Waxman’s Methods

In a jello-wrestling match between Rahm Emanuel and Henry Waxman, I think I’d bet on the latter. While Rahm has been frantically and loudly pursuing two opposing strategies–the Messina-Baucus welfare program for the insurance industry hidden under the guise of the public option kabuki, Waxman has been quietly preparing for battle in September. And it sounds like the insurance industry is getting increasingly worried that Waxman will be better prepared than Rahm and his little kabuki dance.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman raised eyebrows this week when he launched a financial probe into the nation’s largest insurance companies, which are at the center of the health reform battle.

Now POLITICO has learned that Waxman’s recent investigation began almost a month earlier than previously thought – with letters to the insurance industry’s powerful trade group and its consultant regarding grassroots tactics.

A committee spokeswoman defended the probes – saying lawmakers need to know that private insurance money is being spent effectively as part of the effort to control costs. But the trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is crying foul, saying Waxman is merely trying to bring it in line behind his version of the health reform bill.

"Congressional oversight is not a tool that should be used to chill dissent," said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. "These investigations are nothing more than politically motivated, taxpayer-financed fishing expeditions designed to intimidate and silence health plans."

Now, I don’t for a second think that Waxman can win this on his own, that even armed with the information he’s seeking (assuming the insurance industry doesn’t stall, which they will) he will be able to silence Baucus and his industry-owned cohort.

But at the very least, what Waxman will succeed in doing is demonstrate that his legislative foes haven’t even considered (or, more likely, would like to hide) the business realities of those whose bidding they’re doing. You’re going to have health insurance executives asking for a huge subsidy at the same time as they cry foul when asked to provide some documents about their business. And those hysterical cries will be pitted against some very rational voices speaking quietly about cost control–precisely what the Blue Dogs and the insurance industry shills claim to be pursuing.

“If we’re going to get health costs under control, we need to make sure that our private health insurance dollars are spent as efficiently as possible. That means our premium dollars should Read more

Oh yes. The Henry Waxman we know and love.

henry_waxman_official_photo_portrait_color.thumbnail.jpgRemember back in the good old days, when Henry Waxman was Chair of Oversight? Something would piss him off and–like clockwork, approximately 4 hours into the next business day–he’d send out some letters that would make corporate CEOs quiver and bitch. We haven’t gotten to see that Henry Waxman so much now that he chairs Commerce.

However, I think Waxman is getting a little tired with Rahm’s attempts to sideline the work of the Commerce Committee.

Because on Monday he sent out a demand for information on health insurance company’s exorbitant costs–returnable in time for the health care debate in Congress in September.

He’s asking for the following by September 4:

  • A table listing the total compensation for every employee making more than $500,000 a year
  • A table listing board member compensation
  • A table listing off-site conferences and retreats
  • A table listing the company’s total revenue and net income

And the following by September 14:

  • Communication with the board on compensation packages
  • Tables listing premium revenue, claims payments, and sales expenses

And here’s the list of insurance companies mean old Henry is picking on. In case you wondering, Mrs. Bayh’s company, Wellpoint, is on that list. I would imagine that after these details become public–just as the debate between the House and Senate picks up–Evan Bayh might think a little differently about how he represents the interests of–as Mrs. Greenspan calls them–the conservative Democrats in Indiana. Likewise, once Waxman has the details of the retreats that some of those obstructing reform have attended, it may change their commitment to obstruction pretty quickly.

It appears that one of the recipient companies (I’m trying to figure out what PPM would be the abbreviation for) went whining to Mike Allen, complaining,

This is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition designed to silence health plans.

But jeebus! Isn’t this information precisely the kind of information we ought to have in hand before we decide how to reform health care?

Henry? Nice to see you back in old form.

Why Tom Davis Shouldn’t Be Obama’s Cyberczar

Aside from the questionable logic of appointing yet another Republican who won’t get us a seat in Congress, I’ve got three specific objections to the possibility that Tom Davis, former Republican Congressman from Northern Virginia, might be named as Obama’s Cyberczar.

Tom Davis, a moderate Republican from Virginia, has emerged as a leading candidate for the Obama Administration’s newly created position of cybersecurity czar. Sources familiar with the White House’s deliberations on the subject say Obama officials feel a Washington power player would make a better candidate than a tech guru. "They want someone who understands technology issues, but more importantly, knows how to get things done in Washington," says a cybersecurity expert who has been consulted by the White House. "There are very few people who have that combination of skills, and Davis is at the top of that short list."

