Before lawmakers grilled SEC Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro Thursday on whether she mishandled a conflict of interest, one of her leading critics chatted amiably with her and shared some sympathetic words.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, approached Schapiro near the witness table minutes before the hearing began. This reporter was standing near Schapiro, waiting to talk to her.

Issa thanked her for attending and asked about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s budget. Specifically, he wanted to know how much President Obama had requested for the agency.

It was a timely question: The president has proposed increasing the SEC’s budget, but some congressional Republicans have been pummeling the agency over its performance, suggesting that it doesn’t deserve a boost.

Issa expressed a different view.

After Schapiro told him how much funding the president has requested, Issa replied, “I hope you get it and use it wisely.”

Then the hearing started, and in an opening statement, Issa led the verbal onslaught.

Asked about the conversation Friday, a spokesman for Issa said the congressman believes this reporter heard him incorrectly.

Issa has not endorsed the president’s budget request for the SEC, spokesman Frederick Hill said. “The congressman does not believe that throwing money at the problems at the SEC will solve them.”