The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has come under attack for being too partisan

Amanda Carey Contributor

Tasked with examining the “cause, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States,” the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), it seems, is now embroiled in a public dispute, perpetrated by the commission’s partisan divide.

The dispute began last week when the FCIC’s four Republican members released their own “primer” of the full report about what went wrong in America’s financial markets. The commission’s official report is expected to be issued sometime in January, although the original deadline was December 15.

Upon the primer’s release, however, many criticized the Republicans for being too political in their “plan to bypass the bipartisan panel.” The New York Times was no exception. In an op-ed Saturday, the Times’ Joe Nocera blasted the Republican commissioners for exacerbating the commission’s underlying tension by releasing their 13-page primer.

“The Republican minority, fearing their view would get short shrift, pre-emptively put forward a CliffsNotes version of their theory of the case,” wrote Nocera. “In other words, they responded to a report that hasn’t even yet been written, much less read and voted on by the members…Is there such a word as ‘presponse?’ Perhaps we should coin it to describe what took place this week at the F.C.I.C.”

Nocera continued: “By creating this partisan rift, the Republicans have succeeded in tarring the entire enterprise.”

The move prompted the Republican commissioner most targeted in Nocera’s piece, Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), to publicly respond.

“The primer that I and three of my Republican colleagues signed sought to outline the major issues that we thought the Commission should address,” said Wallison in a blog post for AEI’s Enterprise Blog. “It was not a reply to or a dissent from the report of the Democratic majority, which is still a work in progress.”

According to Wallison, the primer was released before the full report because December 15, under law, is the date the Commission’s report was supposed to be issued. “The primer was released in recognition of this statutory deadline,” wrote Wallison.

The Republican primer focuses most of the blame on government policies and institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It seeks to answer questions like why there was a housing bubble, how the U.S. government contributed to declining lending standards, and why the panic was so painful for the economy?

The document was signed by former California Rep. Bill Thomas, the commission’s vice chairman, Keith Hennessey, a former senior economic advisor in the Bush Administration and current fellow at the Hoover Institution, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, and AEI’s Peter Wallison.

The commission’s full report, which will get the most public attention, is expected to reflect the beliefs of the commission’s Democratic majority, focusing on fraudulent lending practices and the recklessness on Wall Street.

When contacted by The Daily Caller last week, Wallison said their document was not an official Republican report. Instead, it was meant to outline the issues that will be addressed in the final version, along with their views on how they should be addressed. “We have nothing to disagree with because we haven’t seen the final draft of the majority’s report,” Wallison told TheDC.

He went on to say that the report’s publication was pushed back until January because “the process has not been well-managed.”

“We had 15 months to do this study, and it should have been completed on time,” Wallison added.

Wallison also pointed out that the biggest disagreement among commission members thus far occurred when the majority limited the Republicans to just 36 pages to lay out their dissent in a final report that will be 500 pages long. Wallison said that was “grossly unfair.”

The FCIC was established when President Obama signed into law the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. Six of the ten members were chosen by the congressional majority (three were appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and three by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid). The other four were appointed by the House and Senate minority leaders.