This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • In a town fueled by politics, even the wall decorations are a matter for partisan squabbles.

As we say here: only in Washington.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who now is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently decided to remove the large portraits of former committee chairmen that hung above the dark wood dais and replace them with more awe-inspiring images of Americana.

But the quiet move has sparked the ire of ex-staffers to Rep. Darrell Issa, the former Oversight chairman whose official portrait is now relegated to the anteroom of the majority party's adjacent office.

It's not surprising that former Issa staffers are angry. When Chaffetz took over Oversight, he jettisoned 60 percent of the current staff and is bringing in his own. That's a typical move by a new committee chairman, but Chaffetz has made clear that he won't be running the committee like his predecessor.

"Apparently, Chaffetz believes there should be no reminders of previous Oversight chairman like Issa around," one former Issa staffer told me last week, arguing that Chaffetz ran to lead the committee by criticizing Issa's tenure. "It makes you wonder how many people in his district and in the country agree."

France is reeling from terrorist attacks. An Ohio man was arrested last week for plotting to explode pipe bombs at the Capitol and shoot those trying to escape. President Barack Obama stands ready to veto GOP bill after GOP bill, keeping Washington mired in gridlock.

But, paintings ­— paintings! — are the controversy.

"My world has changed where taking down a picture and putting up another one means a gaggle of 40 reporters asking me about it," Chaffetz told me from Hershey, Pa., where House Republicans had gathered for their annual retreat.

Chaffetz says he has no ill will toward Issa, and the portrait move isn't about him, or any previous chairmen whose images hung on one of the other hearing-room walls.

"I felt committee rooms should be inspired by those we work for and not those who have been committee chairmen in the past," Chaffetz says.

So the oil paintings of the former panel leaders now adorn the private office walls, out of public view. But the new chairman promises some great replacements: Including a few Utah pictures, one of the east side of Mt. Timpanogos, another of workers from the old Bingham Mine and one of the driving of the golden spike when the transcontinental railroad was finished.

A photo of downtown Philadelphia will take a prime spot, as will shots of postal workers, a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, women working during World War II and a civil-rights march.

President Abraham Lincoln, who once served on the then-equivalent of the Oversight Committee when he was in the House, will be honored with an image of his memorial in the hearing room.

But even he doesn't get a portrait.

It's a time-honored tradition for elected officials to get their official portraits painted after leaving office. The Speaker's Lobby, just off the House floor, is replete with portraits of former speakers. Some committee rooms still save spots for their recent leaders. But the trend is changing.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., now a senator, pushed through a rider to a spending bill in December that bars using taxpayer money to commission a portrait of elected officials and Cabinet secretaries. If you want to be memorialized, you now have to fork over the cash yourself.

That's fine with Chaffetz, who says he has no intention of getting a portrait of himself when his time as chairman is up. The Utah Republican, who famously sleeps in his office on a store-bought cot, said he'd offer to leave a memento.

"I'll drop off my cot and they can put it in the closet if they want," he joked.

Morning email • Snack on Political Cornflakes, The Salt Lake Tribune's morning dish of political news. Join our mailing list by emailing or follow us on Twitter,@SLTribPolitics. Check back at for regular updates. Burr has reported for nearly a decade from Washington, D.C., for The Salt Lake Tribune. He can be reached at or via Twitter @thomaswburr.