cause, but they come
because they have children with autism. They come because they’re nurses
finding it difficult back home. They come with their problems. They may or may
not come with a trade association rep. The vast majority of visitors to
congressional offices both here and in the district, are not, I repeat, are not
registered lobbyists.”

“I’m for transparency. I want to have more of it,” he added.
“At the same time, if you send me a letter, that letter should not
automatically be public. You have an expectation that you can address your
member of Congress, and you can do so with a degree of confidentiality. It
happens every day. It needs to happen every day.

“We take on a huge amount of people with veterans’ problems,
people who have tax problems, people who have immigration problems,” Issa said.
“Would you have us put all of that on a website, with the names? Probably not.”

Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hit back at Issa, noting that the GOP chairman in December sent a letter to more than 100 lobbyists asking them for suggestions on federal regulations that should be relaxed.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he wouldn’t be fond of a proposal that injects transparency into who he’s meeting with,” Israel said.

Israel said he’s “all for” the president’s proposal. 

“I think people have the right to know who members of Congress are meeting with,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “That kind of transparency can never hurt.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered no immediate response
to Obama’s proposal on lobbying.

A GOP aide dismissed the idea, however: “No one will take
that proposal seriously until the White House starts following their own
rules.” The proposal also received an unenthusiastic response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“Sen. Reid is all for transparency, so we will take a look at it, but, it’s not as easy as it sounds,” spokesman Jon Summers said. “The Capitol is inherently more open to the people than the White House. On Thursdays alone, Sen. Reid holds a free breakfast that is open to any Nevadan constituent who comes to Washington. Some days we will have as many as 150 people at that one breakfast alone.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story was updated at 1:37 p.m. and 3:08 p.m.

Tags Boehner Harry Reid John Boehner

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