First, it’s one thing to name a Republican to a post, but yet another to name the former head of the Congressional re-election campaign. When Davis headed the NRCC, after all, he did two things of questionable ethics which surely hurt Democrats’ cause. It was under his leadership, after all, that the NRCC made some changes (the permission for outside employment, and the lumping of all committee accounts into one) that laid the groundwork for the money laundering problems discovered last year.

While I was buried in the White House’s amazing email fraud yesterday, the Politico posted an article further developing the NRCC accounting story. The Politico describes three roots to the accounting fraud. The NRCC no longer required executive committee approval for certain expenditures, it consolidated all its accounts, and it permitted people to work outside the NRCC.

Under Virginia Rep. Tom Davis and New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who chaired the committee from 1999 until the end of 2006, the NRCC waived rules requiring the executive committee — made up of elected leaders and rank-and-file Republican lawmakers — to sign off on expenditures exceeding $10,000, merged the various department budgets into a single account and rolled back a prohibition on committee staff earning an income from outside companies.

These changes gave committee staffers more freedom to spend money quickly and react to a shifting political landscape during heated campaign battles, and House Republicans were able to claim larger majorities after the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections.

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Another $25 Billion Pissed Away by George Bush

Remember that $9 billion that seems to have simply disappeared into thin air in Iraq? Add another $25 billion to the money the Bush Administration has just pissed away through incompetence, in this case by failing to implement recommendations made by Inspectors General.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Rep. Ed Towns issued a new report that finds that the Bush Administration has failed to implement over 13,000 recommendations made by Inspectors General (IGs) since 2001. Federal agencies could save taxpayers over $25 billion by implementing these open recommendations.

“Under the Bush Administration, thousands of proposals to make government more efficient languished,” said Rep. Waxman. “The result has been billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse. Congress will work with the new Administration to restore accountability and increase the effectiveness of our government.”


The House Oversight Committee asked the nation’s IGs to identify all recommendations made between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2008, that had not been implemented by federal agencies. The information provided shows that the Bush Administration failed to implement 13,847 recommendations since 2001, which could have saved taxpayers $25.9 billion. Almost half of these recommendations were made over a year ago, and more than a quarter were made over two years ago.

Just two more weeks of suffering under the epic incompetence of the "MBA President."

“And while you’re indicting Alberto Gonzales for lying to Congress…”

"…why not add another charge too?"

That seems to be the immediate message of Henry Waxman’s 11-page memo exposing Administration lies about the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger. As he describes, when Congress approached her with questions about the Administration’s use of the uranium in Niger claim, Condi Rice had Alberto Gonzales answer on her behalf.

On January 6,2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sent a letter on behalf of Condoleezza Rice, who was then the National Security Advisor, to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, writing that "Dr. Rice has asked me to respond" to questions raised by the Committee about the uranium claim.

But the testimony the Oversight Committee has collected seriously challenges the veracity of Gonzales’ memo.

The information the Oversight Committee has received casts serious doubt on the veracity of the representations that Mr. Gonzales made on behalf of Dr. Rice.

Basically, George Tenet, former Deputy Director of Intelligence Jami Miscik, and former NSC speechwriter John Gibson testified that Condi and other NSC staffers had received multiple warnings not to use the Niger uranium claim, in addition to the insistent warnings before the Cincinnati speech that we already knew about.

As I suggested, DOJ may well already be considering charges against Alberto Gonzales for lying to Congress about the US Attorney firings (and, for that matter, about the illegal wiretap program). Waxman lays out one more instance where Bush’s Fredo appears to have lied about Administration activities.

Not that it’ll do much good: there’s a five year statute of limitation on lying to Congress, and the memo in question was written four years and eleven months ago. (The Administration didn’t turn over the memo in question until November 12 of this year.)

I’ll have more to say about the substantive details in Waxman’s memo after I do some Christmas shopping. But for now, if you needed any more proof that the SSCI report on prewar intelligence on Iraq was a whitewash based on Administration lies, now you’ve got it. 

