Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had scheduled a hearing regarding taxpayer-funded political campaign activity by government officials. The committee is investigating government employee violations of the Hatch Act, including audio tape of former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis making an illegal campaign solicitation for President Obama’s re-election campaign.
On July 15th, David Simas, Director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, defied a congressional subpoena by failing to appear before the committee and provide testimony. The White House cited “absolute immunity” to excuse Simas.
On July 18th, Chairman of the committee Darrell Issa, gave Simas a unique second chance to testify at a reconvened hearing held today. He ignored that request as well.
In response to Simas ignoring a congressional subpoena twice, the committee released this statement:
Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a resolution to reject White House assertions of “absolute immunity” for political affairs office head, David Simas, who has failed to appear before the Committee twice. This morning, the White House declined Chairman’s further accommodation to allow Mr. Simas to comply with his obligations under the subpoena. Yesterday, Chairman Issa offered White House Counsel Neil Eggleston the option of committing to make Mr. Simas available for a deposition and producing documents: the same accommodations to which the Bush Administration agreed when Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives.
During debate on the resolution, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton had something very interesting to say about the group’s investigation of illegal activity in the White House.
Holmes argued that “you don’t have a right to know everything in a separation of powers government.”
The very word in the title of the committee – ‘Oversight’ – seems to suggest otherwise. As does the concept of a “separation of powers government” which includes a system of checks and balances.
Issa has called Simas’ violation of a Congressional subpoena, the “White House’s latest attack on our Constitution’s system of checks and balances.”
The committee has stated they will continue to offer Simas the opportunity to testify as it moves forward in enforcing its subpoena.