Conservative leaders say they’re confident the new chairman of a House of Representatives panel that targets corruption will dedicate himself to reviewing executive branch actions, including during the Obama administration.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., assumed the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after his confirmation Tuesday. He takes the reins from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will leave Congress on June 30.
The oversight committee, which works to expose abuse, waste, and fraud, seeks to ensure the “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government and all its agencies,” according to the panel’s website.
“I think there are opportunities for accountability for misconduct in the Obama administration that should be taken advantage of,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal oversight organization, said of Gowdy in an interview with The Daily Signal.
Prior to joining Congress, Gowdy worked as a federal prosecutor in South Carolina on cases that included narcotics trafficking rings, child pornography, and the murder of a federal witness. He also held the post of 7th Circuit solicitor, directing 25 attorneys and 40 other employees in an office that represents South Carolina in certain local criminal cases.
Fitton said he hopes Gowdy will investigate corruption that occurred during Barack Obama’s presidency.
“I think he should work to get the attention of the White House to expose what went on during the Obama administration, even on things that everyone thinks are over, such as Benghazi and the IRS and, you know, even Fast and Furious,” Fitton said.
Besides the terrorist attacks in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others dead, Fitton was referring to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party groups under IRS division chief Lois Lerner before the 2012 elections. Lawmakers recently asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to re-examine the Lerner case.
Fast and Furious, a secret operation of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives authorized by the Obama Justice Department, funneled guns to illegal buyers close to the Mexican border because agency officials wanted to follow them back to Mexican drug gangs.
Weapons from the Fast and Furious program were found on Dec.14, 2010 at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s slaying, The Daily Signal previously reported.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that Gowdy will be an unbiased chairman.
“Congressman Gowdy brings valuable prosecutorial skills to this critical role,” Sekulow said. “He understands as well as anyone in Congress how to gather evidence, question witnesses, and separate truth from spin. He is an excellent choice for the position.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that Gowdy could use his position to probe illegal payments to third-party organizations.
On June 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government no longer will make settlement agreements with any person or organization not directly involved in a legal dispute.
Von Spakovsky said of Gowdy:
I think one of the first things he could look at, in conjunction with AG Sessions having just ended the DOJ practice of having settlement funds in litigation being paid to third-party groups, is using his oversight powers to compile a list of all of the organizations that were paid off by the Obama Justice Department, with the amounts they received.
Chaffetz, first elected to Congress in 2008, announced April 19 that he would not seek re-election in 2018. He officially resigned Tuesday as chairman of the oversight committee, and said his last day in Congress would be June 30.
As committee chairman, Chaffetz, 50, became known for his investigation into Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account and server to conduct official business when she was secretary of state during Obama’s first term.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that he is confident that Gowdy will be a competent watchdog.
“Having worked with him on the Oversight Committee since I arrived in Congress, I can tell you there are few men in Washington more dedicated to holding government accountable than Trey Gowdy,” Meadows said, adding:
He is an honest broker who has consistently demonstrated a commitment to truth and integrity above partisan politics. He’ll make an outstanding chairman and I look forward to working with him.
Anthony L. François, a senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an interview that he expects Gowdy will hold the executive branch accountable.
“There is an overarching purpose to what the committee does, and especially Mr. Gowdy’s responsibility [in] the chair, in making sure that the government that American citizens get is the one that their elected representatives have enacted, not a different one that unaccountable bureaucrats would prefer to impose,” François said.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of GOP lawmakers in the House, told The Daily Signal in an interview that he hopes Gowdy will use his oversight position to ensure government accountability.
As far as specific areas that we hope that he will look into, when it comes to government accountability I think there is a lot of room. Some of the agencies that have run amok, that have operated in some of the careless behavior, I believe that is part of his goal and part of his heart to continue to peel back some of the abuse, the overspending. And I think he’s the guy to do that, and I support this decision 100 percent.