Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Staffer We Discussed

At Politico, Jake Sherman and Marin Cogan report:

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has launched an inquiry into whether spokesman Kurt Bardella improperly shared e-mails from other reporters with a New York Times reporter writing a book on Washington’s political culture, POLITICO has learned.

Bardella has been cooperating extensively with the Times’s Mark Leibovich on the book, and Issa told POLITICO Monday that he would “get to the bottom” of exactly what Bardella shared with Leibovich.

On Tuesday morning, Issa fired Bardella as a result of his investigation.


Bardella has been of particular interest to reporters and Capitol Hill aides in recent months, after a New Yorker piece quoted him taking credit for his boss’s increased prominence in national politics and making somewhat impolitic remarks about reporters and women.

In his comments to POLITICO, Issa said that Bardella had been "about one nanosecond from not working on Capitol Hill anymore" after the New Yorker piece. Issa said Bardella "would have been fired" if he was not otherwise an exceptional young person.

Bardella also recently had an episode with former Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, now a contributor at The Daily Beast, in which Kurtz published an interview thinking he had been speaking to Issa when he had really been speaking to Bardella.

Kurtz, who later ran a correction for the mix-up, told POLITICO that he remains puzzled as to why Bardella did not correct him when he was addressing him as “Congressman” or when he sent an e-mail after the interview saying “thanks for getting me the congressman so quickly.”

At The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza recalls a key passage from his earlier article:

This long back and forth was the lead-in to a Bardella quote I used in the piece:

[R]eporters e-mail me saying, “Hey, I’m writing this story on this thing. Do you think you guys might want to investigate it? If so, if you get some documents, can you give them to me?” I’m, like, “You guys are going to write that we’re the ones wanting to do all the investigating, but you guys are literally the ones trying to egg us on to do that!”

To me that last quote was one of the most important things Bardella told me. The rest of it—that offices clash over how to leak info and that bookers and reporters are competitive—is interesting but relatively well known, and not very relevant to a piece about Darrell Issa. But that Bardella accused reporters of offering to collaborate with Issa as he launches what will inevitably be partisan investigations of the Obama Administration seemed jaw-dropping. This is exactly the dysfunctional investigator/reporter dynamic that in the nineteen-nineties fed frenzies over every minor Clinton scandal. In his short-lived career, Bardella was witness to the fact that it was all starting over in 2011, now that there was again a Republican House and a Democratic President. From what I know of what Bardella shared, the beat reporters who cover Issa and engaged in this kind of game with Bardella will be the ones most embarrassed by the e-mails that Leibovich possesses.

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