New York Times: Darrel Issa Busy Helping Himself

by on August 17, 2011 · 13 comments

in Popular, San Diego

By Eric Lichtblau / The New York Times / August 14, 2011

Corrections Appended to the New York Times article.

VISTA, Calif. — Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Darrell Issa’s businesses have prospered since he was elected in 2000. The properties his management company in California owns include a building housing a Hooters restaurant.

Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.

The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.

Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.

Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.

As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.

He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.

His constituents cheer the prospect of easing traffic. At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.

But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.

After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more.

And in an era when the auto industry’s future has been a big theme of public policy, Mr. Issa has been outspoken on regulatory issues affecting car companies, while maintaining deep ties to the industry through the auto electronics company he founded, DEI Holdings.

He has a seat on its board, and his nonprofit family foundation, which seeks to encourage values like “hard work and selfless philanthropy,” has earned millions from stock in DEI, which bears his initials. Mr. Issa’s fortune, in fact, was built on his car alarm company, and to this day it is his deep voice on Viper alarms that warns potential burglars to “please step away from the car.”

For the remainder of this article, please go here to the New York Times
Corrections Appended to the end of the original article.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG August 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

The picture depicts a man who sleeps little for the guilt in a heart blackened by all that he toucheth. He looks a bit simian, don’t you think?
I think I love him. I want to invent an action figure in his honor, have it made by child labor in China, sell it at Walmart & use the profits to bribe a congressman or maybe even break a union or two. (Is Randy C. out of jail yet? I bet he has some connectons.) He truly is an integrated digit in the govorporation. Just a look from him could make extra vigrin olive oil go rancid.


RB August 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I read the whole article without reading any real charges. It is also hard to believe the basic premise of someone getting rich over the last few years by investing in real estate.
This probable is just a piece to avoid talking about Maxine Waters or Charlie Rangle and real current ethics investigations.


Andy Cohen August 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

The point is that he’s using his position in Congress specifically to benefit his private interests. That’s not what our elected officials are supposed to do: They’re supposed to be working for OUR interests, not their own and not to line their own coffers. The way he has conducted himself in office may not be illegal, but it sure as hell seriously pushes the boundaries of what is and what is not ethical.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG August 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Darrell Eyesore?


D.J. Bonin August 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The article states that he is using earmark money to improve his own commercial properties, thats not too hard to understand.


RB August 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm

The road improvement goes to the Vista Medical Center, I am sure this is not too hard to understand a need here.

This article has more to do with the Fast and Furious investigation, IMO. The author covered the justice department in the past. The same justice department that allowed guns to be transported to the Mexican Drug Cartels. The same justice department currently being analyzed by Issa’s committee.


Christian Warren Cullen August 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I must be getting old. I read the headline as ‘Darrel Issa HUMPING himself’. My first thought was “So what’s new?”

Then I reread it and had the same response. . . . . . .


Allen Lewis August 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm

he looks like a frigen mortician to me.


Talkingheadroom August 18, 2011 at 6:32 am

Goldman Sachs VP Changed His Name, Now Advances Goldman Lobbying Interests As Top Staffer To Darrell Issa


Kenloc August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

I wonder how someone who wears so many hats in the private sector can give the same amount of attention and effort to his job as a congressman who’s sole occupation is being a congressman.
Not long ago I was on a plane from SF to SD, the last flight of the night. 2 men behind me had a conversation I couldn’t help but overhear as it was quiet on a half full plane and people were reading or asleep. The conversation ranged from custom corporate jets (about which one man was very knowledgable), the power elite of California, who was hurting financially and who wasn’t,power lunches, meetings over dinner with them,etc.As we got up to exit the plane,a very well dressed man sitting in front of me who identified himself only as “The head of a company you would know”got up and thanked Congressman Issa( the man with jet knowledge behind me) for all he has done for businesses like his.
Reflecting on the conversation and the whole experience afterward, I was left to wonder how such a man could possibly be in touch with constituents.He lives quite a different life than most of us.


john August 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Not sure where you’re going with that, most people would like to be well off, the rich may be detached from the poor but many of them weren’t born into it. As long as Issa’s policies were advancing the atmosphere of businesses to prosper in ways they were legal and free from corruption (possibly not the case, I concede) the sentiment toward Issa expressed by the other passenger isn’t reprehensible.
However see my next comment.


