Norm Ornstein On Chairman Issa’s Ex-Goldman Sachs Staffer: ‘Disturbing’

American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein

Earlier this month, ThinkProgress broke a story about ex-bank lobbyists employed by Oversight Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) who have spent the year pressuring financial regulators to weaken rules on investment banks. One staffer in particular, Issa’s financial investigator named Peter Haller, had coordinated a letter on behalf of Issa to stop Dodd-Frank regulations on banks like Goldman Sachs, a firm he worked for only a few years ago. Haller’s identity had been obscured by a mid-life name change between working for Goldman Sachs and Issa (Haller says he changed his name honor his grandfather, who died in 1944).

The letter fit a pattern: the same staffer authored a letter to the SEC to clarify rules governing a deal between Goldman Sachs and Facebook and had been involved in an infamous confrontation with consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren during an Oversight Committee hearing. In reaction to our story, a number of good government experts have weighed in on what Issa’s revolving door staff means for the integrity of his office:

Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute called our story about Issa’s former Goldman Sachs staffer “fascinating, and disturbing.” He explained: “Of course, one can argue that experience inside the SEC and in the industry is useful for a congressional investigator. But the employer of such a staffer should be ultra-sensitive about an investigator examining or exerting influence over policies that directly affected the previous employer. That certainly does not seem to be the case here.”

Bart Naylor of Public Citizen: “Chairman Issa must take every step to ensure that his investigations are unclouded by any appearance of conflict. The next time Chairman Issa sends a scolding letter to regulators and asks that they contact Peter Haller, he should disclose that Mr. Haller worked at Goldman Sachs.”

On Fierce Finance, blogger Jim Kim noted that “it makes some sense if the congressman wants to make himself a friend of Goldman Sachs” to hire a Goldman Sachs vice president. “But to those who favor stronger oversight of the industry, it does seem dubious.”