tv Project on Government Oversight Summit Panel 1 CSPAN November 21, 2018 9:34am-10:35am EST
good question. a lot of people thought we need to ask that question. martin van buren was the 8th president of the united states and he's often forgotten, his presidency was only four years long. >> sunday, on q & a, ted widmer on his biology of martin van buren. >> he spent a lot of time on hamill top's murder and there were rumors throughout the life of martin van buren, so prominent that gore vidal that he was the son. martin van buren looks a lot like aaron burr and only
factions and get southerners and northerners in alliance together. >> saturday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q & a. . >> at the annual project on government oversight summit. former senator carl levin presented south carolina representative newton an award for his oversight. this part of the conference is two hours. >> good afternoon, i'm happy to welcome you to the lunchtime session of this impressive-- i thought, i think the mic is live, is it? let's try that again. i'm happy to welcome you to this lunchtime session of this impressive first ever oversight summit. my name is bob ackerman, a
professor of law at wayne state university and director of the levin center at wayne law located in detroit, michigan, at wayne state, and which also has the presence here in d.c. through our two washington co-directors, ellyse bean and linda. the levin center is pleased to be one of the co-sponsors of this summit. thank you to pogo, to our host, pps and their excellent staffs for pulling this day-long event together. the levin center has, as one of its principal missions, promoting and improving legislative oversight at all levels of government. that's because the center was created in honor of the impressive career and good work of senator carl levin who for 36 years represented the state of michigan and made fact-based, bipartisan oversight one of his priorities. today senator levin will be presenting the inaugural carl levin award for effective oversight to south carolina's
state representative weston newton. and following that presentation, mccauley carr general counsel of the house ways and means committee will moderate a conversation with senator levin and representative newton on how-- the how-to's of legislative oversight and each made of his oversight work a commitment to bipartisanship and fact finding. let me briefly introduce senator levin. he served for 36 years on armed services committee where he served as both committee chair and ranking member and for 36 years on the governmental affairs committee and now own as homeland security where he chaired or ranking member of several oversight committees including some 15 years on the permanent subcommittee on investigations. in these roles he led investigations into everything from the social security disability program, to defense procurement, to lobbying
disclosure, irs seizure policy, enron, money laundering, tax evasion and the 2008 financial crisis. he operated throughout that period with a commitment to bipartisanship and the facts. the result of which has meant the vast majority of his findings, recommendations and investigative reports were supported by members from both sides of the aisle. senator levin retired from the senate in 2015. he now lives in detroit, where he heads the levin center, teaches at wayne law, and serves as senior council at honigman law firm. we're grateful he could be here today to present this award. senator levin. [applaus [applause] >> thank you so much, bob, for the introduction for all the work you do at the law school in detroit at wayne and for your work with the levin
center. i want to, of course, thank pogo and all the organizations that are involving in putting on today's forum. you've done a terrific job doing this. it comes at a truly critical time for this subject in this country and this nation. so your timing couldn't be better. i want to also add my thanks to linda who is our co-director at the levin center office here in washington, with ellyse bean. she's been with me for a lot longer than she looks. when we created the levin center at wayne law, we wanted to focus on the value of bipartisan legislative oversight and when we say legislative oversight not only oversite conducted by congress,
but also the oversight that does or should occur within state legislatures and other local legislative bodies. in other words, elected officials at all levels should be doing a lot more oversight than is currently going on. we took that multi-level approach because we were convinced that literally good government requires that there be effective, aggressive and good oversight. one way to encourage good oversight, we decided, is to recognize the individuals who are in the trenches, who are doing high quality, fact-based, bipartisan oversight day in and day out, leading the way for their fellow elected officials to conduct meaningful inqueries, resulting in real reforms for the public good. to identify those oversight leaders, we decided to create
an issue an award. we began taking nominations for this award in january of this year. our selection committee included levin center staff, board members, and wayne law faculty as well as outside experts in the fielder of oversight who helped us to identify and to evaluate the nominees. to be selected for the award, a candidate must be or have been a member of a legislative body at the national or local level. and played a central role in the bipartisan conduct of an oversight, one or more oversight investigations. in addition, the candidate must have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to fact finding, and exhibited a high degree of integrity and commitment to legislative
