Back in March of this year, Kurt Bardella, then a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), was sacked after it came to light that he had shared email correspondences from Beltway reporters with Mark Leibovich, a New York Times reporter who's hard at work on a book that details Capitol Hill's "incestuous" media culture. Bardella took his game to the Daily Caller, where he's been fielding media inquiries for the past few months. Now it seems that he'll be returning to work with Issa on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. According to the Associated Press, that committee's communications director, Frederick Hill, "said that Issa believed Bardella deserved a second chance, even though he acted improperly."
When Politico broke the story on those improper actions back in March, the clear implication was that their reporters' emails that were among those shared by Bardella. And Politico flogged Bardella to a fare-thee-well -- alluding to Bardella's flair for "self-promotion," and turning Mike Allen loose to take Bardella to the woodshed in Playbook.
Within 24 hours, the matter had devolved into a cavalcade of backbiting and score-settling -- Jack Shafer told Politico's John Harris to "soak his head!" Ryan Lizza and Ben Smith were taking potshots at one another on their blogs! Mike Allen and Dana Milbank were snark-warring with one another. And the future for Mark Leibowich's book about DC's media culture looked brighter than ever.
It's understandable that Politico's reporters would react the way they did to the news that Bardella had shared emails that were presumed to be confidential with a New York Times reporter. (It's similarly easy to understand why the Times slow-footed reporting out the story of Bardella's dismissal.) But let's not forget that Bardella had some interesting motivations, which he put on display in Ryan Lizza's New Yorker profile of Issa:
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. 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. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move on to the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff gets on Drudge. It’s a bad way to be, but it’s reality.”
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!’”
It seems as if Bardella's mockery toward the Beltway media grew into resentment after the nature of the exchange flipped from Bardella spoon-feeding the press to the press making requests of the Oversight Committee in order to get the Committee to investigate the things they wanted investigated. Regardless, you have lazy, incestuous reporters in both exchanges -- all of which would have made Bardella an attractive "get" to Leibowich.
According to the AP, Bardella returns to the committee in a different capacity -- instead of serving as a point person to the press, he'll instead "work under the committee's general counsel." So, there's no need for Howard Kurtz to brush up on the "How To Know Whether You Are Talking To Darrell Issa On The Phone" guide.
Still, let's recall that as the Bardella email flap came to light, Politico's Mike Allen referred to the matter as a "breach of trust," and a "security breach." Erik Wemple points out today that Issa used the same term -- "breach of trust" -- at the time of Bardella's sacking. Wemple than alludes to a prediction that I feel will bear itself out -- as long as this "trust-breacher" isn't breaching the trust of reporters, nary a ruckus shall be raised about his return to Oversight. That Bardella is still enmeshed in work that affects ordinary Americans is of no eminent concern to anyone who reports on the Beltway soap-opera. Was it ever?