Dems, Issa Dispute AIG "Hypocrisy" Claims

Earlier this week, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, called for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to step down in the fallout from the AIG bonus scandal.

"Secretary Geithner either didn't know about the bonuses, and was grossly negligent, or he did know and failed to bring this to the president's attention," Issa said. "Either way, the end result has been a significant waste of taxpayer dollars, and he should take immediate responsibility and resign."

But should Issa have been outraged?

The California lawmaker received a letter about the AIG retention program back on Dec. 16, 2008, when Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked him and Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to call a hearing on AIG's compensation policies.

"It's regretful that Mr. Issa didn't feel this same outrage back in December when this was all taking place under the previous administration's watch," a Democratic aide told ABC News. "You know, it really makes it difficult to take his criticism of Geithner as anything other than hypocrisy when he waited until it was politically expedient to come forward about information he received months ago."

The committee has yet to hold a hearing on AIG.

On Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Issa responded by providing ABC News with a proposed letter that Issa asked Towns to send to Treasury in January.

In the proposed letter, Issa did not specifically mention AIG's retention program, but he did want to request all "TARP-related contracts" between Treasury and the 10 largest companies receiving bailout funds, including AIG, as well as all "records or communications" between Treasury and these companies regarding any provisions or conditions placed on them.

Said Issa's spokesman Frederick Hill, "In January, his first month as Ranking Member, Rep. Issa requested that Chairman Towns join him in requesting documents from the department of the Treasury pertaining to companies including AIG."

"Had Chairman Towns agreed to this request, light might have been shed on the executive bonuses Rep. Cummings, Rep. Issa, and others have been concerned about," Hill said. "Chairman Towns, however, would not agree to join with Rep. Issa in requesting these AIG documents from the department of the Treasury. Only letters signed by Chairmen are enforceable."

Said Hill, "This request could have found critical information about AIG bonuses but the Chairman wouldn't sign."

He added, "Clearly Democrats on the committee are frustrated by the disconnect between what the committee's majority leadership talks about doing and the lack of action that follows. It's unfortunate that some Democrats have chosen to express this frustration through false partisan attacks."

Responded the Democratic aide, "Issa's arguments are all completely irrelevant. He's trying to shift the focus away from the point, which is that he sat on this information for months until he had the chance to launch an attack on the Obama administration for actions undertaken under former Treasury Secretary Paulson. Why wasn't Issa expressing the same outrage asking for Paulson to resign when he learned about the payments months ago?"

But Issa's office points out that the lawmaker was critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program in a November interview.

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