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GOP takeover could make committee staff member Democrats' 'worst nightmare'

If the GOP retakes the House, Larry Brady, minority staff director of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would have greatly enhanced powers to investigate the Obama administration.
If the GOP retakes the House, Larry Brady, minority staff director of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would have greatly enhanced powers to investigate the Obama administration. (Courtesy Of Larry Brady)

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By Mary Ann Akers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2010

If there's one congressional aide White House officials might wind up fearing most, it's Larry Brady.

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He's all but unknown, but Brady is the secret weapon for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). As minority staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Brady stands ready to wield almighty subpoena power if Republicans seize control of the chamber in November and make Issa chairman of the panel.

Handing subpoena power to Issa and his staff would be the White House's "worst nightmare," says Don Goldberg, a crisis-management expert at Qorvis Communications.

"The administration underestimates Larry Brady's effectiveness at its own peril," says Goldberg, who once served as Democratic deputy staff director of the same panel and did damage control for President Bill Clinton. "He knows how to pick the issues that resonate, and get media attention with or without fingerprints."

As head of the GOP staff on the oversight panel, Brady has been at the forefront of exposing controversies that, if nothing else, have caused political headaches for the Obama administration. They include allegations that the White House tried to bribe Democratic challengers in this year's Pennsylvania and Colorado Senate races to drop out. Issa also released a report that he said documented ACORN's aggressive political support for Democratic candidates. The report helped make the community organizing group a hot-button political issue and a target for conservative activists. Later, Congress cut off federal funding to the organization.

On a more bipartisan level, Brady has led the GOP's side of investigations into a sex-and- drugs scandal at the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service and the Obama administration's response to the BP oil spill.

If, come January when a new Congress convenes, Brady finds himself the majority staff director, expect to see a parade of people appearing before the committee. He tried to avoid naming names, but it's clear he has at least two Cabinet-level officials already in mind.

"The accusations against Bush were rampant with [Alberto S.] Gonzales. But you know, there's not a similar kind of indignation against the current attorney general," Brady said, referring to Eric H. Holder Jr.

Holder should have investigated ACORN, he said, as well as allegations that the White House dangled job offers to Andrew Romanoff of Colorado and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania in order to persuade them to drop out of Senate Democratic primary races. "He should have looked at the Sestak-Romanoff issue, if for no other reason than to exonerate his boss, unless he didn't think he could," Brady said. (The Justice Department declined to respond directly to Brady's comment.)

Another Obama official who should worry if Republicans gain control? "We'd probably get Geithner here," Brady said of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Would he help his boss use the committee to investigate President Obama, much the way a former chairman, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), did during the Clinton administration? "No, that's grandstanding," he said.

At 71, Brady isn't your usual congressional staffer. He was an assistant secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in his home state, New Hampshire, in 1980 and waged a GOP primary race for the House in 1992, when he lost by 314 votes.

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