Democrats blast GOP members of financial crisis panel
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced an investigation of the FCIC last year when he was still ranking member, resulting in the committee receiving over 400,000 documents from the commission.
Democratic lawmakers claim the documents prove Issa’s accusations of partisan work by Democratic members are “largely unsubstantiated.” Democrats said the GOP commissioners were seeking to use the report to stifle the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
The FCIC was authorized by Congress to dissect and get to the bottom of the financial crisis. But before its final report was released in January, the group fractured down party lines, with the six Democratic commissioners backing one approach, while the four Republicans offered two separate dissenting takes.
The “official” FCIC report casts blame far and wide for the financial crisis, finding fault with regulators, Wall Street heads and top policymakers for the meltdown. A separate take approved by three of the Republican commissioners argued that the Democrats’ approach was too broad, and also that it was too simplistic to merely suggest too much or too little government was the problem. Rather, they argued that the crisis needs to be placed within a scope of the credit bubble that grew across the world beginning in the late 1990s.
Peter Wallison, a fellow of financial policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, broke out and issued his own report on the crisis, placing the blame at the feet of the government’s affordable housing policy goals for driving the housing crisis.
Wallison receives particular scrutiny in the Democrats’ report. Democrats highlight an email he sent to fellow GOP Commissioner Douglas Holtz-Eakin on Nov. 3 — the day after Republicans regained the majority in the House. In the email, Wallison states that it is “very important” that the separate GOP statements “not undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank.”
Democrats accuse him of using his position on the FCIC to pursue a “campaign” to blame government housing policy for the crisis, though the all other commissioners did not agree with the assertion. In one email, Holtz-Eakin said Wallison “overplays the mortgage issue.” Holtz-Eakin signed on the GOP dissent that argued that identifying any single cause of the crisis was too simplistic.
The Democrats also raise questions about the extent that FCIC Vice Chairman Bill Thomas, a former GOP Congressman who chaired the Ways and Means Committee, provide information to the head of a political consulting firm that also worked at Thomas’s law firm.
Democrats claim that Alex Brill, the CEO of Matrix Global Advisors and former adviser to Thomas when he was in Congress, received confidential information about the FCIC’s work, and provided input in return. However, they also note that some commissioners did utilize noncommission staff for administrative functions.
The documents do not indicate if Brill passed along any confidential FCIC information to consulting clients, Democrats said.
House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked the committee to interview Thomas and Wallison like it had Angelides and other FCIC officials. Democrats said Issa rejected that request.
The Republican majority of the Oversight Committee did not immediately respond to the report.
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