comity. that's i-t-y, by the way. and i'm delighted to say that south carolina representative weston newton from bluffton, south carolina, has surely met all of those criteria and has chosen to receive the inaugural carl levin award for oversight. representative newton before we call you up here to give you this award, i'd like to embarrass you a bit and read what the speaker of the south carolina house, jay lucas, said about representative newton's work when he nominated representative newton for the award and here is what the speaker had to say. in 2014 and 2016 weston newton was unanimously elected by 19 colleagues as the chair of the
south carolina house legislative oversight committee. under his leadership, the oversight of agencies is objective. committee members are afforded ample opportunities to ask questions and obtain information about agencies under review. weston has directed staff to assist any member of the house with matters relating to oversight. as chair, weston terdetermines e number and size of the subcommittees and appoints subcommittee chairs. four of the five subcommittees have equal representation from the majority and minority parties. and under the leadership, the investigation of agencies is objective and focuses on obtaining factual information. weston can often be heard during meetings explaining to
various agencies that legislative oversight is not a gotcha process. is to be knowledgeable enough to detect issues, but also to craft useful solutions. some standardization of the process and the types of reports received have resulted in members becoming more adapt at sifting through information, separating fact from fiction. in the letter, the nomination continues. as a lawyer with 25 years of experience weston understands the importance of integrity and legislative comity in the oversight of state agencies. under his leadership, the committee's rule required to decline any invitations for
meals or similar association events, in recognition of the importance for fairness in the legislative oversight process. weston frequently encourages his colleagues during committee meetings to focus on agency policies and not personalities. all meetings stream on-line, documents received from the agency are posted on-line for the public to view, and roll calls are held on all legislative oversight studies. he is also the primary sponsor of recently enacted legislation, enacting south carolina's freedom of information act. weston's leadership is evidence of, nomination goes on, in all phases of the committee's investigation of the south carolina department of public safety. the investigation included 14
subcommittee meetings, three full committee meetings, and receipt of public input from more than 800 concerned individuals. outcomes from this study include both legislative and internal changes at the agency. i want to read now from, very briefly from a couple of letters that we've received from weston's colleagues in the house of representatives. the first one from, i hope i pronounce her name correctly. lori thundererburk. she's the democratic vice chair of the oversight committee and i'll just read the last paragraph, but she says as a member of the minority party in the house, i can attest to chairman newton's bipartisan leadership in seeking to increase the transparency, effectiveness and
accountability of our government. chairman newton is unwavering in his commitment to a fair and open process that shows respect for the input of members of the public, agency staff and all committee members. and he wanted to extend to y-- and she want today extend to you her warmest congratulations on the recognition. and the other note that we got is from the -- from representative jefferson who is a democrat from-- well, you know him, i won't tell you where what part of south carolina he's from, but part of the letter reads as follows: that he's one of four subcommittee chairpersons, serving on the oversight committee and witnesses with astonishment the ability of our great chairman. he's certainly deserving of
this wonderful award. weston is a republican, but, again, his democratic colleagues on the oversight committee with whom we consulted couldn't be more enthusiastic about the appropriateness of representative newton receiving this award. so, it's my real pleasure to present this award to your representative, you'll come up and stand with me here for a minute. i don't know how your track record could be any better than what we know it to be. it just couldn't be stronger. i've known a lot of people involved in oversight to my career, but this description is as strong as any i've heard of, read or experienced myself. and we just want to thank speaker lucas for bringing you to our attention. we thank you for your commitment and your conduct of
effective, bipartisan, fact-based oversight which is an example for all legislators across this countries and desperately in need-- we desperately need more of this, surely, in our nation's capital. so it's my honor to present you with this award. [applaus [applause] >> good afternoon. senator levin, director ackerman, leadership and staff of the summit and levin center, thank you for this prodigious award. to humbly accept on behalf of our bipartisan group of our house members, staff and the south carolina general assembly. we're not that familiar with being recognized for positive achievement, but that's certainly, but gradually changing and indulge me a
