Former NRCC Aide Kiko Named Staff Director for Benghazi Committee

Friday, 16 May 2014 07:47 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Rep. Trey Gowdy has named lobbyist Phil Kiko, who started his career in Washington with the National Republican Congressional Committee, as staff director for the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi — a move sure to anger Democrats, who call the probe a partisan witch hunt.

"Phil brings with him years of experience serving in various capacities in the House and the executive branch, including top positions for three committees," Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, said in a statement, The Huffington Post reported Friday.

Kiko is vice chairman of the Smith-Free Group, a government affairs firm in Washington, D.C., but began his career as an associate legal counsel for the NRCC. The Republican group has been criticized for raising money from the ongoing Benghazi investigation, a tactic Gowdy does not endorse.

Gowdy said Kiko has a "proven record of effective leadership," and he is pleased to include his expertise on the committee team.

Kiko has also held several senior staff positions on the House Administration, Science, and Judiciary committees, as well as serving with the departments of interior and exterior and in the office of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Israel said Kiko's appointment is "almost as if House Republicans are spending all their time trying to invent new ways to politicize the Benghazi tragedy and this Select Committee. Fundraise? Check. Name NRCC officer to committee? Check. Appoint NRCC staffer to run committee? Check. Next week they'll probably propose holding the hearings in [the] national Republican headquarters."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Kiko "a man of unquestioned integrity with a record of distinguished service to the House and the American people" in a statement Thursday.

"His appointment today is further proof of Chairman Gowdy’s commitment to an investigation that is serious, fact-based, and professional," Boehner continued. "The American people deserve the full truth about what happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, and there is no better person to help lead this effort than Phil.”

Kiko's appointment comes after Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., announced Thursday he plans to issue another subpoena demanding Secretary of State John Kerry's testimony in a separate probe on the Benghazi attacks being conducted by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member on the Oversight committee, said Thursday that he does not "understand what the House Republicans are doing on Benghazi, and apparently they don’t either."

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., remains undecided on whether Democrats will fill their five allotted seats on the select committee, and said earlier this week she won't make a decision until she meets with Boehner.

But, she complained to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Boehner has been "trying to avoid the meeting" that he suggested in the first place.

Some Democrats want to boycott the committee, saying several House committees have already investigated the Benghazi attack and the Obama administration's response, calling further investigations a GOP plan to hurt President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to run for the presidency in 2016.

But other Democrats say they should participate in the hearings to keep them from being one-sided.

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