Under Waxman's Surveillance

Wednesday, October 24, 2007; 5:16 PM

Since the Democrats took control of Congress, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) has been involved in virtually every major issue, from the war in Iraq to global warming, from rising prescription drug prices to allegations of White House abuse of power.

Feb. 7: Waxman summons former Iraq occupation administrator L. Paul Bremer to explain how billions of dollars in cash simply disappeared in Baghdad.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?" he asks. "But that's exactly what our government did."

Feb. 9: Waxman digs into the U.S. Coast Guard's fleet overhaul, which produced a new flagship cutter that doesn't float.

"Sugarcoating of the situation may have made life easier for the program management, but it certainly is a disservice to you, to the Coast Guard community and to the taxpayers of this country," he tells Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner.

March 2: Waxman introduces legislation to force disclosure of contributions to presidential libraries, toughen the Freedom of Information Act and rescind a Bush executive order on presidential papers.

Bush's order "gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely," he says. All three measures pass with overwhelming, veto-proof margins.

March 17: Waxman summons Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA officer at the heart of a four-year political furor over the Bush administration's leak of her identity. "They made you collateral damage," he tells her. "Your career was ended. Your life may have been in jeopardy, and they didn't seem to care."

April 25: Waxman's committee summons the family of Pat Tillman, the NFL safety-turned-soldier-turned-casualty, to discuss how the Army painted his death in Afghanistan as heroic, despite knowledge that he was killed by friendly fire.

"We still don't know how far this went up," he says. "We don't know what the secretary of defense knew. We don't know what the White House knew."

April 26: The committee approves a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, to answer questions surrounding forged documents attesting to Saddam Hussein's attempt to purchase uranium "yellowcake" from Niger.

"There was one person in the White House who had primary responsibility to get the intelligence about Iraq right -- and that was Secretary Rice," Waxman declares. "The American people were misled about the threat posed by Iraq, and this committee is going to do its part to find out why."

May 4: Waxman weighs in on crop insurance, as the House considers a massive farm bill.

"Over $8 billion in taxpayer funds have been squandered in excess payments to insurers and other middlemen" since 2000, he says. The House-passed bill cut billions from the program.

May 13: Oversight Committee investigators release new tabulations showing private insurers in the new Medicare prescription drug program losing their leverage over drug manufacturers and prescription inflation.

June 7: John B. Buse of the University of North Carolina Medical School tells the Oversight Committee that officials at SmithKline Beecham intimidated him when he raised alarms about the safety of the company's diabetes drug Avandia.

"Although Avandia has been on the market for eight years and has been used by millions of Americans, the post-market studies have not been done to say conclusively whether Avandia increases or decreases the risks of heart attacks. That's a major failure of our system," Waxman says.

June 14: Waxman summons General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan to respond to an allegation that, at the conclusion of a White House presentation to GSA political appointees about the November 2006 elections, she asked how they could "help our candidates."

"I don't see any other course of action that will protect the interests of your agency and the federal taxpayer," he tells her. "I would urge you to resign."

June 22: Waxman blasts Vice President Cheney's refusal to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information. "He's saying he's above the law," he says as he releases correspondence detailing the issue. "It just seems to me this is arrogant and shows bad judgment."

On the same day, Waxman and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) ask the Securities and Exchange Commission to delay the initial public offering of private equity giant Blackstone.

June 26: Waxman writes to White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding, saying senior presidential adviser Karl Rove's "deliberate or negligent disclosure" of classified information should disqualify him from a security clearance.

"Under these standards, it is hard to see how Mr. Rove would qualify for renewal of his security clearance," he writes.

July 11: After former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona says Bush administration officials interfered with his work, Waxman weighs in: "We shouldn't allow the surgeon general to be politicized. . . . It is the doctor to the nation. That person needs to have credibility, independence and to speak about science."

July 18: Waxman releases documents indicating that White House officials arranged for top officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to help as many as 18 vulnerable Republicans with their reelections.

"I recognize that federal political appointees have traveled to events with members of Congress in prior administrations," Waxman writes to former White House political director Sara M. Taylor. "What is striking about your memo to ONDCP is the degree of White House control."

On the same day, Waxman finally extracts documents on the energy industry's role in Cheney's energy task force, after a six-year struggle.

July 20: Waxman reveals that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had suppressed warnings since early 2006 about health problems experienced by Hurricane Katrina victims living in FEMA-provided trailers with levels of formaldehyde 75 times the recommended maximum.

"Senior officials in Washington didn't want to know what they already knew, because they didn't want the legal and moral responsibility to do what they knew had to be done," he says.

On the same day, Waxman decries the White House's latest assertion of executive authority in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department," he says.

Aug. 2: Waxman summons former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Joint Chiefs chairman Richard B. Myers and former Central Command chief John P. Abizaid to explain what they knew of Pat Tillman's death and when.

" 'The system didn't work,' 'errors were made' -- that's too passive. Somebody should be responsible," he tells them.

Aug. 9: After Barry Bonds breaks the major league career home run record, Waxman reminds the nation that at the committee's prodding, former senator George Mitchell is still looking into steroid use. "The whole world is watching not just what he's doing, but the Barry Bonds issue and certainly other examples of the [steroid] problem that have come up. We will see how baseball deals with this issue further."

Weeks later, he jumps into concerns that drug abuse is fueling a rash of deaths in professional wrestling.

Aug. 19: Still pursuing missing e-mails from Karl Rove and details of Rove's political briefings at various government agencies, Waxman declares: "What we are seeing is the tip of a whole effort to make the federal government a subsidiary of the Republican Party. It was all politics, all the time."

Sept. 10: Waxman drills into Medicaid officials about the death of a Prince George's County 12-year-old boy from untreated tooth decay: "Federal law requires these services be made to children. You're not doing a good enough job if two out of three kids do not get pediatric dental care."

Sept. 25: The committee releases documents showing Bush administration efforts to generate opposition to California's request to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Waxman calls on James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to "repudiate these efforts."

Sept. 27: Waxman leads a group of Jewish colleagues in denouncing Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), saying, "The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews."

On the same day, he decries the pace of change at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as "frustratingly slow."

"Still the horror stories continue," he says.

Sept. 29: Two career investigators in the office of State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard come forward to say they were threatened with firing if they cooperated with Waxman's probe of Krongard and his office.

"As an Inspector General, you hold a position of special trust within the federal government. Your office is supposed to be an example of how to protect whistleblowers, not an example of how to persecute them," Waxman writes.

Oct. 5: Waxman summons State Department officials to discuss corruption in the Iraqi government and why such matters may not be spoken of publicly.

"An appropriate setting for positive things is a congressional hearing, but to say anything negative has to be behind closed doors?" he asks Larry Butler, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

"This goes to the very heart of diplomatic relations and national security," Butler replies.

"It goes to the heart of propaganda," Waxman interrupts.

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