little background. south carolina state government has historically been dominated by the legislature, the general assembly. the reasons are interesting, but beyond the scope of this event. in the last several years, we have made considerable effort to ensure that we have a functional executive in the governor, an independent state court system, and a legislature that does legislative things, not just preempt and dominate the other branches. since the 200-plus agencies, boards, commissions, and departments of the state were often unduly controlled and managed by senior legislators, with attendant ethical challenges, our government reorganization has created some power vacuums in the agencies and departments, hence, the need for the legislative oversight committee. we are mandated to do a complete programmatic study of
each agency or department at least every seven years. we compare their enabling legislation to their performance and hold them to a standard of ethical and transparent government that is articulated in the legislation. we constructed the legislative oversight committee to reflect the ethics and transparency we expect from each of our agencies. we live stream and archive all committee and subcommittee meetings. we publish our activities on the website and vigorously solicit public input on each study subject with emphasis on employees of the agencies or folks who have business with them. with 27 completed agency studies and investigations behind us, the results have been profoundly astounding. agency employees want to do their best work. they complain if they're impeded from such by political
interference or leadership malfeasance or even simple lack of interest by managers. the general assembly has been astonished at what the oversight committee has accomplished. the most observable tenet, how much it's been in favor of one measure or another and almost always in a positive manner. suffice it to say that true bipartisan oversight featuring both ethical rigor and undiluted transparency has so far been a startling, unexpected success in south carolina. we are continually striving to improve our process and our full steam forward on completing the studies and investigations on the remaining agencies. i personally have been heartened by the national response to our modest efforts. again, i thank you for this honor. i can say with confidence that
the subject of this conference, considering its reception in south carolina, can well be a keystone to the necessary reboot of politics and government at all levels. thank you very much. [applause]. [applause]. >> while our panelists are taking their seats. it's my pleasure to announce mikayla carr, i promised i had a he pronounce her name correctly once. who's on the house committee of ways and means and she leads through the jurisdiction. while on the committee she was on the house on reform and
senior oversight council on committee of natural resources from 2009-2011 ms. carr served in the global guidelines and energy company weatherford international and conducted investigations, audits and reviews of the company. from 2006 of to '09, she practiced at shine, knapp and rosenthal and taught at columbus school of law and i invite her now to together with representative newton, and senator levin, to engage in a conversation about some of the do's and don't's of effective oversight, how it's possible to perform effective oversight in today's political climate and why effective oversight is so important. . >> thank you so much. >> i think the best place to would be with his last question, which is, both of you have done significant bipartisan oversight work.
why is it so important to hold governments accountable and have the government itself do that oversight work? >> the people's business ought to be done in public and for people to understand and have confidence and support in their government, they need to see what's-- oh, to see what's going on. you know, the agencies that are created at any level of government are not created for the benefit of the party that's in power. in fact, they're not created for the benefit of any party. they're created for the-- and established for the citizens and the taxpayers and the people that benefit, whether it's social services or roads or garbage, sewer, or whatever it is. or the court systems. and when it appears that our agencies at any level are being dominated or controlled in inappropriate ways or to favor one side or the other or acting outside the bounds for which they were created through a process that involved legislation and not the various branches of government, it
leads to a mistrust in government. and i think that, in part, is what leads us to the civil discourse that we have today. whether an agency is doing its job properly or not, should not be something that either party has the franchise on asking the questions and nor should the party in power be afraid to ask the questions and expose the shortcomings of those agencies because of fear of reprisal at subsequent elections. >> anything to add or different perspective? >> well, excuse me, my perspective is obviously very similar and i learned early as a local government official in detroit where i was the city council for eight years before i was elected to the u.s. senate, just how important it is that programs, particular will i that --
pi particularly coming from the federal government work well. the programs were great and i strongly supported. they were terribly run and did more damage than they did good. so, i learned early that it's important for people who really favor programs in public life, to spend a good deal of time and probably as much time watching over those programs and making sure that they function properly, as they do in putting them in place to begin with. so, that's number one. that's kind of based on experience and i've seen too many people who favor passionately certain programs, but then move on to other programs, and not taking the necessary time and insistence to make sure that what has been put in place is functioning for the people. secondly, in a democracy, you always have to have people looking at each other
