Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been off to a shaky start since taking over as chairman of the House Oversight Committee this year, firing his prominent spokesman Kurt Bardella this month after he was revealed to have shared reporters’ emails with a New York Times reporter working on a book.
In his first interview since losing his job, Bardella told the North County Times over the weekend that he had made mistakes. “I did lose my way a little bit,” Bardella said. “Certainly, in this case, what I did left people in the reporting community uncomfortable.”
David Bossie has plenty of sympathy for Bardella after having held a similar position as an aide to then-chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) during the committee’s years-long investigations into President Clinton back in the ’90s. Known for his friendliness with the press, Bossie says he had the same role as Bardella in all but title in addition to his duties as an investigator. Like Bardella, Bossie left his position in scandal, resigning after tapes of interviews conducted as part of Burton’s Whitewater investigation were found to have been selectively edited to incriminate the Clintons.
Bossie is now the president of Citizens United, the conservative activist group whose anti-Hillary Clinton ad in 2008 — Hillary: The Movie — ultimately led to the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling dramatically weakening the campaign finance restrictions on corporations. Still, the comparisons between Burton’s war on the Clintons and Issa’s investigations of the Obama Administration only go so far, Bossie told TPM in an interview.
“We were attacked because of our effectiveness and because the Clinton White House was afraid of us — they kept a constant assault on us,” he said. “This guy … he wasn’t there long enough to be effective. He really was his own undoing.”
While Bossie told TPM that Issa ultimately would rise and fall on his own merit and that Bardella’s troubles were his own, he sounded a note of concern that the early stumbles could put new constraints on the chairman from within his party.
“His problem now — and this was Chairman Burton’s problem as well — is the conference starts to ask you questions,” he said. “And now, just by reading reports, there are people wondering what’s going on over there. That’s not healthy — when you don’t have the confidence of the members of your conference, it gets dicey.”
Issa has been hesitant to associate himself with the Burton-era investigations, which dogged Clinton for years but ultimately ended with a failed impeachment and a number of proposed conspiracy theories that never panned out. In an interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, the Congressman said that he would have avoided investigations into Clinton’s pre-White House past had he been in charge at the time.
Bossie has certainly noticed the dynamic.
“It might be why we never got a phone call,” he said with a smirk.
Still, he hopes that Issa and his staff will eventually come around and solicit his advice about his time doing battle with the Clinton White House.
“No matter how much they’re under fire, nothing compared to what Chairman Burton was under — this is like a skirmish compared to what he went through,” he said. “Other members have asked whether we would offer our insights and the people I wanted to get together with him are honest brokers. We understand what we did right and what we did wrong. I think there would be value in them hearing it.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.