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Rep. Darrell Issa fires top aide who shared reporters' e-mails

Chief spokesman Kurt Bardella forwarded his private correspondence from reporters with a New York Times writer who is working on a book. The incident is embarrassing for Issa, who heads the House panel charged with revealing government abuses.

March 02, 2011|By James Oliphant, Washington Bureau

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 actions marked the end of a colorful pairing between the press-savvy Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and his outspoken spokesman, 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 to use in his book project.

Issa quickly promised an internal investigation, and by Tuesday, Bardella was fired. 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.

The incident is an embarrassment to Issa, who has pledged to investigate government waste and mismanagement and who enjoyed widespread media attention after the Republican takeover of the House.

The New York Times reported on its website Tuesday that Politico had filed a Freedom of Information Request in 2009, asking numerous federal agencies for all government communications with reporters and editors from 16 news organizations — a request that was later narrowed.

Politico Editor in Chief John Harris told the New York Times that there was a difference between a routine Freedom of Information Request and an arrangement in which e-mails were passed on to another reporter instantaneously.

Bardella raised eyebrows with several disparaging comments about the Washington press corps in a recent New Yorker magazine profile of Issa.

"Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell," Bardella was quoted as saying 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."

joliphant@latimes.com

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