The Waxman Challenge to Dingell

Two of my favorite Congressmen–my own representative, John Dingell, and the current Chair of the Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman–are in a fight over the Chair of the powerful Commerce Committee, which John Dingell currently chairs. Here are some thoughts:

Two Good Chairmen

Understand, this is ideological and political, not functional.  That is, this is a fight between two of the most effective Chairmen in the House.

Several Washington sources said they were puzzled by Waxman’s challenge because the committee had run smoothly in recent years, steadily producing complex bills. Committee chairmanships usually go to the member who has served the longest, although junior members have pulled upsets in cases where a chairman was clearly ineffective.

Dingell has been recovering from knee replacement surgery last month after spending much of the past year on crutches, sometimes moving slowly and in visible pain around the Capitol. But Dingell, first elected in 1955, has shown few other signs of age.

"He’s sharper than most members on his bad days," Stupak said.

Yeah, Stupak is an incredibly close Dingell ally, but as someone who speaks with Dingell regularly, I can attest that he’s very sharp. There are committees out there–some pretty important ones–that would benefit mightily from having more competent Democratic leadership, but Commerce is not one of them.

So frankly, I’m more concerned about the absence of a strong leader on Oversight than I am whether Commerce will have an effective leader. Darrell Issa is set to take over Oversight for the Republicans and he can be a consummate pain in the ass; we need to have someone to counter Issa. And frankly, I want real oversight of the Obama administration, particularly of the proceedings of the Treasury bailout. If Waxman were to leave, the next most senior leader of any note (IMO) is Elijah Cummings or Dennis Kucinich. While Kucinich might actually be good at keeping the obnoxious Issa in line and the bailout money doing what it’s supposed to, I doubt that leadership wants to give him a gavel.

Energy Issues and Climate Change

Waxman’s challenge is, above all, an attempt to force more progressive legislation through Commerce on climate change and energy issues. As the chief ally of the American auto industry in Congress, Dingell has long fought any legislation that would make life more difficult on the auto industry, notably increased CAFE standards and air quality regulations.

But on this issue–even as a Michigander–I side with Waxman. Climate change and energy security are just too important to be subjugated to the short-sightedness of the incredibly short-sighted auto industry. Besides, faced with proactive climate regulation, auto companies are going to have to get more limber, which they’re going to have to do anyway, if they want to survive. Read more

Tom Davis Supports Waxman’s Demand for Cheney’s Interview Materials

Retiring GOP Congressman Tom Davis must have accepted that we’ll soon have a Democrat in the White House. He has joined Henry Waxman in declaring Bush’s (Mukasey’s, really) invocation of executive privilege with regards to the Cheney interview notes in the CIA Leak Case to be improper.

 On a bipartisan basis, the Committee finds that the President’s assertion of executive privilege over the report of the Vice President’s interview was legally unprecedented and an inappropriate use of executive privilege. The assertion of executive privilege prevents the Committee from having access to a complete set of records and thus results in the Committee’s inability to assess fully the actions of the Vice President.

Mind you, I don’t know what effect this report will have. As we’ve seen with the US Attorney subpoenas, the White House can stall anything until the end of the Administration (and until Bush pre-emptively pardons Cheney and Libby for outing a CIA spy). At which point–given the way the polls are headed–Obama’s new AG could turn over the Cheney interview materials. 

I’m most curious about Davis’ cooperation on this, but not Waxman’s demand that DOJ unredact the reports the Committee already has (these redactions include references to both Bush and Cheney), because I believe Davis was party to the Administration’s second firewall on the CIA Leak Case–the Cheney claim that he could (and presumably did) insta-declassify Plame’s identity all by himself.

When the Oversight Committee had a hearing on CIA Leak Case, remember, Davis went to some length to try to get Bill Leonard to state that both the President and the Vice President had authority to declassify at will. 

And, after the country’s head of Information Security, Bill Leonard, asserted at the Waxman hearing that the President has absolute authority to declassify things, Congressman Tom Davis tried to sneak such authority for the Vice President into the Congressional Record:

Davis: Mr. Leonard, let me ask. Does the President or the Vice President have the authority to declassify on the spot?

Leonard: As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Davis, the President’s authority in this area is absolute, pursuant to the Constitution, …

Davis: So they can do it on the spot. Can they declassify for limited purposes?

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Your Expensive Commute Has Gone To Line Maliki’s Pocket


I see that Henry Waxman’s just as focused on oil as those Republicans trying to stink up the House–only in Waxman’s case, he’s demonstrating that the Iraqi budget surplus is almost the same amount as the money Americans have spent on Iraqi oil.

