Three watchdogs with different politics explain what they want House GOP to investigate

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Capitol Hill from Pennsylvania Avenue (iStock)

Three watchdogs with different politics explain what they want House GOP to investigate

EXCLUSIVE — Three watchdogs that are conservative, left-wing, and nonpartisan, respectively, explained to the Washington Examiner what they would like House Republicans to investigate in the next Congress.

The House GOP has been transparent about its upcoming investigative priorities, which will purportedly include hearings in connection to COVID-19 origins, the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal, Hunter Biden, the border crisis, and the alleged politicization of the Justice Department. Many of these investigations are expected to be spearheaded in the Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and the Oversight and Reform Committee, led by Rep. James Comer (R-KY).

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However, here is what three watchdogs from different sides of the political aisle think Republicans should investigate when they hold the levers of power in the House.

The Left

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a progressive consumer rights group that focuses on corporate power, said that the planned Republican-led hearings “are destined to be a political circus.”

“This is just going to be two years of ‘gotcha’ hearings,” he told the Washington Examiner. “I wouldn’t even be surprised if the House GOP pushes for the impeachment of President Biden, even though impeachable offenses are absent.”

Instead of their espoused priorities, Republicans should investigate “how to rein in presidential abuse of national emergency declarations,” fraud in connection to the Paycheck Protection Program and how to avoid fraud moving forward, and also the “dangers of foreign influence in our elections and options for limiting foreign interference,” according to Holman.

While presidents are allowed to declare “national emergencies,” there should be congressional oversight over such a decision, he said. Holman cited how former President Donald Trump declared an emergency on the border. Trump also declared a March 2020 national emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, which President Joe Biden extended in February 2021.

In terms of the Paycheck Protection Program, it has been ripe with fraud. Trump authorized the program, which allocated $953 billion in emergency aid for nonprofit groups, businesses, and other entities for general upkeep. Through the program, tens of billions of dollars have flowed to people who did not qualify for aid.

The Small Business Administration, which ran the program, has forgiven nearly all of the loans it has given out. While fraud was rampant within the program, the SBA previously flagged almost 2.3 million loans totaling at least $189 million as potentially fraudulent between August 2020 and September 2021, according to data obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

“This is something that would be ideal for a full House hearing and investigative hearing, to finally come up with a complete record of the abuses and avoid these types of abuses in the future,” said Holman of investigations into the program.

Lastly, Holman said that investigating foreign interference in elections “through social media and the internet” would be valuable since the Federal Election Commission “has not dealt with it in any meaningful way.” The DOJ in October charged 13 people, including Chinese spies and government officials, with allegedly trying to interfere in U.S. elections.

The Center

David O’Brien is the policy director for RepresentUs, a nonpartisan group focused on tracking corruption and mending “our broken political system.” Like Holman, he said House Republicans would be wise to investigate the role of foreign influence in elections.

But in addition, O’Brien thinks they should look into stock trading among members of Congress and, also in terms of elections, ensuring poll workers are supported.

When it comes to stock trading, the policy director said that an investigation into the STOCK Act would be valuable. The law was passed in 2012 with bipartisan support and expanded disclosure requirements for members who trade — intending to address apparent conflicts of interest. It notably requires members and federal officials to report any trades worth $1,000 or more within 45 days of the transaction.

“Are there certain areas of risk?” asked O’Brien. “Are there certain industries or fields where this might be more of a problem than others? Are there certain transparency issues?”

Stock trading among members has come under increased scrutiny this year, especially in the wake of a July Daily Caller report that revealed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband bought computer chip company shares before Congress voted on legislation that would grant the industry billions in subsidies.

RepresentUs is part of a slew of groups that have supported legislation banning or restricting congressional stock trading. House Democrats introduced ban legislation in September, which was criticized by watchdogs as insufficient because it included a provision allowing for the government to approve alleged blind trusts.

It is unclear whether there will be another bill introduced next Congress on congressional stock trading.

O’Brien also thinks there are worthwhile investigations to be had relating to how to protect election workers and keep them out of harm’s way. He cited how a top Maricopa County, Arizona, elections official for the 2022 midterm elections went into hiding after receiving threats on social media.

The threats came on the heels of claims from Republicans, including failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, promoting unfounded theories that widespread fraud occurred in the county.

“There have been reports of an unusual amount of stress and other threats” among election workers, said O’Brien. “It would be great for Congress to sort of take a look at the problem and see what can be done to support them.”

“Because, you know, everyone has their own views on how elections should run,” he added. “Like what the voting system should be, voter registration stuff, early voting. But at the end of the day, we still need good people to administer the elections — no matter where you fall in any of those issues.”

The Right

The American Accountability Foundation, a conservative group tracking Biden administration appointments, agrees with the investigative priorities of House Republicans.

But in addition to those topics, AAF would like to see investigations in connection to Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance, coordination between social media companies and the Biden administration, and the growing threats posed by China.

ESG refers to politicized standards that investors mandate when choosing investment opportunities. The phenomenon has expanded in the corporate world and has been criticized as “woke” by Republicans. This is because ESG typically involves left-leaning asset managers and investors who require third parties to implement non-financial measures, like those related to “climate change,” in order to participate in certain markets.

Tom Jones, president of AAF, said there should be an investigation into Wall Street’s “cooperation” with the federal government when it comes to ESG — and that the House GOP should subpoena private companies. In November, Biden’s Labor Department announced it would roll back ESG restrictions implemented under Trump for financial advisers.

Republicans should aim to obtain records on how companies are “putting together their ESG agenda and what they’re doing to coordinate with the folks at the Securities and Exchange Commission or various state pension boards,” said Jones.

AAF also wants an investigation into social media companies and for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Twitter CEO Elon Musk, to come before Congress.

This is because companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google are “suppressing” information and “shadow banning” conservatives, said Jones. In particular, AAF wants the House GOP to look into Twitter’s suppression of a New York Post article in October 2020, based on Hunter Biden’s laptop, that revealed he introduced his father, Joe Biden, to a senior Ukrainian energy firm executive before Joe Biden pressured the government into firing a prosecutor investigating the firm.

“I don’t care about Hunter Biden being a drug addict,” Jones told the Washington Examiner. “What I do care about is if his father benefited from his business dealings abroad. How is he making large sums on art sales? And what did the Left do to legitimately suppress that story?”

And lastly, Jones said China is a “multifaceted threat” worthy of investigations.

He specifically said TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, is a concern because it tracks people. An internal investigation by Bytedance, Tiktok’s Chinese parent company, found that employees inappropriately obtained data from American users, the New York Times reported on Dec. 22. Senators passed a bill in December that would ban Tiktok from U.S. government devices and the House banned the app on official devices on Monday.

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Another national security concern is Huawei, a Chinese military-backed telecommunications firm, according to Jones.

In November, the U.S. government banned the sale or import of new Huawei technologies, citing concerns that China’s government may use it to spy on U.S. citizens. Democratic and Republican senators introduced a bipartisan bill in December that would block Huawei from accessing American banks.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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