Consider, for example, an investigation they conducted last summer in which staff phoned federally funded “pregnancy resource centers,” posing as 17-year-olds, and asked for information about unwanted pregnancies.
Out of 23 clinics, an astonishing 20 provided “false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion,” Waxman reported. Eight centers told the caller that having an abortion would increase her risk of breast cancer, a myth refuted by medical consensus. Seven warned that a first-trimester abortion would decrease the chances of having future children, also untrue; one said “permanent damage” preventing future successful pregnancy is “common.” And 13 centers told the caller falsehoods about severe, long-lasting psychological effects of abortion — one even warned that a woman having an abortion is “sure to suffer from” post-abortion stress similar to that suffered by soldiers returning from war.
Frightening stuff, but all for naught when you’re in the minority. Ditto for a damning report about Bush’s appointment of unqualified, inexperienced political appointees into critical inspector general oversight positions.
That’s all going to change — no more on-the-cheap inquiries, unanswered requests for information, and reports destined for, at best, circulation among progressive blogs.
Waxman is making clear that when questions are raised by the media, he’ll follow up with an investigation. Last Friday, the Washington Post ran a front-page story alleging various improprieties of Lurita Alexis Doan, the Bush-appointed head of the General Services Administration. Later that same day, Waxman sent a letter to Doan requesting a host of documents, records, and communications relating to the charges.
It’s a new day in a Washington more accustomed to investigations of journalists and leakers than wrongdoers.
New England values
Because of where they are placed in the committee structure, the New England contingent — even the lowly freshmen — will have an opportunity to pursue their own pet peeves about government mismanagement.
Hodes plans to watch over information privacy issues from the subcommittee on information policy, according to a Hodes spokesperson. Welch can explore the federal government’s action — or inaction — on climate change from the government-management subcommittee, says a spokesperson for the Vermont congressman. And Lynch, a long-time union supporter, can help protect the three million federal-government employees from his seat on the federal-workforce subcommittee.
The disproportionate number of New Englanders on the committee might reflect the region’s broad disgust, and distrust, of the disgraceful Bush administration and the corrupt Republican Congress of the last several years. Hodes, for instance, campaigned tirelessly on the message of reforming our broken government. And a Welch aide suggests that a high standard for accountability in government “is the Vermont way.”
Or, perhaps it’s that New England Democrats, even freshmen, don’t require high-profile plum positions in order to keep their names in the hometown papers or boost their re-election chances.
Regardless, they’ll be worth keeping a close eye on, to see who they’re keeping a close eye on.