Democrats refuse to talk about Fannie, Freddie in Oversight hearing

Democrats have begun a search for the culprit in the financial collapse in a manner somewhat akin to the OJ Simpson search for Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s murderer. The Hill reports that Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee hearing grilled Lehman Brothers executives over CEO pay and “deregulation”, but never mentioned the names Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans found that more than a little strange:

Democrats aimed their harshest attacks at deregulation and CEO pay, using former Lehman Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld as an example during a recess hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) also released internal documents showing Lehman’s compensation committee recommended $20 million in “special payments” to three departing executives on Sept. 11, four days before the firm filed for bankruptcy.

Republicans, for their part, launched a campaign to pin the financial meltdown on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and attacked Waxman for not holding a hearing to dig into the now-nationalized mortgage giants.

“Any hearing on oversight that does not begin with Fannie and Freddie and [former Fannie Mae CEO] Franklin Raines will be a sham,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). “This is like investigating a train robbery and only talking to the dining car stewards.”

Christopher Shays ripped the Oversight Committee for its refusal to investigate Congress itself:

“The reason we haven’t scheduled hearings on these two institutions and haven’t requested documents from either is because their demise isn’t someone else’s fault — it’s ours, and we don’t want to own up to it.”

Shays then destroys the notion that Congress got caught unaware by the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He requests the records of many hearings held over the last six years on this very topic, including a Bush administration effort to overhaul GSE regulation in 2003. The list of hearings demonstrates Congressional culpability in the Fannie and Freddie collapse, and as Shays notes, provides the reason why Waxman has kept the actual proximate cause of the financial crisis out of the hearings that are supposed to investigate the reasons why American taxpayers have to bail out Wall Street.

Note that Waxman wants to save “taxpayer money” by keeping those records out of the committee hearing, instead providing links to the records for those who want to pursue the trail of bread crumbs highlighted by Shays. Too bad Congressional Democrats didn’t have more concern for our money when they blocked tougher rules for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and accused OFHEO regulators of being racists for doing their jobs. That was their excuse the last time Congress got pressed to take some responsibility for overseeing the GSEs, and to no one’s great surprise, that’s their reaction this time as well.