10:00 PM PST on Monday, January 3, 2011

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – After pledging to identify and eliminate as much as $200 billion in government waste and fraud in the next two years, Inland Rep. Darrell Issa on Monday laid out his agenda as the House’s top Republican investigator.

Issa will convene hearings targeting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the effects of Obama administration-imposed regulations and the recent WikiLeaks scandal once the 112th Congress convenes this week and he assumes the chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Also in Issa’s crosshairs will be corruption in Afghanistan, the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the nation’s food and drug safety system, a preliminary list of the panel’s planned hearings revealed.

“We are going to conduct serious, credible investigations that will advance an agenda focused on reforming a broken bureaucracy and addressing waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement,” Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said.

Making the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, Issa, R-Vista, said the Obama administration — and the Bush administration before it — neglected to ensure federal economic recovery funds were spent properly.

He said Congress’ failure to attach more strings to the money and a general lack of oversight regarding its expenditure combined to have a corrupting effect.

“Time and time again, what we’ve seen with the Obama administration is they played fast and loose with the walking-around money Congress gave them,” Issa said during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Issa, whose Southern California district includes much of southwest Riverside County, said he hopes to use his position to find instances of government waste and root them out as a way of lowering the national deficit. He set his goal at $200 billion in taxpayer savings over the two-year duration of the upcoming Congress.

Topping his list of probes is a planned hearing on the effect that regulations have on job creation. Issa plans to call on business leaders to testify about the adverse impacts of “overregulation” of private sector industries.

He will also delve into the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the foreclosure meltdown, which hit Riverside and San Bernardino counties as hard as anywhere in the country. Issa, who will have subpoena power as chairman, plans to compel testimony from the head of the Federal Housing Administration, which oversees the two government-backed housing lenders.

Issa’s interest in the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission dates back more than two years to October 2008, when he proposed the creation of such a panel, modeled on the 9/11 Commission created after the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001. Indicating that he believes the financial commission has failed to reach consensus on the causes of the recession, Issa will call members of the panel to testify.

His probe into the WikiLeaks document dump scandal will center on what the federal government should do to stop the dissemination of sensitive government documents, and potential recourse against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

On Sunday, Issa railed against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to take sufficient action in response to the scandal.

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