Darrell Issa To Use HSR to Bash Obama Administration
Darrell Issa, a Republican Congressman from San Diego County, has decided to launch a politically-motivated investigation into the high speed rail project:
Rep. Darrell Issa has launched a probe into the California high-speed rail project, asking for the preservation of documents that relate to federal funding for the project.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman outlined a range of concerns in a letter Monday addressed to newly installed California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard. Those questions include whether the $3.9 billion in federal money the project has received has prevented work on other important transportation projects. Issa requested a specific accounting of that money.
Issa’s letter makes it obvious what’s behind this:
“CHSRA has earned high-profile support from the Obama Administration,” Issa wrote to Richard. “But this praise has yet to be matched with tangible results.”
Ever since Solyndra, a Bay Area solar power company that received federal loans, went bankrupt and became the subject of a right-wing manufactured scandal, Republicans have been searching for a “new Solyndra” that can make President Obama’s green energy push again look like wasteful spending. Issa is clearly hoping that California’s high speed rail project will fit that bill.
But it’s about more than perceptions of wasteful spending. Republicans also oppose things like passenger rail and clean energy for ideological reasons. They’ve attacked the Chevy Volt even though it is in high demand, and will attack high speed rail even though it is a proven global success in part because they do not believe it is acceptable for Americans to get around in a way that does not require pouring oil into a tank and lighting it on fire.
Given that this is an election year, crass partisan motivations are also at play here. Issa is trying to generate another possible scandal that can put President Obama, who is enjoying a lead in the polls over likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, on the defensive.
Issa’s investigation may not produce the results he wants. Criticism of the HSR project isn’t new, and Issa’s letter doesn’t break any new ground. Critics have had so much success getting their points into the media that Issa risks falling on deaf ears unless he can find something truly new.
The investigation’s real impact may be on the debate over releasing the voter-approved high speed rail bond money in the state legislature. Democrats hold large majorities in the legislature, so Republican opposition isn’t a factor. But several Democrats in the State Senate, including Joe Simitian, Mark DeSaulnier, and Alan Lowenthal have made the same criticisms that Darrell Issa is making and have themselves questioned whether the legislature should authorize the funds.
With Issa now leading an attack on HSR that is clearly intended to undermine President Obama’s re-election bid, these Democrats will have to decide which side they’re on. Will they help Issa undermine President Obama? Or will they stand up for California, for the HSR project, and for their president by rejecting the flawed and false attacks on the project that they themselves have aided and abetted for years?