Reporting from Washington — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who runs the House committee charged with weeding out government abuses, fired his press spokesman Tuesday after it was revealed that the aide had been sharing private correspondence from reporters with a New York Times writer.
The swift-moving drama marked the end of a colorful pairing between the press-savvy Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and his outspoken front man, Kurt Bardella, who was known in some Washington circles as "Mini-me."
The Washington publication Politico first reported the story Monday after learning that some reporters' e-mails to Bardella had been handed over to Mark Leibovich of the New York Times as part of a book project.
Issa quickly vowed to conduct an internal investigation, and by Tuesday, Bardella was sacked. In a statement, Issa said that in talking to Bardella and Leibovich, some reporters' e-mails had been compromised, but, he said, no sensitive internal committee material had been turned over.
"Though limited, these actions were highly inappropriate, a basic breach of trust with the reporters it was his job to assist, and inconsistent with established communications office policies," Issa said. "As a consequence, his employment has been terminated."
The affair is an embarrassment to Issa, who has vowed to probe government waste and mismanagement and who enjoyed widespread media attention in the wake of the Republican takeover of the House. "I intend to finish our review and rebuild any broken trust with the journalists who cover the important work of our committee," Issa said.
Bardella first raised eyebrows with several disparaging comments about the Washington press corps in a recent New Yorker profile of Issa.
"Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell," Bardella was quoted in the January New Yorker piece. "There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That's just embarrassing. They're adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time, because I think most reporters have liked me packaging things for them."
Last month, Issa issued his first set of committee subpoenas, seeking documents related to reported "sweetheart deals" between members of Congress and mortgage lender Countrywide.