Hiding Eradicating the Evidence

Investigators Say Appropriations Panel Lost Appetite for Oversight
By Steven T. Dennis, CQ Staff

Last month’s mass firing of House Appropriations Committee investigators followed years of declining appetite for tough oversight and partisan squabbles that the investigators say often stalled their work.

Several members of the team, some of whom spoke on the condition that they not be identified by name, defend their record against committee spokesman John Scofield’s charge that recent work was not good. They suggest instead that majority Republicans had no appetite for oversight of the Bush administration.

The investigators said they identified billions of dollars in potential savings every year, particularly in the Defense budget, and that they heard no complaints until Chairman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., dismissed 60 contractors on Oct. 16.

Joseph Stehr, a retired FBI agent who had been a member of the team off and on since 1985, said he remains stunned by Lewis’ action. “It reeks, it really does,” he said. “It just amazes me that after 60 some years, that just with the swipe of a pencil the thing could all go away.”

Stehr said the team gave the committee a unique window into Defense programs. “Who is going to look into all of this? GAO? I don’t think so. They’re slow-pitch Wiffle ball, where we throw 90 miles an hour.”

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