Complaints Filed with Congressional Watchdogs Over Use of Donor-Provided Consultants as Congressional Investigative Staff
Last week, Government Accountability & Oversight joined award-winning independent journalist Rob Schilling in filing two complaints with congressional ethics watchdogs over the use by congressional offices of donor-provided professional staff to perform official business. This practice of using privately funded staff to perform official business to advance the “climate” agenda has exploded throughout the country, at the state level, since 2017. It has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to gifting governors with non-employee climate “staff” and media consultants, and progressive state attorneys general with prosecutors. House rules, however, prohibit private financing of the performance of official House business, in-kind or otherwise.
The complaints were filed with the Inspector General of the House and the Office of Congressional Ethics, prompted by revelations that the House Committee on Oversight & Reform is apparently using donor-provided staff as “consultants” to guide what Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ro Khanna told activists to expect will be a “year-long” investigation of private parties for political speech that, he feels, has frustrated attempts to legislate the agenda.
Just a few short years ago progressive state attorneys general cooperated on a plan to not only subpoena energy companies over “climate change,” but also to subpoena over 100 think tanks, scientists, and others in the name of pursuing energy companies for purported climate-related sins. The latter blew up on the AGs when the targets challenged the obvious violation of private individuals’ First Amendment rights. Yet many of the same AG offices involved in that scheme then brought on attorneys privately hired and placed in their offices by a group created by billionaire climate activist Michael Bloomberg, who then resumed the investigations.
This new congressional investigation reflects an escalation and expansion of both abuses, to advance the leadership’s and their funders’ “climate” policy agenda which voters reject time and time again including just recently in the U.S. Congress. It began with oil company executives in October but, according to past behavior and recent hints, will soon move on to others the “climate” industry views as having impeded their desires.
As detailed in the complaints, public comments and records affirm that the Oversight Committee brought in donor-provided consultants to perform the duties of professional staff to help execute this “year-long” investigation which, decades of SCOTUS precedent including two key McCarthy-era cases, indicate is unconstitutional, privately financed or not, is unconstitutional.
However, that fight is not yet at hand. For now, the issue is the metastasizing of off-books private staffing to Congress, again (as was the case with the AGs) for adjudicative/quasi-judicial matters. Further, it seems highly likely that the objective is to engineer criminal referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice, in part in satisfaction of a Biden-Harris campaign promise. Indeed, these Chairmen told activists they were eyeing perjury charges against witnesses… a week before any testimony was taken or any questions posed.
More confessory, committee leadership also let slip that it had brought in consultants to help guide the campaign, describing them in a way strongly indicating — thanks both to the New York Times and the group itself — use of a group funded by Arabella Advisors, the “mothership” behind a Democratic “Dark money juggernaut.”
The complaints detail how this expanded use of donor-provided “staff” follows a previously revealed budget of $50 million per year for off-books climate staff for progressive governors by 2020. Then came Bloomberg’s millions to staff up AGs to, e.g., push climate prosecutions that — with ever-changing rationales but a constant demand for hundreds of billions of dollars to be distributed to political constituencies — appear to be little more than shakedowns.
Both moves followed the 2015-16 AG subpoena battle launched against the Competitive Enterprise Institute and 100 other groups, scientists and other private parties for pretty much all of their records. This, too, began with open pursuit of energy companies but was soon directed at policy advocates. The AG leading that earlier charge retreated when CEI fought back. However, it has become clear that none of these abuses of power, in the name of enormous payouts and massive new governmental authority, were ever truly abandoned.
Now the spawn of both disgraces prowls the halls of Congress, and in this case there is no room to excuse the behavior which on its face violates House Rules and ethics requirements/prohibitions (House Rule XXIV and official House interpretations thereof).
Fortunately, the outside consultants launched their effort with a NYT promotional piece hiding the effort in plain sight, yet tellingly without a single mention of what any skeptical voices, let alone the House Rules, say about it. That same article, and the consultants’ website admissions, now hang the Members of Congress who brought in outside parties on the basis, indeed the confession, that the House did not grant them the level of professional staff the “climate” movement feels it should have to use the power of government to pursue political opponents.
Those opponents have apparently frustrated the “climate” movement beyond the point of caring about rules. When the media covers for you repeatedly, it is almost understandable how one might feel the ability to get away with anything. However, this matter now rests with the House Inspector General, Congressional Office on Ethics, and the House Committee on Administration, whose Ranking Minority Member Rodney Davis has already stirred to action out of his own frustration with what he views as coverup by the House leadership.
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to transparency in government at the local, state and federal levels.
Journalist Robert Schilling hosts The Schilling Show radio program broadcast on Newsradio 1070 and 98.9 FM WINA in Central Virginia, and the founder and editor of a news, analysis, and commentary web site, SchillingShow.com, whose reporting and investigative journalism has been awarded multiple times by the Associated Press and the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, including two “Superior Awards for Best Investigative Reporting” from the Associated Press.