skeptically. people naturally, instinctively seek power who want to hold onto power and too often that leads to abuse by people in power. you needs check and balances. and that's the greatest there is aside from the federal court. but legislative oversight is critically important. if you're going to have a government which lives up to the responsibilities of a government in a democratic society. and i would just add briefly that that's always been true, it's been true from the founding of this republic what i just said, but it's a way truer now than ever because i think that democratic government is under real challenges here and around the world, and so it's doubly or triply number whatever is appropriate, that we focus on honest government, a government
that has integrity, that speaks to the truth, and as representative newton just said, speaks whatever it says openly. that the others judge of truth of it, but openly transparency is such a critical part and it's been such an important part of his life in south caroli carolina. >> you mentioned that it might be more important now than ever. can you speak a little to how important it is to make sure that the oversight that's being done is bipartisan and maybe the second part of that is how to build bipartisanship that might be perceived at first blush to be something susceptible to a partisan attack? >> it's -- if oversight is going to effect change, including change in policy, it's got to be bipartisan. it's a fact of life. you can have oversight that is dramatic and where there's a
lot of passion and a lot of output of energy, but can be useless in terms of effecting change if it's just partisanship. if the purpose is to make partisan point you may not succeed. ... what the philosophical view was by ranking members. and they may be very, very conservative compared to somebody like me who was a
liberal for whatever the current title is, we used to call the midwest progressives. but i was lucky that we established trust and trusted each other which is the key to everything. in terms of how you achieve bipartisan oversight, it starts with the leaders of the oversight committee. they've got to trust each other, even if they disagree with each other by the way. we had great success in coming up with joint reports, joint investigations. our staffs are always directed to work together. not surprise each other, do investigations or deposition, interviews jointly always. share every document with each other. go out drinking together, not too often but once in a while. and, but it emanated from what they like to do by the way, and
staff really likes to work together or else they shouldn't be here because it's not a fun job unless you like to work with the people you are working with. if you're fighting all the time it is not nearly as much fun. they were given direction. this is key, second part of your question, how do you establish it. maybe it's impossible. there may be circumstances where the distrust is so deep going and that you can't really achieve it. but putting that aside which hope we doesn't exist to often, if the leaders of whoever the committee is, trust each other. it's very fundamental, just simply trust each other. not surprised each other. it can make a mistake, apologized by the way. it's part of trust. and then direct their staff to work together. if you could start with that seed, it will flower. if you don't have that to begin with unlikely to succeed.
that's the essential one word i would say is critical. i was blessed with my ranking members, starting with bill cullen, susan collins, and for many, many years with john mccain of recent blessed memory, and tom coburn. tom coburn, , senator coburn, vy conservative senator. and i worked beautifully together because our direction to staff was a joint direction. go after the facts and don't worry where they take you. but the chips fall where they may. we both believe that. they could follow someone in our party or someone we were close to, but that's what you got to start with if you have any success in getting bipartisan oversight. >> how did that differ? you had an entirely nonpartisan
staff and so they have access to everything. can you talk about how the process -- >> the rules that set this up and that i was involved with putting together is complete and unfettered access to the staff, not by the party in power. not by the majority or the minority party. they are staff of oversight. they were all lawyers and rules provide attorney-client privileges that one by each member of the committee and a member of staff so that as the investigations are ongoing, if the lines of increasing want to explore, they can pursue those with those staff members without any interference from anybody else on the committee. as senator levin said, it's about trust. when we put the committee together it was explained that everything we do is going to be transparent. we're going to put everything up on the web but if you didn't want to work in that kind of setting then this probably
wasn't the right committee for you to be on. we're not eatontown to our own separate version of the facts. the facts are the facts, and that's what we're supposed to do is it a bipartisan way investigate that and encourage the public to be part of that and invite them in to the process. and then from that make a set of recommendations that move forward. how those recommendations get used to develop policy, they may take on partisan direction after that but getting through our process and through our report there is no legislation that comes from our committee. we are investigatory body and so all we do is issue, i said i would do, was issued a report and recommendation that then becomes the tool for the general public for the executive branch and other members of the legislature. >> can you speak to your thoughts on whether there's any value in having information that is delivered, turned over that is not turned over to the public? hasn't been any downside, he
