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Rep. Gowdy Plans Deeper Oversight

The new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), outlined his plans for the Committee last week.  As we expected, Mr. Gowdy said that he would pursue more methodical investigations.  Noting that hearings are “an inefficient way to gather facts,” Mr. Gowdy said that the Committee would pursue investigations outside of the public spotlight and then use hearings to present the Committee’s findings.

This shift in focus could have significant implications for private sector companies and executives that are investigated by the Committee.

First, more methodical investigations usually mean more extensive document requests, including discovery of electronic records such as internal company e-mails.  It may also mean that the Committee will conduct more interviews and depositions, or request that targets give sworn, written answers to detailed interrogatory requests.  These investigative tools and techniques are the same methods that are used by criminal prosecutors.  Mr. Gowdy, of course, is a former federal and state prosecutor.

Second, if the Committee conducts most of its investigation before proceeding to a hearing, hearings could be harder for company witnesses.  Mr. Gowdy is a strong questioner, and he is at his strongest when confronting witnesses about past statements.  If the Committee develops a detailed record of past statements, such as historical e-mails or deposition testimony taken in the context of the investigation, the hearings may look a lot like courtroom cross-examinations.

We previously noted that the Committee has sometimes been criticized for flitting from topic to topic, conducting a large number of relatively high level investigations.  For the targets of these investigations, the high-profile hearings are a significant challenge to be sure, but the legal and public relations risks are relatively contained.  Longer and deeper investigations carry significantly more risks to companies facing investigations by Mr. Gowdy and the Committee.

© 2019 Covington & Burling LLP

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About this Author

Robert Kelner, Covington, Government affairs attorney
Partner

Robert Kelner is the chair of Covington’s nationally recognized Election and Political Law Practice Group.  He counsels clients on the full range of political law compliance matters, and defends clients in civil and criminal law enforcement investigations concerning political activity. He also leads the firm’s prominent congressional investigations practice.

Mr. Kelner’s political law compliance practice covers federal and state campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, pay to play, and government ethics laws. His expertise includes the Federal Election Campaign Act...

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Brian Smith, Covington, Litigation attorney
Of Counsel

Brian Smith advises clients on challenging public policy matters that combine legal and political risks and opportunities.

Mr. Smith represents companies and individuals facing high-profile and high-risk investigations, congressional investigations, and criminal and civil investigations with political or public relations implications. He assists companies and executives responding to formal and informal inquiries from Congress and executive branch agencies for documents, information, and testimony, and he conducts internal investigations to assess legal risks. He has prepared numerous CEOs and other senior executives to appear before Congress in oversight hearings.

202.662.5090
Gabe Neville, Covington, Public policy attorney
Senior Advisor

Gabe Neville, a non-lawyer, helps Covington’s clients navigate the complexities of federal policymaking.

Mr. Neville helps clients in various sectors understand individual policymakers and the legislative and regulatory tools they can use to advance their agendas. Using an intimate knowledge of the government gained over a nearly twenty-year period as a Congressional staffer, he helps clients proactively engage the legislative and executive branches of government. He also advises clients on responding to congressional inquiries and invitations to testify.

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Andrew Garrahan, Public policy attorney, Covington Burling
Associate

Andrew Garrahan represents and counsels clients at the intersection of law and politics. He guides them through both regulatory compliance issues and government investigations on matters including state and federal campaign finance, ethics, lobbying, and corruption.

Mr. Garrahan’s prior career in political fundraising gives him a unique perspective on the challenges faced by his clients, which include corporations, candidates, government officials, political and nonprofit organizations, and private individuals.

202-662-5841