When the GOP took control of the House this year, Republican congressman Darrell Issa of California, the new chairman of the Oversight Committee, vowed to unleash a cavalcade of investigations into the Obama administration. But Issa has quickly been forced to set his sights a little closer to home: his own spokesman. Twenty-seven-year-old Kurt Bardella is accused of providing New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich with e-mail correspondence between reporters and Issa's office for a book Leibovich is writing on Washington's "media-industrial complex." Politico first learned on Friday that their private e-mails to Issa may have been compromised, and its editor-in-chief sent a letter to Issa on Sunday.
“The practice of sharing reporter e-mails with another journalist on a clandestine basis would be egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances,” Harris wrote. “As the editor-in-chief of POLITICO, my concern is heightened by information suggesting that POLITICO journalists may have had their reporting compromised by this activity.”
Issa insists he'll "get to the bottom of" this. When Politico sought answers from Bardella themselves, they got the dodge of someone with something to hide.
Confronted about whether he was sharing the e-mails with Leibovich, Bardella initially said, “Am I bcc’ing him on every e-mail I send out? Of course not.”
He then declined to answer further questions as of late Monday afternoon. “I’m not going to get into the details of proprietary conversations about Mark’s project,” Bardella told POLITICO. “I’m not.”
Why would Bardella put his relationships with other reporters, and perhaps his job, at risk to help Leibovich? Perhaps his own sincere contempt for the political media, as revealed in a candid conversation with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza recently:
Over lunch at Bistro Bis, a French restaurant near the Capitol, Bardella was surprisingly open in his disparagement of the media. He said, “Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing." ....
Bardella later added that he was dealing with a new twist in his relationship with the press. Now that Issa had been elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, he said, “reporters e-mail me saying, ‘Hey, I’m writing this story on this thing. Do you think you guys might want to investigate it? If so, if you get some documents, can you give them to me?’ I’m, like, ‘You guys are going to write that we’re the ones wanting to do all the investigating, but you guys are literally the ones trying to egg us on to do that!’ ”
Issa now tells Politico that Bardella was "about one nanosecond" from being fired after the New Yorker piece (in which Bardella also said of some models at a consumer electronics expo, "Some of these chicks, though, I just want to feed, because they’re really, really thin. I’m, like, ‘God, eat something!’ ") came out in January, but he kept him around because he's "an exceptional young person." If Bardella is shown a box with a gun inside it in the near future, he'll know Issa has reconsidered.
Update: Bardella has been fired:
A statement released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, details Bardella's release. "While our review of allegations raised by Politico is not yet complete, it has become clear that the committee's Deputy Communications Director Kurt Bardella did share reporter e-mail correspondence with New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich for a book project. 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. As a consequence, his employment has been terminated."