Who gets the first subpoena in a Republican-controlled House?

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 9:29 PM

One specter haunting Democrats is that of uber-partisan Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wielding the gavel at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Democrats predict that Issa and other GOP leaders would follow former committee chairman Dan Burton's policy during the Clinton years - let a thousand subpeonas bloom - and would bury the Obama administration in an avalanche of subpoenas and hearings.

But Issa, while planning to double his investigators if he becomes chairman, went out of his way recently to tell reporters that a subpoena tsunami is "not my plan at all" - as long as the Democrats "work with us."

Right. So, on the assumption that all the polls and pundits are right about a GOP House takeover - and with a caution to wait for an official count - we proudly announce the Loop Who Gets It First Contest, which lets you guess which federal agency or individual gets Issa's first subpoena.

The possibilities are numerous. First, of course, might be Attorney General Eric Holder, for wanting to try alleged Sept. 11 terrorists in Manhattan, or for dropping charges against the New Black Panther Party of intimidating white poll-watchers and hypothetical white voters in an all-black Philadelphia precinct.

That could play to the tea party base, but maybe better to go deep on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, for being mean to polluters and enacting cap-and-trade regulations before Congress actually passes a bill. That would please mining, oil and other heavy polluters.

Then there's former president Bill Clinton - no executive privilege anymore- and the White House, for a job offer to Rep. Joe Sestak (D) to get him out of the Pennsylvania primary. That might be immensely satisfying to Issa personally, since he's really steamed about it. (On the other hand, Clinton's polls are up these days, and pursuing this could seem too political and unstatesmanlike.)

Treasury Secretary Tim "Bailout" Geithner is another fine target, if you're looking to rev up anger over the management - not the actual Bush-signed legislation - of the TARP billions. Or the Energy or Transportation Departments, for their management of the stimulus money. Good ties to jobs and deficit-cutting in those areas.

For excellent waste, fraud and abuse, Issa might want to subpoena Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and CIA chief Leon Panetta about those pallets of cash shipped to Afghanistan to show Washington's deep respect for certain warlords - and the presidential palace, where about half the money went.

To win our contest, simply predict which agency or person will get the first Issa subpoena and over what issue. As a tiebreaker, guess the month and day.

Note: Issa needs the committee to be organized and to meet to vote a subpoena, so it's not likely that he'll push one out much before February. For example, after the D's retook Congress in 2006, then-committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) didn't sign one until March 2, 2007.

So - assuming the GOP takes the House - send your entry to: firstsubpoena@washpost.com. As always, Hill and administration officials may submit entries on background. Those coveted In the Loop T-shirts will be awarded the first 10 entrants with the correct answer.

(We're working to see if we can also offer a copy of the subpoena itself, sure to be a prized historic document. This would be unframed, so you can get one to match your wall color.)

Deadline for entries is Dec. 15.

Spoke too soon

The Emily Litella Award for October goes to outspoken British Airways Chairman Martin Broughton.

Speaking at the Aiport Operators Association conference in London on Friday, Broughton blasted this country for "completely redundant" security measures and said the Brits ought to stop "kowtowing" to requests for things such as the removal of passengers' shoes, the Financial Times reported. What's more, he said, the United States doesn't consistently impose some checks - for example, whether iPads should be treated as laptops - on its domestic routes.

The speech came four days before powerful explosives were found hidden in packages aboard two planes bound for Chicago. The explosives, sent from Yemen, were discovered at airports in Dubai and London.

As Emily used to say, "Never mind."

Bill Clinton, media shy?

We weren't planning to go to the Middle East Institute's 64th annual banquet gala Wednesday night at the Grand Hyatt downtown. After all, business attire is required, and the suit needed cleaning; besides, there are some good shows on television that night.

But then we got an update e-mail last week saying the institute, chaired by former senator Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.) and with former ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin as its president, had snagged former president Bill Clinton to deliver the keynote address, titled "Embracing Our Common Humanity."

Off to the cleaners! This could be really interesting, what with Clinton's great expertise on the issue. Maybe too substantive for the column, but you never know. Then came this "URGENT PRESS ADVISORY " e-mailed Monday afternoon:

"***The Bill Clinton keynote speech on Nov. 3 is closed to the press - no print press, cameras or photographers allowed.***"

The alert also had a special "Note to press invited as special guests: The Clinton speech is off-the-record."

A former president - gone 10 years - is talking off the record to a group of hundreds of Middle East experts and the like? Concerned that the secretary of state would be all over him if he went off-message? And good luck keeping that speech secret.

Asked why Clinton switched to off-the-record, the institute referred us to Don Walker, head of the Harry Walker Agency, a speakers' booker. He didn't respond to inquiries.

However, the advisory added, "all press are welcome to the keynote lucheon [sic] with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erakat" on Thursday, with a news conference to follow.

Well, Erakat's not Clinton, but at least it's a free lunch. Oh, wait. "**Please note that this is a fundraiser. Lunch for press is not included.**"

Cleaned that suit for nothing.

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