post anything right on the website. has there been any downside? >> not get. there have been some comments made on the open portal and we start a public agency survey, comments that are made about individual elected officials that they probably were not too happy with, but to remedy that the portal is open for people to make comments about me, too. so don't sanitize -- for us to avoid even an appearance of impropriety we can't be involved in scrubbing what information the public seats and doesn't see about our process. and so if we begin to decide what information the public is entitled to know or not know about what we're doing, we are already struggling to try to say we do that and trustworthy way. when not hiding anything but it begins to take on if folks wanted to, ammunition for
partisan issues that one of the republican committee chairman who received this and did allow it to go forward. you know, we tell people when you submit information to us, there are disclaimers on the website, disclaimers as part of our survey, your information is intended to be and will be made public. you can submit it anonymously but it will be made public. >> that's a little different from the way -- you had subpoena authority so you would be getting things that in many instances would not be made public. what advice to have to deal with information that not all of which will be transparent and how to decide what to turn over and what to include in the report? >> in terms of the partisanship side of that question, every document that came in even it was kept confidential would still get, was obviously shared by all the staff and all members. so nothing was kept from the
member because it is confidential. it was kept from the public because it was confidential. there were a number of things that had to be kept confidential, including proprietary information that might come in from a business, anonymous information. when one case were somebody testified behind the screen, kept anonymous as he was actually testifying because of security reasons i think in that case. but there will be instances where you just, for perfectly appropriate reason, just have to keep confidentiality. that's in terms of a wall between the public which in some cases wouldn't be there if it's for instance, a personnel file that under investigation in some way, and you get access to it. you have to keep that confidential. things might get from agency
such as securities and exchange commission which they have received an confidence, have to be kept confidential. in terms of the comet that representatve newton made about his being an investigative subcommittee and not a legislative committee, same thing is true with a permanent subcommittee on investigations. but it is also true that a lot about investigations led to some very significant legislation. when invention reforms before, that included significant legislation which resulted or was supported or impacted by our investigations including dodd-frank where we had a a critical role in terms of wall street abuses, including sweepstakes reformer, reddit card reform, the reform we did
on following enron, the reforms the following enron. which would legislative reforms i think we drafted cyclically part of the money laundering piece of sarbanes-oxley, for instance, i think was probably drafted by our staff on our committee, subcommittee. even though investigative subcommittee don't directly have legislative power to draft and propose legislation, i think you would agree you could have a real effect on the legislative process undone legislative -- >> we had 12 12 built this year they came directly from the legislative oversight reports that were enacted and became law. but they would appear first in our report then a separate group of legislators and it could be members of the legislative
oversight committee which sponsored the legislation and then it would run to the regular course to the other committees. >> we are talking about it but oversight by oversight committees, but oversight by any committee. i was chairman of the armed services committee for maybe ten years at the end of my career. we did a lot of oversight. that was a legislative committee to oversight. any, i guess every legislative committee has the power to do oversight. their powers will not be quite the same may be in terms of issuing subpoenas in a number of other things and their jurisdiction would be limited to the area they are specializing in, but where the oversight we are talking about needs to be done in addition to the oversight committees and subcommittees in a bipartisan way if it's going to be effective also by any committee that has jurisdiction over a part of the government has the response was to do oversight and
what they are responsible for. that may be different in a particular state whether don't do oversight on a separate committee so i can't speak to that but in washington, surely our legislative committees have oversight responsibilities, and if it's done well and done effectively, fact-based and so forth, it obviously can make a huge difference in the area of jurisdiction of that particular committee. >> one of the most public aspects of oversight of it on the oversight hearings that you would come in both of your roles, would prepare for. can you speak about how you prepare for this oversight hearings and kind of work it takes to get members up to speed, the work the staff is doing can actually come to an hour or two hour-long hearing. i note in many other instances they were quite longer but the oversight hearings and the work that happened there and have that kind of comes together.
