Republicans on Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Leaked Documents to Lobbyists

FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides (D) and VIce-Chairman Bill Thomas (R)

I wonder if ethics for some Republicans is so markedly different from everyone else’s such that, when charged with investigating the actions of Wall Street banks that might have led to that little catastrophe of 2008, they feel absolutely no moral qualms about sharing information about their inquiries with a lobbyist for those banks. Do they view that “heads up” to their supposed quarry as an act of heroism, even?  Or do they just not have a nose for what most people would probably view as corruption in the halls of power?

After the jump, a portion of a report to Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings of the House Committee on  Oversight and Government Reform, An Examination of Attacks on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. This document concerns several charges against Republicans on this Commission, which was established in 2009 to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. Some of the charges concern the Republican Commissioners’ partisanship while on the panel,  i.e., using their position to try to aid House Republicans’ efforts to kill the Dodd-Frank Act, or “parroting” an American Enterprise Institute “theory” about the role Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae played in causing the crisis, which became a major right-wing talking point in Congress and the media. But perhaps the most damning charges concern Vice-Chairman Bill Thomas, who the report alleges, shared information about the ongoing investigation with a friend and colleague who happened to be chief lobbyist for Citibank among other financial players:

Questions About Vice Chairman Thomas and the CEO of a Political Consulting Firm

Internal Commission documents raise questions about the extent to which Vice Chairman Thomas and his Commission staff were providing information to, and receiving information from, a CEO of a political consulting firm who is also employed by the Vice Chairman’s law firm.

Alex Brill is the CEO of Matrix Global Advisors, a firm that provides “economic and political consulting services for clients seeking to effect change in Washington” and “works with clients spanning a variety of industries and has advised both small firms and large corporations,” including a “Wall Street investment bank” seeking insights into “financial services legislation.”

Mr. Brill is also an Economic Policy Advisor at the law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll, and Rooney in Washington, DC, where Vice Chairman Thomas is a Senior Advisor, and where Mr. Brill “provides clients with economic and legislative insight” into “financial markets and policies affecting capital investment.” Mr. Brill is also a Research Fellow at AEI and previously served as “senior advisor to former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas.”

Although some Commissioners utilized non-Commission staff for scheduling, appointments, and other administrative functions, Mr. Brill received confidential information about the Commission’s work and provided substantive input based on that information. According to the internal Commission documents, Mr. Brill was provided:

  •  copies of outlines of internal drafts of Commission staff memos;
  •  information about internal conversations among Commissioners and staff about deliberations regarding potential witnesses for upcoming hearings;
  • a media advisory that had not yet been made public;
  • information about the Commission’s plans to investigate foreign banks (including the identities of target banks); and
  • information about how the Commission staff would treat specific corporations under investigation (such as Citigroup).

Committee staff have identified no record of Mr. Brill being an official, employee, consultant, contractor, or adviser to the Commission. Similarly, Committee staff have identified no record of Mr. Brill signing a confidentiality agreement.

The documents produced to the Committee do not indicate whether Mr. Brill conveyed any of this internal Commission information to corporate clients, entities represented by his company or his law firm, or any other outside parties. However, Mr. Brill’s law firm aggressively markets his services by stating that they “use this influence to advance causes and cases for clients all over the nation.”

As the culmination of a year-long investigation, Chairmen Issa and McHenry scheduled a hearing on these matters for July 13, 2011. Despite previous reports, Chairman Issa did not invite Vice Chairman Thomas to testify. For this reason, on July 1, 2011, Ranking Members Cummings and Quigley requested that Committee staff conduct a bipartisan staff interview of Vice Chairman Thomas, as they had done with Chairman Angelides. Chairman Issa declined to grant this request. Instead, he notified the Committee that the hearing had been postponed indefinitely.

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