On Tuesday, the Govemment Accountability Office reported that by the end of this year Iraq may amass a budget surplus of between $67 billion and $79 billion as a result of windfall oil sale revenues.

This is roughly the same amount U.S. consumers have paid to purchase Iraqi oil since the war began. According to data provided by the Energy Information Administration, the United States is the single largest purchaser of Iraqi oil, and U.S. consumers will have spent between $70 billion and S74 billion to purchase Iraqi oil by the end of this year.

This means U.S. consumers have been paying record gas prices at the pump to build up Iraq’s massive budget surplus. At the same time, U.S. taxpayers have paid $48 billion to fund Iraq’s reconstruction. I am writing to ask what steps the Bush Administration is taking to ensure that Iraq contributes its fair share to finance the reconstruction.

I’m sure the international oil market doesn’t work on a one-to-one correlation like this. But the American consumers paying $4 a gallon to fund their 30 mile commutes don’t know that–nor do they care, I suspect. Waxman writes:

Based on this information, it appears that U.S. taxpayers are paying twice – once through their taxes to pay for lraq’s reconstruction and a second time at the pump to help build Iraq’s massive surplus.

Shorter Waxman: Why have American taxpayers been asked to forgo necessities to line Nuri al-Maliki’s pockets?

Waxman’s Investigation

Unlike HJC, Oversight does not publicly release subpoenas when they serve them. So Mukasey’s cowardly letter begging Bush to invoke executive privilege so he doesn’t have to go to jail for shielding Dick Cheney’s role in outing Valerie Plame is one of the first hints of the scope of what Waxman was after. Here are some details I find particularly interesting.

The subpoenaed documents concern the Department’s investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents include Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") reports of the Special Counsel’s interviews with the Vice President and senior White House staff, as well as handwritten notes taken by FBI agents during some of these interviews. The subpoena also seeks notes taken by the Deputy National Security Advisor during conversations with the Vice President and senior White House officials and other documents provided by the White House to the Special Counsel during the count of the investigation. Many of the subpoenaed materials reflect frank and candid deliberations among senior presidential advisers, including the Vice President, the White House Chief of Staff, the National Security Advisor, and the White House Press Secretary. The deliberations concern a number of sensitive issues, including the preparation of your January 2003 State of the Union Address, possible responses to public assertions challenging the accuracy of a statement in the address, and the decision to send Ms. Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger in 2002 to investigate Iraqi efforts to acquire yellowcake uranium. Some of the subpoenaed documents also contain information about communications between you and senior White House officials.


Much of the content of the subpoenaed documents falls squarely within the presidential communications and deliberative process components of executive privilege. Several of the subpoenaed interview reports summarize conversations between you and your advisors, which are direct presidential communications. Other portions of the documents fall within the scope of the presidential communications component of the privilege because they summarize
deliberations among your most senior advisers in the course of preparing information or advice for presentation to you, including information related to the preparation of your 2003 State of the Union Address and possible responses to public assertions that the address contained an inaccurate statement. Read more

Waxman Notes: “Bribery” Rhymes with “Library”

Well, close enough for PhDs in Comparative Literature…

Man, Waxman must have been preoccupied with submitting his report on Pat Tillman’s death. He was about five hours behind the time when I predicted the letter in response to the Bush Library bribery story would be sent.

Dear Mr. Payne:

I am writing regarding a report that you solicited funds for the George W. Bush Presidential Library in return for access to senior U.S. foreign policy officials. This is a matter that the Oversight Committee will investigate.

According to the Times of London, you solicited funds for President Bush’s library from foreign interests. Specifically, you reportedly offered access to several senior U.S. government officials, including Vice President Cheney, in return for six-figure contributions to the library.

If true, this report raises serious concerns about the ways in which foreign interests might be secretly influencing our government through large donations to the library. Under current law, there are few restrictions on efforts to raise funds for presidential libraries. For example, there are no limits on how much can be raised for a single source, and there is no requirement that donations be disclosed publicly. As a result, a presidential library can solicit secret donations from companies and foreign interests that seek to surreptitiously influence government action. In order to prevent abuses of this kind, the House of Representatives passed legislation last year that requires disclosure of information about donors to presidential libraries.

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