Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced he won’t run for Congress again in 2018. Some say he’s paving the way to run for governor in Utah since he said in his Facebook announcement, “I may run again for public office, but not in 2018.”
Like all politicians, Chaffetz certainly isn’t perfect, but as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he bulldozed through some of the toughest issues and scandals this country has seen during his tenure. With chutzpah and fervor he asked tough questions, cut through bureaucratic baloney, kicked butt, and took names. Here’s some highlights.
1. That Time He Grilled Cecile Richards Over Abortion Profiteering
In, 2015, after the Center for Medical Progress released a slew of undercover videos showing that Planned Parenthood was actively soliciting buyers to sell aborted baby parts, which is illegal. Chaffetz and the rest of the House Oversight Committee brought Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards in for questioning. The transcripts are enlightening and the video clips, with Chaffetz’ hard questions and dogged tenacity, made pro-lifers and advocates of a smaller government cheer.
In this clip, Chaffetz grills Richards about her annual compensation. While she worked for an organization that receives about $528 million each year in federal grants, it had increased to more than half a million per year.
CHAFFETZ: Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?
RICHARDS: I don’t have the figures with me. But …
CHAFFETZ: It was. Congratulations. In 2013, your compensation went up some $240,000. Your compensation, we’re showing based on tax returns, is $590,000, correct?
RICHARDS: That’s not my annual compensation. I — actually, my annual compensation is $520,000 a year. I believe there was a program that the board sort of put together for a three-year — I’m happy — again, I think we have been extremely forthcoming with all of our documents.
Richards continues to try to brush off his questions, and another committee member asks if Chaffetz will yield. “I will not,” he says, without blinking. Be still, my beating heart.
2. When He Grilled Federal Employees Over Poor Immigration Enforcement
In a hearing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana over lazy immigration and customs enforcement, Chaffetz said, “What’s going on at Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement is one of the most infuriating things I’ve seen in this government yet.” In this exchange with Alan Bersin, assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chaffetz became pointed, even livid.
CHAFFETZ: Give me a scenario when a person is raped and the person is here illegally that they are not a threat to public safety.
BERSIN: I didn’t say that.
CHAFFETZ: That’s what the memo says.
BERSIN: It says if they are not a threat.
CHAFFETZ: How are they not a threat?
“You gave 9,500 visas to terrorists,” Chaffetz concludes, appalled.
3. Nailing FBI Director James Comey for Protecting Hillary Clinton
If Chaffetz is remembered for anything as chairman, surely it will be his role in hammering the FBI regarding Hillary Clinton’s misuse of classified information. When the FBI investigated and cleared Clinton for sending classified e-mails on an unsecured server located in her basement, Chaffetz didn’t think the investigation added up. So he hauled in FBI Director James Comey and made clear why the investigation failed and Clinton was guilty, with just a few pointed questions.
CHAFFETZ: Did Hillary Clinton lie?
COMEY: We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.
CHAFFETZ: Did Hillary Clinton break the law?
COMEY: No she did not.
CHAFFETZ: If Hillary Clinton or anybody had worked under the FBI under that fact pattern what would you do?
COMEY: There would be a security review and an adjudication of their suitability…
Similarly, when Chaffetz tried to figure out why the FBI was not complying with his committee’s requests to see all information related to Clinton’s e-mails, he told Jason Herring of the FBI:
CHAFFETZ: You don’t get to decide what I get to see, I get to see it all […]Will the FBI provide Congress the full file with no redactions?
HERRING: I can’t make that commitment.
CHAFFETZ: Then I’m going to issue a subpoena and I’m going to do it right now.
4. That Time Chaffetz Bashed the IRS Commissioner for Playing Dumb
In a hearing with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Chaffetz refused to play along when Koskinen said he didn’t know how long it would take to comply with a subpoena that listed eight major pieces of information the House Oversight Committee wanted to complete its investigation. Like a dog with a bone, Chaffetz didn’t relent. Finally, somebody within the government hit back at the federal behemoth that is the IRS.
CHAFFETZ: Are you going to comply with my subpoena?
KOSKINEN: We have never said we won’t comply.
CHAFFETZ: Are you going to comply?
KOSKINEN: We have never said we won’t.
KOSKINEN The court would rule this subpoena is far too broad.
CHAFFETZ: Oh, really? So you’re going to make the determination
KOSKINEN: Let me answer the question….
CHAFFETZ: So you’re going to be the judge? You have a duly issued subpoena. Are you going to comply? Yes or no?
KOSKINEN: We’ll be at this for years.
CHAFFETZ: Are you or are you not going to provide Lois Lerner’s e-mails? And by when? […] “When you have a duly issued subpoena you comply.
5. When He Roasted a DHS Employee for Sidestepping
With evidence in hand that the Department of Homeland Security was misusing and wasting taxpayer dollars, Chaffetz turned his attention to Catherine Emerson, the chief human capital officer at DHS, to shed some light on why this might be and what DHS could do to fix it. Over and over, she answered every one of his questions with a lackadaisical, “That’s under review.” Furious by the end, Chaffetz unloaded on Emerson’s lack of knowledge, forthrightness, and the DHS’ misuse of taxpayer dollars.
There are tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being abused and you’re doing nothing about it. You’ve known about this since 2008. Don’t tell me there are months. There are people who need to be fired. There are dollars that need to be clawed back…So I hope we will get the right person from Homeland Security to come. This Committee will hold another hearing…Don’t tell me you need more dollars, more resources….
There are too many thousands of people working hard….getting screwed by the Department of Homeland Security because they are stealing from the American people. You take that back to Homelands Security and let them know they will deal with Congress, they are going to be candid, they are going to hold people responsible. Your answers–you’re a nice person–but your answers are not acceptable.
Chaffetz’ clear goal as House Oversight Committee Chairman was to pop the bubble of Washington’s inflated spending, enormous ego, and absurdly high number of employees. Repeatedly, Chaffetz refused to give in and attempted, with a clear-eyed focus and persistence, to get to the bottom of overspending, misuse of funds, and blatant disrespect for the American people, whom the House and the federal government is supposed to serve.