A Democratic spokesman for a member of the House Appropriations committee disagreed with comments from the Republican chairman, who said yesterday that the recent massive firing of the panel's fraud investigators was "bipartisan."
In a surprise move, House Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) Monday fired all 60 of his panel's contract investigators. Sixteen permanent investigative staff were not affected by the action.
In a comment to Congressional Quarterly, Lewis spokesman John Scofield said the firings came because of a "bipartisan review" of the investigative unit. The review, he said, was supported by Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the top Democrat on the committee.
But an anonymous Democratic spokesman told ThinkProgress today that the firings were not okayed by Obey or other Democratic members of the committee. In fact, they weren't even consulted, he said.
Kirstin Brost, press secretary for David Obey, declined to comment for the record on the matter.
The effectiveness of the House Appropriations Committee's "I-Staff," as it is known, is unclear. Current and former staff from both sides of the aisle who are familiar with the group's reports say their quality was uneven. Lewis spokesman Scofield told CQ that "the work weâve been getting as of late has not been that good."
"I never saw anything of value come out of them," Ronald Garant, a former contract investigator, said of the investigators working Katrina fraud claims. "I thought that was wasted time." Garant left the unit in March.
Update: An earlier version of the ThinkProgress post implied that the anonymous spokesman worked for Rep. Obey. A revised version identifies the commenter only as a "press spokesman," whose comments apply to all Democrats on the panel, not just Obey's office.