Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

Issa vs. the FCIC, round 2

January 4, 2011: 1:39 PM ET

Who will investigate the investigators?

Why, Rep. Darrell Issa will, thank you very much.

The Washington Post reports that Issa, the California Republican who will become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tomorrow, plans to "lead six major investigations in the first three months of the year."

Caped crusader

His intended topics include Wikileaks, recalls at the Food and Drug Administration and the role of the always popular Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) in the foreclosure crisis. Plenty of things worth looking at in each case, so no argument there.

But somewhat less pressingly, you'd have to say, he also wants to look into the failure of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to "identify the origins of the meltdown."

That seems like an odd choice, because unlike the three earlier topics the FCIC's alleged failure isn't likely to have a tangible effect on anything. No diplomats are going to be threatened or children poisoned as a result of the FCIC writing what is widely expected to be an unsatisfactory report.

But what's even more amusing is that Issa is preparing to release the hounds on the FCIC before it has even released the report that supposedly constitutes its failure.

Not that anyone is in doubt about the outcome. The Republicans on the committee released an apologia for Wall Street last month, indicating all is not peace and harmony within the congressionally appointed group, which by all accounts will fall somewhat short of replicating the authoritative Pecora Commission of the 1930s.

But that was not exactly a surprise to anyone who watched any of the FCIC hearings and saw various commissioners doggedly pursuing their own agendas regardless of the connection or lack of same to the topic at hand. And is Darrell Issa, the guy who brought you all the noise about the friends of Angelo and later sought to probe the FCIC's lavish $8 million budget, really the one to iron all this out in the name of truth and justice?

Some people hope so, but I'm hesitant to jump on that bandwagon.

"Too often, a problem is allowed to fester until it reaches a crisis point," Issa told the Washington Post, "and the American people are left asking the question: what went wrong and why?" Somehow I don't think an Issa investigation of the FCIC is the answer to those questions.

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About This Author
Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for Fortune.com since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for TheStreet.com, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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