Report accuses 2 GOP members on financial crisis panel of leaking information
By Brady Dennis,
House Democrats on Wednesday accused two Republicans who served on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission of leaking sensitive material during the course of the group’s yearlong probe.
The finger pointing came in a 37-page report from aides to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who culled from thousands of the FCIC’s e-mails, memos and other documents.
It found that two Republicans appointed to the 10-member commission — Vice Chairman Bill Thomas and Peter Wallison, a former Treasury official — “leaked confidential information to outside parties on multiple occasions.”
An assistant to Thomas shared information about the commission’s work with one of Thomas’s colleagues at a Washington lobbying firm, the report found. In addition, Wallison shared confidential data that the commission had compiled with Edward Pinto, a colleague at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has researched the role that government housing policies played in creating the crisis.
The report also accuses Wallison of trying to persuade fellow Republicans to use their positions on the panel to aid GOP lawmakers in their effort to scale back the controversial financial overhaul bill, known as Dodd-Frank, that President Obama signed into law last July.
“It’s very important, I think, that what we say in our separate statements not undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank,” Wallison wrote to fellow Republican commissioner Douglas Holtz-Eakin in November, months before the FCIC’s final report was released.
In an interview Wednesday, Wallison said the accusations contained in the report are “all pretty trumped up, in my view.”
He acknowledged that he had passed on some of the commission staff’s findings to Pinto, but he said he didn’t realize at the time that it was a violation of the panel’s confidentiality agreement.
“The memo didn’t say it was confidential, so I sent it to Pinto and said, ‘Here’s what they’re saying about your data,’ ” Wallison said.
In a separate interview, Pinto said: “Since it had to do with my research, he shared it with me. It was pretty innocent on Peter’s part.”
As for the allegations about his efforts to undermine the financial overhaul legislation, Wallison noted that he had made no secret of his opposition to the bill and was perturbed that his fellow Republicans might sign onto a report that he felt wrongly bolstered the case for the new regulations.
After a one-month delay, the FCIC released its final report in January. It weighed in at more than 600 pages and cast wide blame for the crisis on both the financial industry and on regulators.
The panel, which had experienced in-fighting and turnover almost from the start, voted along party lines in approving the report, with all four Republicans opposing the final version. Wallison issued his own lengthy dissent, criticizing the commission’s investigation as being tailored to preconceived notions about the origins of the crisis. He instead wrote that federal housing policy deserved the most blame.
The material that led to Wednesday’s report came from an investigation initiated by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who now heads the oversight committee. Issa had requested a wide range of internal documents in an effort to look into allegations of mismanagement and conflicts of interest within the panel. He had scheduled a hearing on the issue this week but postponed it.
“The hearing was postponed to allow time for further review and analysis of the material gathered by the committee,” Issa spokesman Jeffrey Solsby said.
Thomas could not be reached for comment.
In a statement, commission Chairman Phil Angelides said that “the American people should be deeply disturbed by the actions of some Republican commissioners which are detailed in the report issued today.”
He added, “We now know more about why the Republican commissioners did not sign on to the report and about partisan Republican efforts to protect Wall Street, undermine the report and undercut the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.”