>> so when we started agency study, the agency has a 45 day period in which to do a self analysis of issues that the agency themselves have noted. we have made our reporting requirements consistent with the executive branch reporting requirements on an annual basis. so we've already been reviewing their own reports that the file. we start our staff starts the process over the self-evaluation of the agency, at the same time the full committee begins to meet with the agency to outline what our expectations are. after that there's probably a 60, 90 or 100 100 when a 20 das with alteration would cut back, a manual restructuring port, reading the financial records of the agency and the budget, that staff working with the appropriate subcommittee of that is looking at it.
in many cases it's like preparing either for deposition or for trial. you go through and identify what the issues are. but a key component of that in the last couple of years with our public input solicitation we've had 8000 people respond from all the various counties in south carolina that would help identify areas that we need to go as questions that are not in any of the documentation, that it not been in any media accounts of what was going on. and those served, but it's not up for the truth of the matter asserted because it's anonymous and it is effectively hearsay, it does help provide a compass as to where we need to go to start asking questions. from that we try to break it up into segments because some of, we've had the department of public safety, 450 days that they were involved in the process over 18 months, and a
significant number of subcommittee hearings as well as full committee hearings. >> we did it generally would be the staff jointly, would prepare a report for the members. that typically with our investigations on a permanent subcommittee would take six months to year, year and a half. because they key to good oversight is it's not only got to be fact-based and bipartisan but it's got to be in-depth. you've got to really take the time. if you just see headlight and a stretch of fancy and you've got a subpoena issued three days later late and hearing two weeks later, it may be a good show trial but that's about it. ours was in-depth. this was i'd say uniformly in-depth. so time is critical, to answer your first question is how do you prepare. you've got to take the time to do it right.
we're talking millions of documents sometimes with computers. you've still got to do with millions of documents and many of our investigations, you have to take the time to learn the subject for the members. you just have to immerse yourself. it's like as representative newton said it's like getting ready for a trial court deposition. basically you're going to have hearing, at that moment in time you should know more about the subject probably than the witness. at least enough to whether the witness is trying to figure and to see ken repeat the question, which i've always found is an absolutely essential to a good hearing, if you have a good range of witnesses who are going to evade questions. but you got to know enough and take the time to immerse yourself, get in to the weeks as i often said it was, sometimes too deep.
but to really know the subject well, and it's a very typical to a lawyers responsibility, i agree, we need to hearing. it's only a moment of time when you know that enough of information you're going to not be as much of an expert as the expert confront you. he's. he's trying to avoid the question, but it may just go right through your brain two days later, you don't remember much about it, but it's really important. the staff has a key role because they have to brief the members. how many members actually take the time? depends on the subject. how public the subject is, how momentary, it's in the news. but unless the member takes the time to do that, you maybe shop and ask a few questions but it won't make a kind of contribution you rely on. >> and the reports,, recommendations that come out of these in-depth reviews and investigations, how hard is it to that be a unified product
that my noted in the majority of the democrats, each party can sign on to and say, yes, i 100% with sign my name to this, i agree this is a factual statement about the situation that we just spent time in looking into? >> i would say we probably, maybe 100% of the time, a close, were able to have a bipartisan factual report. there were times obviously when the recommendations that flowed from the report as representative newton said, were different. and that's fine if you're different recommendations. probably 80-90% of the time the recommendations by the way were in common. these were significant recommendations. we got a bipartisan basis. we are able to take on some of the most powerful interests in this country, some of the most powerful institutions, banks and
other institutions, that we did on a bipartisan basis. it was probably one case i can remember where we just simply decided we were not going to make a big public offering or public presentation of the factual report because it was in my noted report which was very different from the majority report. in 20 i remember vividly. but even then we worked together. how do we minimize the friction? how do you avoid the report coming out just as members are fighting each other or disagree with each other? how do you avoid that if you're different opinions? the answer is if you work together to do it right, you can focus on the substance of the difference of opinions and try to say hey, we disagree on this,
