For the past thirty years, students of American government have leaned hard on a metaphor contrasting “police patrol” and “fire alarm” oversight. It’s an interesting and useful idea, but basically unsupported by careful empirical work. My esteemed colleague David C.W. Parker (who blogs about Montana politics here) and I have looked at the partisan dimensions of congressional oversight in a couple academic articles – a 2009 article here published in Legislative Studies Quarterly and a forthcoming article in Political Research Quarterly. This summer we published a short essay, “Oversight: Overlooked or Unhinged?” in Extension of Remarks, the newsletter of the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association. It’s basically an effort to work through the critique of the “fire alarm” metaphor with an eye on current events. Did you miss it? Here it is again.
Morning Edition’s sympathetic profile of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz this morning is the type of story IG advocates envision. The battle between House Republicans and Attorney General Eric Holder over access to documents related to the so-called “Fast and Furious” scandal look bad, the story begins:
But one man has already been sifting through secret emails about the operation known as Fast and Furious. He’s Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s new watchdog.