House Oversight to investigate government loan programs

As Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has been at the helm of the investigation of the first major scandal to rock the Obama administration — Operation Fast and Furious, which has led to at least 200 murders in Mexico and some 11 violent crimes in the U.S.

Now, he wants a piece of the administration’s two latest disgraces — the debacles surrounding Solyndra and LightSquared, two companies that received major loans from the federal government. But Issa isn’t interested to prove whether the administration backed Solyndra with the presumed suspicion it was doomed to bankruptcy. Nor does he want to demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the White House pressured Congressional witnesses to paint LightSquared in an exponentially better light than the company and its products deserved. Instead, he plans to turn his committee’s attention to the root of the problem — whether government loan programs are a good idea in the first place.

“We’re investigating it a little differently than what you’re seeing on the news,” Issa said today on a conference call with reporters. “We’re looking at things more broadly because we’re Government Reform. Is there an inherent distortion when you allow government entities that are politically influenced or even have political appointees to pick specific companies [to receive loans]?”

In other words, Issa wants to investigate whether political appointees are improperly influenced to pick winners and losers based on campaign donations.

“Our Committee is questioning whether this kind of activity can go on again because you have multiple entities in which political appointees are able to pick winners — often winners that are very much out there, very easy to check as major supporters of the president,” he said. “We’re not going to try to deal with the efficacy of the investment but rather with whether this pattern of spending your money — whether through stimulus funds or others — should, bottom-line, be eliminated.”

Until the government is properly reformed to correct that inherent distortion, if it exists (which I think it does!), wrongdoing of the sort seen in the Solyndra and LightSquared improprieties will continue, Issa said.

“I think we should understand anytime you give political appointees billions of dollars to put in a piggy bank, you’re going to have this kind of misconduct,” he said.

Basically, Issa is pointing out an obvious truth: Government loan programs in the hands of political appointees tempt corruption.

This is exactly the right approach to take. As serious as they are, the Solyndra and LightSquared scandals run the risk of being overblown by conservatives, billed as evidence of the president’s nonstop political scheming. And on one level, that’s exactly what they are. But on another level, this administration has only been able to reward its friends because it inherited a system that enabled it to do so. Yes, we need to oust this president in November 2012. But we also need real reform of the crony capitalist system. To do that, we flat-out need smaller government because, while Big Government and Big Business supporters like to pretend they’re in opposite ends of the house, they’re almost always in bed together.