but, and then say something positive about the other person you disagree with. make it a real effort, even when there's a disagreement to make it so civil that even those parts of the media that want to focus on warfare are going to have a lot of trouble doing. if you do not run the story because it's too boring but it won't be, it just will be a story about blood all over the floor. that doesn't do any good for anybody. it doesn't advance. i would say it is possible. actually i don't think we missed, we may have missed once the terms of a joint report on recommendations will be missed, we missed and we're just civil about it, present article points of view but amazing number of times that were able to come together on the entire report,
fax and recommendations on some very, very tough subjects. i always member senator mccain, obviously on torture he was passionate. we had a very significant armed services report about torture that the cia, wasn't in our link but we publish a hub some of the arm services defense guys fit into that can unwittingly but nonetheless had. it was reported report about t. you can be a subject that is more heatedly debated during that administration and torture. but we had a report, joint report on that. of course i can send it to mccain credit for making that possible. but he did. >> as we go through our process, the recommendations get voted on first by a subcommittee individually, and then when we
get to the full committee and the recommendations of the subcommittee and overall report being considered, we will delay the vote and continue with discussion for as long as any member on the committee wants to ask questions of the agency or anybody else that is related to the subject matter. so that there's never a suggestion that i didn't agree because i didn't have the opportunity to ask the questions to make it to the facts, or you missed it because. and then our rules provide that thwart are my nordic statement that can be attached to the report. not in terms of party but by individuals. but more often than not and what it is led if someone is not comfortable supporting a report and recommendation went and has been presented, will give them the opportunity to say what do need to fully educate yourself one way or the other that you ready to vote in favor or
against. again, it goes back to this notion of fairness and our committee process. everyone anybody to suggest that we cut them off, that they had a light of investigate it wanted to pursue. we don't have any timeframe of that the state statute that created our effort since we got a look at every state agency in a seven-year recurring cycle and i hope that doesn't mean in the last year we're going to do an awful lot of work but since we started from scratch four years ago we are behind the eight ball. >> i think we have time for some questions from the audience. knowing a lot of oversight professionals, opinions in the room to get some of these thoughts. right here. there's a a mic behind. >> charlie clark, report provides one if you could talk about how oversight has been done in the past few years under republican majority and how it had changed. >> is due up the to be
bipartisan and answer that the question at the same time? [laughing] is only from, kind of observation from a distance. i do have a brother who still in the congress, who is retiring and you will love his son, if you loved him, you also love his son, andy, who was elected to the congress. but i'm a stereotype of it. i think on the senate side and the key investigation has the most visible icicle most of from a distance. on the russian investigation it looks as though it's got some real bipartisan depth to it,, whether it ends up that way, there's no way i know. i'm not in touch with the leadership on the intelligence committee in the senate. on the house side from a distance it looks terrible. looks political, partisan.
looks like, from my perspective, some of the hearings are just quickly called. they are repeated icon the benghazi hearings. i do how many benghazi hearings there were, but it looked totally political, totally partisan and some of those committees on the house side. and as i mentioned, it's the kind of, less specifically before, i don't think they had any particular success but that's, that's not your question. but they look come to go outside, extremely partisan and discouraging, by the way. i think part of the reason that the public is turned off to the extent that our war on democracy, which is a danger to all of us, is because those hearings were so, appeared to be so partisan on the health side i think people just sort of threw
up their hands, if all the read about is repetition of what looks like a political hearing. i think it just leads people to believe that you guys wanted to get your act together, very negative response in terms of not just a policy which will vary depending on the party maybe the person responding but it's very bad for democracy to have an appearance that we can't work together to look at common threats, for god's sake. we can't look at a threat to our elections? i mean, i'm not a particularly observant cut of religiously but this, you're talking about basic stuff in a democracy. you can't get much more fundamental than elections. that's kind of our holy writ. forgive the reference.
for us not to be, republicans -- here i will be partisan because i'm trying to be factual. to look like, trying to be factual. it looks like they are not willing to go after threats to elections just for the fundamental reason we all have the same state. in preserving elections. everybody in a democracy has the same state, preserve the of the guys right to a fair election. so anyway, i think the appearance has been unhappy under, on the house side. >> you're allowed to respond to what you want. [laughing] >> i don't want to put you on the spot. >> we will see how you answer that question, come march or april.