The Bearded Obecian August 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

So, a journalist who exposed national security secrets has written an article exposing exactly what? Littered with outright falsehoods, it’s not even worth the paper it’s printed on. But the Times has shown a willingness over the years to make false assertions against republicans in power on the front pages, leaving their readers to find out the actual facts elsewhere.


john August 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

About 2 years ago I made one of my first comments here at the Rag in a similar anti-Issa article, having some personal knowledge about the way he operated the business he built and offering a staunch defense for his actions as such.
Now that time has gone by and I further reviewed the holdings and activities of DEI, (he is not a majority partner but has a stake, votes on their direction of business and it does seem to continue the line he pursued as controlling interest stockholder) from the point of view of an audio enthuisiast of both car and home, (industries DEI operates in) and an underemployed American worker, I have a more critical position of Issa.
DEI is not just an aftermarket alarm manufacturer, and within their other operations lies the rub- and makes DEI the poster child of what destroyed the US economy resulting in our position today.
DEI wanted badly to diversify and get into the audio end of the aftermarket auto accessory market in the 90’s. You couldn’t do this by just making a better product, dealers would be hesitant to just give you important floor space held by leading brands.
So DEI started purchasing existing, top drawer brands of product that were made in the USA. Some of them include a/d/s in MA, Precision Power in AZ, Orion, and others. Some were admittedly already struggling against imports, yet others were of such high repute (a/d/s for example) they were marketed in Japan and Europe and did well because they were that good. A US export, today unheard of.
DEI immediately closes their factories, solicits bids from Chinese producers for a replacement product- if the submitted examples were not up to snuff DEI sent engineers retained by those companies for a short time to China to correct their mistakes, giving away engineering knowledge of incalculable value- to make them worthy of sale to consumers expecting the best from the established brands. What DEI was purchasing besides their good name, was the distribution channels and dealer floor space.
Precision Power and a/d/s, two brands making product so good I have 2 a/d/s amplifiers and several PPI speakers still in service today over 12 years after US manufacture, no longer exist. Sales continued a scant several years under imported product. Orion still exists after languishing for several years. While they existed, a company which had hundreds of well paid factory workers was replaced by a half dozen people working in an office in an industrial park doing shipping and receiving.
Further research on my part revealed that they have done the same thing with Definitive Technologies and Polk Audio in the home market after purchasing these brands with US factories. Definitive Technologies’ mailing address for product service seems to be a suite in an industrial park in a midwest town, when it used to be a whole block in the same town. You can find consumers in enthusiast forums complaining that they bought Definitive Technologies speakers, expecting a US made product worthy of their reputation, then found a made in China label on an inferior product.
Darryl built his fortune buying up his competition, decimating the assets and employees of these companies, living on the good name it had built over time, and burying that name when the consumer figured out the product was nothing better than a 50 cent badge on a product no better than one next to it for $5 less.
This is stereotypical of the corporate greed model that was the exodus of American manufacturing to Asian economies in the 90’s.
The wholesale selloff of American ingenuity and knowhow gained by generations of hard work, for the personal profit of a select few who took the money and ran instead of reinvesting in the company they’d bought to make it solid and enduring in their market.
Shame on you Darryl. One need only look as far as your history in business to see the story of America’s downfall- a thousand or more good paying jobs vanished, brands that used to have the highest reputation gone, and one person receiving an immense boost in personal wealth. Some tout Issa’s story as the American dream personified- humble man of modest wealth rises upo to hold a seat in Congress and ends up rich- but the reality is he was the nightmare our future became.


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