by Lucas O’Connor / Issa Exposed / August 29, 2011
Questions have been swirling for months about Darrell Issa’s purchase of the office building at 2067 West Vista Way. In addition to previous questions about the property, it appears that one of the principals who negotiated the deal also made his only federal political contribution ever to Issa’s campaign.
Principal Larry Strickland, who was one of the two principals who negotiated the sale to Issa’s Viper LLC also made the only federal campaign contribution of his life to Issa according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The same is true of another principal from the same office.
Further underscoring Issa’s direct involvement in these deals, the two principals from Lee & Associates who negotiated the sale of the building list “United States Congressman Darrell Issa” on their client list and not any of his private companies — even though the initial announcement of the deal describes the deal with Viper LLC without mention of Issa.
The property was first thrust front and center by Think Progress, where Lee Fang found that Issa personally inserted earmarks for improvements around the property in December 2007, then bought the property in December 2008. Issa then requested $2 million more in earmarked improvements for the Fiscal Year beginning October 2008 — in a budget that wasn’t passed until March of 2009.
Issa has had a long string of problems in this arena. In early 2010, Issa took to the floor of the House to decalre that “an earmark is tantamount to a bribe,” but only after requesting hundreds of millions in earmarks — including millions for Issa’s leading campaign donors. It’s clear that the principals who negotiated the sale of the questioned property consider Issa’s private companies to be synonymous with “United States Congressman Darrell Issa.”
They aren’t the only ones. In February, the Oversight Committee’s Youtube channel was uploading videos crediting “DEI Productions,” Issa’s private namesake corporation. Until Roll Call investigated, dei.com read “ISSA — US Congressman.” Issa also took Congressional staffers to the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. As Roll Call also reported, “Issa declared he was there as a board member on personal business… But his press secretary, standing next to him, declared he was there on official Oversight Committee business, and the Committee paid his way.”
Before going to Congress, Issa was chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association. The current CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, recently went to Huffington Post to defend Issa from the questions raised by the New York Times, citing many of Issa’s responses that have now been demonstrated inaccurate and highlighting the close ties between Issa and the industry.
Recent reports from the New York Times and Think Progress, and commentaries like this from the Sacramento Bee, have called into question whether Issa can effectively keep his public business and private empire separate. Breaking from precedent, Issa has not put his vast wealth into a blind trust to minimize the possibility of conflicts. Instead, he’s maintained direct involvement in his financial empire, all but assuring that these problems will continue to erode his credibility.