>> right. that's a fair point, yet. i saw a question over here. just one second. >> just to follow up on that, you said that, to be effective oversight needs to be bipartisan. democrats are about to take the house. what are the prospects for bipartisanship, and will house oversight be effective given what you've seen during the previous two years from republican oversight? >> i hope, i hope that democrats will make every effort to run my personal investigations. i have expressed that to some of the people, not my brother. obviously i have to him he's not going to be there, but to others who are going to be there, that
they resist the temptation to respond in kind. it's not effective. it's just damage democracy. whether they can find a way to do it, i hope they will try as hard as they can. i can personally vouch for being able, the people who have a very different philosophical perspective from, that the you trust each other, , just simple trust each other as legislators, that you can do an awful lot of things together. but that's the key. you don't have too agree with people on a fundamental issue. just make sure the person is going to keep his word, keep confidence, not leak stuff to press, forgive me.
not undermined investigations, find common ground. i guarantee you there are areas that can be investigated were both democrats and republicans ought to be able to come together. now, elections have to be one of them, i feel very passionately about, a bipartisan investigation of elections for heaven's sake but there are other things that could be investigated. and should be. >> i think we might have time for one or two more questions. >> do we have any questions which will not evoke what appears to be bipartisan response? >> i don't think mine will. this is for representative newton. representative newton, i work for the government accountable project, a nonprofit that represents whistleblowers. i was wondering on the state level especially south carolina what will do whistleblowers and sources play in your oversight?
>> a pretty important. as a mentioned during my comments, one of the things when we start out with an agency study, we asked the director of the agency under oath to tell us how he's going to encourage all employees within the agency to communicate back to our department are back to the oversight committee, and how they have made employees aware of the opportunity to do so. our focus really is on the employees of the various agencies and the people in the public, the folks that are their clients or customers that are dealing with those agencies. they are going to be will tell us what they're doing right and wrong based on personal experience. it's one of the, while i set of input the sort of the corners to and with a with set up, employee participation and the solicitation is every bit one of
the tenants of public participation. and they are about to do it anonymously. i will tell you we've had some that said, it's not going to be able to be done anonymously because everyone is going to know who i am, and they came in and we explained to them that you had to testify under oath, but that obviously everybody is going to know who you are and what you are there to say. but members of the committee then looked to the agency director and set a plan to keep in touch with you over the next six months, 12 months, 18 months into years until this point which is their retirement age to make sure there's been no retaliation for what they have done. we actually put a finding in the report that the agency as it relates to those employees that have come forward and blown the whistle and what they were doing, that they reported to us on their status over that next cycle coming up so that those employees were protected.
>> thank you. that's all the time we had. i want to thank you guys both very much for your type of the work is very important. i know everyone here agrees with that. [applause] >> i like to thank our panelists for that insightful discussion. i'd also encourage you all to take a look at the website for representative newton committee. i think you'll find as good an example of government transparency as you will see anywhere, angela more about the history of carl levin led investigations in the senate, this book called financial exposure, is available just outside the door where the author, one of our codirectors is, in fact, available for book signings. i've been asked to announce that the next session we started at 2:10 p.m. on the third floor.
they are r street institute panel supporting the overseers, the state of committee staff and legislative branch support agencies will be in room three. conversation between nsa inspector robert storch and two institutes julian sanchez will take place in room 3c. the partnership for public services discussion with busting congressional executive branch oversight relationships will take place in room 3de. [inaudible] >> okay, thank you. and thank you all for joining us. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]