Top GAO oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa of California continues to investigate the Government Accountability Office’s undercover sting unit, including interviewing the team that produced an error-ridden report on for-profit colleges, staining the agency’s normally unimpeachable reputation.
But though Issa interviewed members of the GAO team, a source close to the committee says the inquiry is not focused on the for-profit report itself – but the undercover sting unit described as having a history of faulty work.
“They’d gotten into trouble before,” said a second source close to the issue, echoing the accounts of several, “that was the team you went to when you wanted a report to go a certain way.”
As reported by The Daily Caller, an internal GAO evaluation about what went wrong on the for-profit report faulted pressure from far left Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin as the reason for some of the reports “most obvious inaccuracies.”
The evaluation said “congressional staff” demanded the inclusion of numerous details in the report and, facing the “extreme short time frames” given to complete it, GAO to “stretched whatever we could find” to fill in a key detail.
“They wouldn’t have included those references unless they felt bullied,” one former GAO official told TheDC.
But Harkin has angrily denounced the GAO’s allegations, his staff claiming his innocence publicly in a memo and privately in phone calls to key insiders.
Issa’s inquiry could resolve to what extent politics interfered with the report, but the California Republican might not even release his findings publicly, let alone answer what specifically led to the errors.
GAO already reorganized the undercover sting unit and replaced Gregory Kutz, who had led it, to Issa’s praise.
Meanwhile, a pending lawsuit by representatives of the for-profit schools over the GAO report is pressuring the agency not to admit to any further culpability. If GAO retracted the report, for instance, it could add to their legal liability.
Another factor in the mix is congressional lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans – who’d rather not put a magnifying glass up to GAO’s mistakes. The undercover sting unit has its defenders on Capitol Hill.