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How oversight is overlooked by Congress.

How Oversight Is Overlooked by Congress

Mr. Mudd: There are now so many committees and subcommittees on Capitol Hill that you probably won't go wrong simply calling everybody in Congress either Mr. or Madam Chairman. . . .So with all that committee firepower, why did the scandal at HUD go untouched for so long?...

Let's begin with the [House and Senate] banking committees. . . .Why did the Senate Banking Committee not catch the scandal?

Senator Jake Garn: I was chairman of the full committee for six years. . . as well as [the] HUD subcommittee, and it is a fair question. . . .

Mr. Mudd: In 1987 after the Democrats regained control of the Senate, the chairmanship of the banking committee passed to William Proxmire.

Senator William Proxmire: Why didn't our Senate subcommittees with direct jurisdiction act to prevent this waste and fraud? The answer to that is simple. We had no idea that it was going on. . . .We simply didn't have the information.... It would have made a terrific billion-dollar Golden Fleece [Award] but I missed the boat....

Mr. Mudd: So let's try the House banking committee. . . . Well, the chairman of the House committee was none other than Fernand St. Germain, and if anybody had less appetite for uncovering scandal at that time, it was probably St. Germain, . . . the subject of an Ethics Committee investigation....

Now let's try the appropriations committees of the House and the Senate. It is here where Secretary Pierce and his staff had to come each year for money to run the department. From 1981 to 1986, Republican Mark Hatfield was chairman of the Senate committee responsible for the appropriations for 15 other departments, the Congress, the courts, and at least 30 independent agencies.

What about the [Senate] appropriations subcommittee specifically assigned to HUD? Well, the Republican chairman was none other than Jake Garn. And the Democratic chairman was none other than William Proxmire.

And the House appropriations committee? Well it was being run all those years by Democrat Jamie Whitten, whose main interest was and always had been agriculture and cotton in particular. The chairman of the [House appropriations] subcommittee on HUD was Democrat Edward Boland, but he was preoccupied with the war in Nicaragua....

The list is growing short, and all that is left as congressional whistleblowers for HUD are the two big investigation committees of the Congress. The dominant Republican figure on the Senate committee has been since 1981 William Roth. What did Roth do with HUD?

Senator William Roth: Basically the role of the Government Affairs Committee has been minimal, primarily because the authorizing committee has the principal oversight responsibility.

Mr. Mudd: Were you aware, Senator Roth, about the scandal that was going on at HUD before the inspector general's report came out in April?

Senator Roth: No....

Mr. Mudd: But government affairs also has an oversight subcommittee and its chairman is Democrat Carl Levin. Why didn't the subcommittee do something? Levin won't say. His press office says the Senator hasn't focused on the HUD scandal and doesn't want to get into that.

So now we're almost at the end of the line.... The chairman of the [House investigate] subcommittee [on housing] during the height of the scandal was Democrat Barney Frank. Frank claims he was trying to save HUD from [being] dismantled by the Reagan administration. He says he didn't know it was being plundered. But Frank, now caught in his own scandal, has ceased doing interviews about anything. Frank was followed as chairman by Tom Lantos. And but for Lantos, the HUD scandal might have slipped through the cracks of Congress....
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Title Annotation:excerpt from Roger Mudd on "MacNeill/Lehrer Newshour'
Author:Mudd, Roger
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:595
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