As Republicans take control of the House, the Chairmanships for all House Committees have also shifted into Republican hands. One of the most visible and vocal who promises to be a constant on the national scene is Rep. Darrell Issa, new Chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. With expanded subpoena power to harass regulatory agencies and authority to investigate any federal program or any matter with Federal policy implications, the possibilities for Issa mischief are infinite.
Politically ambitious and a bit of a blustery bumbler who loves the camera, Issa’s warning of a ‘constant battle’ against the ‘most corrupt Administration in modern times’ sounds like the unveiling of the Grand Inquisitor about to take his Chair. Walking those statements back, Issa is attempting to espouse less controversial investigations as he seeks diplomatic cover to soften his antagonistic stance. It remains to be seen how long the Congressman can resist the incendiary bomb thrower side of his character.
The reality is that once Issa takes off the gloves, he can be expected to ‘investigate’ the new Black Panther movement, Acorn’s housing program, the validity of climate science, the BP spill response, Administration czars and other hot-button cultural topics that will satisfy the right wing irrational hatred of government.
As the Oversight Committee’s job is to ferret out information not previously known or to bring illegal or inappropriate conduct to light either the result of deliberate actions or merely the inefficient and incompetent, an appropriate question might be how well Rep. Issa might fare if he were subject to a similar rigorous inspection of his conduct.
A six term member of the House from San Diego, Issa is a self-made multi millionaire from auto security systems named Viper and acknowledged as the richest member of the House with a worth in excess of $350 million. Tall, dark and intense with an intimidating presence, Issa’s first campaign was for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer in 1998 contributing $10 million of his own funds. He lost the primary but went on two years later to win the Republican primary for a vacant House seat in a heavily Republican district.
He came to national prominence in 2001 as architect and contributor of over $1 million to recall California Governor Gray Davis who was later vindicated by evidence of deregulated companies like Enron and other Texas energy companies who withheld capacity to drive up prices. Speculation centered around Issa’s goal to replace Davis until Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy. Just before the filing deadline, Issa announced, in tears, that he would not run.
Further scrutiny reveals certain shortcomings in Issa’s bio, the kind of recurring events that, as a public official and key political player on the national stage, deserve further explanation. .
At 18 years old, Issa dropped out of high school to join the Army in 1970 and claimed to have served in an elite Army bomb unit, traveling as a security team with President Richard Nixon. Military records, however, indicate that Issa did not travel with Nixon and that his six month bomb disposal squad duty earned him a ‘bad conduct’ grade, (he was alleged to have stolen his Sgt.'s car) a demotion and an early ‘family hardship’ discharge.
In 1972, a grand jury indicted Issa in Ohio for carrying a concealed weapon and felony theft of a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership. Soon after, Issa was arrested again on an illegal weapons charge and convicted of a misdemeanor for which he received three months probation and a $204 fine.
In 1979, Issa allegedly faked the theft of his Mercedes Benz and was charged with grand theft. In a show of familial bonding, Issa blamed his brother for all his criminal enterprises and credited the two car thefts for taking him into the car alarm business
In 1982, when Issa was almost 30 years old, he was awarded legal control of an Ohio company which experienced a “suspicious” fire according to an Ohio fire marshal. According to witnesses, three weeks before, Issa had more than quadrupled insurance coverage on the building and stored various valuables in a fireproof box before the fire. Public records quote a former partner that he believed Issa started the fire, saying the business needed cash.
Redemption for youthful indiscretions including recurring violations of law, is, of course, essential to assist those misguided adolescents to find their way and grow into generous and compassionate human beings with a reverence for an ethical and principled life. Whether Issa has successfully made that transition in his adult life as an exemplar of American values will be tested as he vigorously pursues waste, fraud and abuse – and if no smoking guns are discovered, that will be a waste of taxpayer money.