Financial crisis panel suffers partisan breakdown

When the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission blew past its congressionally mandated Dec. 15 deadline to issue a report explaining the origins of the Great Recession, the panel’s Democratic majority unilaterally decided to complete its work by a date yet to be determined in January.

By effectively ignoring the very law that created it, the commission majority exemplified the irresponsible approach of the 111th Congress to virtually every issue it addressed, including Obamacare, the economic stimulus and passage of a federal budget. As happened in Congress in 2009 and most of 2010, the Democratic majority running the commission did as it pleased, with little input from the four Republican members.

At every step along the way, Chairman Phil Angelides — the former Democratic state treasurer of California — undermined his panel’s credibility and squandered taxpayer money by refusing to conduct his work in an open manner. He constantly complained about having too little time (more than a year) and insufficient funding ($6 million from taxpayers, not including the salaries of civil-service detailees from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, among other government agencies).

When The Examiner requested résumés and other information on each commission staff member, Angelides refused until we editorialized about the commission’s marked lack of transparency. He then released a partial staff list that did not include names of contractors or staff salaries. When we uncovered evidence of multiple conflicts of interest among the commission’s staff, Angelides simply refused to talk about whom he hired or why, even as he acknowledged the possibility of those conflicts.

No wonder Republican Commissioner Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute said the “bipartisan” process that was supposed to prevail in the commission’s deliberations was “not well-managed.”

“We had 15 months to do this study and it should have been completed on time,” he said.

A source familiar with the FCIC’s work told The Examiner that the commission’s partisan atmosphere intensified after the November election, with multiple roll call votes required merely to resolve even simple issues such as language.

Republican Commissioner Keith Hennessy said the majority voted en masse “to limit the minority’s opportunity to express our views in the commercial book version of the upcoming report. In a 512-page book that will be for sale at commercial bookstores, those who dissent are now allotted nine pages each.”

When he suggested increasing the length of the commercial book to allow room for additional views, Hennessy was turned down because it “might add $1 to the sale price of the book.”

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