When Karl Rove landed at the White House in 2001 as President Bush’s all-things strategist, an enemy was waiting.
Leftist Henry Waxman, who represents ultra-liberal Malibu and Beverly Hills, pounced on the first bit of negative news: that Rove met with Intel officers before his ongoing stock divestitures were completed.
As is his tactic, Waxman, then the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee began writing letters demanding criminal investigations, pilling innuendo on top of innuendo.
"These allegations appear to be at odds with President Bush’s statements about the importance of maintaining a high standard of ethics in the White House," wrote Waxman, a lawyer by training.
Waxman’s stream of letters resulted in no investigation. Then-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales said Rove adhered to rulings from government lawyers on a timeline for selling his portfolio. He did not discuss Intel’s merger with Intel.
But it was classic Waxman. His cyclone of accusation-filled letters and replies fetched more mainstream media stories and all kinds of chatter on the Internet. "House Democrat Demands Rove Probe," blared ABC News.
In his first year, Karl Rove, the President’s brain, was branded by the left as unethical and greedy, compliments of one Henry Waxman.
Fast forward to 2009, when another President’s brain arrives from out of town. David Axelrod ran the Obama campaign via AKP&D Message and Media, and Ask Public Strategies, two Chicago firms with overlapping employees and his son as a manager.
In his first financial disclosure that summer, Axelrod disclosed he had sold the companies and would be receiving $3 million from his former partners in installments over the next five years. (In contrast, Rove sold his political consulting business in 1999 when he joined the Bush campaign.)
There is more. Health Care industries, who backed Obamacare, suddenly found Axelrod’s former firms the perfect firms to be given lucrative contracts to publicize Health Care industries’ support for Obamacare.
These advocacy groups are helping AKP&D and APS stay profitable and thus assured they can make those large payments to Axelrod.
This arrangement would seem like a sitting duck for Waxman. Imagine if Rove were still getting paid by his old firm while he sat in the White House and as the GOP sent business to the Texas firm. Waxman would want to know if Rove was steering work to ensure that he got paid. He would demand a Justice Department probe.
But in the Axelrod case, Waxman’s silence was, as they say, deafening. No letters for the news media to use to blare: "Democrat Demands Axelrod Probe."
The Rove-Axelrod contrast sums up how Waxman conducted himself as the ranking Democratic member of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, and then as chairman.
He relentlessly badgered the Bush Administration.
"The Bush Administration is recklessly abandoning its responsibility to address the global-warming crisis," he wrote in 2008 as he probed the EPA via subpoena.
That year, he also investigated the White House and its retention of e-mails and tried to force the Republican National Committee to cough up documents.
Long after the scandal had subsided, he summoned Valerie Plame to the witness table to vent her anger.
He launched allegations that Bush people were interfering politically with the Surgeon General’s office.
He investigated pre-war intelligence on Iraq—something two bipartisan panels had already done, clearing the White House of political manipulation.
His queries went on and on until Barack Obama become President. One of Waxman’s favorite tactics was to carry water for trial lawyers, the Democratic Party’s largest source of campaign cash.
A House source said Waxman would settle on investigations based on certain trial lawyers’ discovery needs in pending law suits. The lawyers would show up at hearings to reap the rewards.
One example is his demanding documents from the Blackwater security firm while it was being sued by relatives of four contractors killed in Fallujah in 2004.
The House source said that when Waxman’s staff deposed witnesses they followed the trial lawyers’ talking points.
This then explains his how he is carrying out his current job as House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman. That chairmanship had been used in the past by Rep. John Dingell (D.-Mich.) to investigate various administrations, so Waxman could have followed that model. But he hasn’t.
First, he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Obamacare. Now that it is law, Waxman views his oversight role as punishing those who dare to speak the truth about its impact.
Waxman boldly announced March 26 he was summoning four corporate giants—Caterpillar, Verizon, AT&T and Deere—to his oversight and investigations subcommittee. He said that company execs must explain why they say this bill will cause them perhaps to drop some health coverage and will cost them tens of millions of dollars.
Forget the fact the publicly traded companies are required by the Security and Exchange Commission to file reports on any developments that could significantly affect their stock price.
Waxman’s letter-writing salvoes are now aimed at Obamacare realists.
"The new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern," Waxman wrote. "They also appear to conflict with independent analyses."
In other words, "independent analyses" meet the real world.
Waxman wants the companies to empty their files: internal e-mails, financial documents and written analysis.
After Waxman airs it all at an April 21 hearing, the public probably will not hear any reality checks anymore from corporate America.