After Stumbling, Issa Poised for a Comeback

For Rep. Darrell Issa, the summer has been much better than the spring.

When he took the helm of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, the California Republican brought expectations that his investigations would reach deep into the White House, forcing large document releases and embarrassing disclosures for Democrats.

Instead, Issa stumbled. At his lowest point, he fired his aggressive spokesman, Kurt Bardella, in a flap over email forwarding. "It was the most difficult week I’ve had in 10 years of working for Mr. Issa," said Frederick Hill, Issa’s communications director.

The committee held a series of mundane hearings. Rob Kelner, a partner at Covington & Burlington who guides clients through Congressional investigations, said "it’s been a pretty quiet time" for lawyers like him.

But things started to turn around in the summer, with the panel’s ongoing examination of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.

Although significant chunks of the probe were uncovered by the press, starting with a CBS News expose, Issa kept up the drumbeat, hauling Justice Department officials before the committee to demand answers. Late last month, heads started to roll. The DOJ reassigned ATF acting Director Kenneth Melson. Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for Arizona who oversaw the operation, resigned.

The fallout, as well as several other committee moves, have Issa’s allies saying he’s back on track.


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