WASHINGTON (CN) - Republicans are accusing the Securities and Exchange Commission of strategically timing the filing of its fraud lawsuit against Goldman Sachs & Co. to align with the Democrat's push to pass President Obama's financial reform bill, arousing "serious questions about the commission's independence and impartiality."
In a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, ranking Republican Darrell Issa, R-Calif. on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and seven others accused the commission of assisting "the White House, the Democratic Party and Congressional Democrats by timing the suit to coincide with the Senate's consideration of financial regulatory legislation."
"The American people have a right to know whether the commission, or any of its officers or employees, have attempted to use their positions to help President Obama and Congressional Democrats pursue their legislative agenda and seek victory in the 2010 Congressional elections," the letter states.
Issa said that strong campaigning for the financial reform bill by Democrats last weekend, including Obama's weekly address and several television appearances by Democratic leaders, "neatly coincided" with the commission filing suit against Goldman Sachs on April 16.
As the suit was filed, the letter says, the Democratic National Committee sent out an e-mail blast calling for Wall Street reform, and soon after, the DNC purchased Google advertising space so that when users searched for "Goldman Sachs SEC," an advertisement reading "Fight Wall Street Greed" appeared.
The committee members said they were not judging the suit's legal merit, but say they fear the independent regulatory agency is using its powers to advance a political stance on the financial reform bill.
"The commission is prohibited from using its resources to influence the passage of legislation" under its code of ethics, the letter states.
In a White House press briefing Monday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that no one in the White House knew the SEC filing was coming. When the question came up several times, Gibbs gave the same answer:
"I want to reiterate just so everyone is clear, the SEC is by law an independent agency. What it does, it does not coordinate with the White House and we receive no advance notice of any enforcement action."
The committee members are requesting documents that would allude to "any sort of prearrangement, coordination, direction from, or advance notice" between the commission and Obama or Congressional Democrats. They asked for the names of any SEC employees who told the White House, the DNC, or Congressional Democrats about the filing.
The committee members demanded that the SEC turn over the relevant names and documents "to avoid even the appearance of bias" by April 27.