Learning from the missteps of the controversial Benghazi Committee, the newly announced Select Panel investigating Planned Parenthood should adopt non-partisan rules to ensure the public that its actions are conducted in an evenhanded and non-political manner, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives panel’s Chair and Ranking Member today.  By taking these steps at the outset, the panel can avoid the accusations of improperly using official resources for political purposes that have shadowed the Benghazi Committee.

CREW previously called on the Benghazi Committee to pass rules to ensure that it would act impartially with regard to interviews of material witnesses and issuance of subpoenas and to end the selective leaking of portions of transcribed witness interviews.  The Committee has ignored these calls, and has become mired in controversy. This panel faces a similar risk as hundreds of hours of footage from the Center for Medical Progress was already allegedly leaked by a House Committee to a conservative website in violation of a court order.

“In order to avoid going further down the path of bias and unfairness, the panel should supplement its rules at the outset to ensure that all members will have the chance to participate fully and be heard and that the Panel’s work will be transparent,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said.

First, the Panel should establish rules that both parties are given notice of and the opportunity to attend and participate in all witness interviews.  Second, the rules should allow a debate and vote before any subpoena is issued. Third, if requested by any panel member, there should be a debate and vote on the release of every transcribed interview of a witness.  Finally, if a member selectively releases a transcript, the full transcript must be released.

“Establishing evenhanded and non-partisan rules will give the Panel the best chance of doing its work without the taint of unfairness and partisan agendas that have haunted similar inquiries,” Bookbinder said.