Financial probe panel’s GOP members go rogue

Republican members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission – a supposedly bipartisan panel that’s been probing the causes of the financial crisis that precipitated our recession – went rogue today and issued their own report (now posted at House Minority Leader John Boehner’s website), well before the entire commission is expected to issue its official report next month.

The commission, chaired by former California Treasurer and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides, has spent this past year holding hearings at sites across the country, subpoenaing documents and otherwise gathering evidence. It voted last month to delay its report from Dec. 15 until January.

The Republican commissioners – former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Atascadero; Bush economic advisor Keith Hennessey; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the top economic adviser to 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain; and Reagan White House Counsel Peter Wallison – decided not to wait, and Boehner immediately trumpeted the result.

“This eye-opening report details how government mortgage companies played a pivotal role in the financial meltdown by handing out high-risk loans to families who couldn’t afford them,” Boehner said in a statement issued this morning. “After years of being coddled and enabled by Washington politicians, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now on life support, kept afloat by taxpayers fed up with unending bailouts.”

Boehner said Congressional Republicans’ “Pledge to America” proposes “saving billions for taxpayers by ending government control of Fannie and Freddie, shrinking their portfolios, and establishing minimum capital standards. I appreciate the Republican commissioners’ efforts to get to the bottom of what happened and ensure the American people have the full story about the financial crisis. This is a report every taxpayer should read.”

But Tom McMahon, executive director of the union-backed liberal group Americans United for Change, issued a scathing reply saying the Republican commissioners’ report whitewashes Wall Street’s role in the financial collapse.

“I know the Republicans are just trying to protect their big banker buddies, but let’s give a little credit where credit is due. It was Wall Street that made bad bets with our money in the shadow banking system, which led to the lost of 8 million jobs and billions in retirement savings. No amount of revisionist history can change the enormous roll Wall Street played in this crisis,” McMahon said.

“Once again, it’s good to see these poor, helpless big banks have friends like Thomas and Holtz-Eakin on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and in Congress like Boehner and incoming House Financial Services chair Spencer Bachus,” he added. “The notion that these Republicans are still blinded by the sheen of Wall Street proves how little interest they have in getting to the real source of the economic meltdown, preferring instead to rewrite history.”

FCIC spokesman Tucker Warren e-mailed out a statement later today saying the commission’s real report will be delivered next month to the President, Congress and public, as had been announced in November.

“The report will contain facts and evidence from the Commission’s more than year-long investigation – including 19 days of public hearings, an analysis of hundreds of thousands of documents and interviews with more than 700 witnesses. The report will also include the Commission’s findings and conclusions as to the causes of the financial crisis based on this inquiry,” the statement said.

“Today some members of the Commission made public their personal views on the financial crisis. The Commission had not previously seen or had an opportunity to review what was released today. But, as it does with the views of any of its members, the Commission will review and take them into consideration.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.