Rep. Darrell Issa is investigating his own spokesman Kurt Bardella. Issa, chair of the House oversight committee, was expected to spend this year making the White House sweat with hundreds of investigations into the inner workings of the federal bureaucracy. But it's the inner workings of his own staff that Issa now has to figure out.
Issa wants to find out if Bardella improperly shared emails from other reporters to Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, whose book about the hideous vanity found in our nation's capital tragically won't be published till 2012. Bardella is working with Leibovich, and "his collaboration with the book author is what I want to get to the bottom of," Issa told Politico's Jake Sherman and Marin Cogan. When confronted by Politico, Bardella said, "Am I bcc'ing him on every e-mail I send out? Of course not." Then he said he wouldn't "get into the details of proprietary conversations" about the book.
Sherman and Cogan's boss at Politico, John F. Harris, is pretty mad about the possibility such emails were shared, something he says "would be egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances," and could compromise his staffers' reporting. The Washington Post explained that "such a leak could potentially jeopardize competitive information among news organizations since, for example, it might reveal stories a reporter is pursuing or cast professional relationships in an unflattering light." For an illustration of the latter concern, it's helpful to look to the example of Ron Fournier, the former Associated Press reporter and current National Journal editor whose gushing emails to Karl Rove were published in a congressional report on the death of Pat Tillman:
Karl Rove exchanged e-mails about Pat Tillman with Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier, under the subject line "H-E-R-O." In response to Mr. Fournier's e-mail, Mr. Rove asked, "How does our country continue to produce men and women like this," to which Mr. Fournier replied, "The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight."
Of course, Bardella already got himself in trouble--a "nanosecond" from being fired, Issa says--after he made the mistake of being too honest with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza in a profile of his boss. Bardella explained how he aimed to make Issa an "actual political figure" by courting the 500 or so people "who track who's up, who’s down, who wins, who loses"--Washington reporters. But he didn't do himself any favors with that group by detailing the ease with which he manipulated them:
Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time, because I think most reporters have liked me packaging things for them. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move on to the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff gets on Drudge. It's a bad way to be, but it’s reality.
And then he embarrassed Howard Kurtz by revealing that Kurtz thought he was interviewing Issa when he was really talking to Bardella. (Kurtz might have picked up on the clue that Bardella kept referring to "Darrell Issa," but Kurtz chalked that up to Issa's "tendency to refer to himself in the third person.")
Bardella, who's just 27 years old, is probably feeling pretty lonely in Washington right now. Monday night, he changed his Facebook status to "thankful for good friends ..."
Update: Issa has fired Bardella, The New York Times Michael D. Shear reports. The congressman concluded that Bardella had "secretly and regularly shared" reporters' emails, Shear writes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.