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The Appearance of Impropriety in Darrell Issa’s Office
At this point in House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrel Issa’s tenure, the American public has come to expect hearings full of ad hominem attacks, politically motivated inquiries, and investigations stacked to favor Issa’s preferred industries and Republican campaign contributors.
Issa’s consistent pattern of “oversight” in the form of partisan witch-hunts and Obama-bashing has finally sapped the committee of any remaining credibility. Even without a specific conflict of interest in each hearing, he has created such a general appearance of impropriety that everything he does is suspect. The official ethics complaint
isn’t helping matters either. In the past week, thanks to some sharp reporting by Courage Campaign’s Issa Watch
and other groups, we’ve learned that:
At the same time he railed against the Obama Administration’s green energy initiatives, he sought a Department of Energy loan for a major GOP campaign contributor.
He’s continuing to protect his friend Rupert Murdoch by refusing to investigate the NewsCorp scandal, despite calls from his colleagues to do so.
His office violated a federal judge’s order by releasing sealed information to the press about an ongoing investigation.
The Oversight Committee’s mission statement
is to “investigate and expose waste, fraud and abuse.” In reality, Rep. Issa need not look far beyond his office door.
Issa cries foul on turnabout
~ We were the first to report that, not only has Darrell Issa lobbied for the same sorts of loans he's now criticizing in the Solyndra case, but that the loans he sought would have benefitted a major Republican donor
Since then, ThinkProgress
, The Hill
, and DailyKos
are among the outlets that have picked up the angle. As Congressman Gerry Connolly reiterated, the problem is the consistent appearance of impropriety, even if there isn't specific impropriety in every case. As Connolly said, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”
~ Darrell Issa is relying on the classic Rovian tactic of attacking from weakness to keep his Fast and Furious investigation in the news. Months ago, Darrell Issa's office violated the order of a federal court judge, releasing to the press sealed information
in the ongoing criminal investigation related to Fast and Furious. He even doubled down on this sort of meddling, threatening a subpoena
after the judge in the NLRB/Boeing case ruled against releasing certain documents to Boeing -- who incidentally started the case by openly admitting what they did
~ Months ago, and after even more months of public pressure, Darrell Issa finally promised to investigate the impact of the foreclosure crisis on military families -- specifically looking into fraudulent foreclosures. Instead, he's back to chasing government agencies like Fannie Mae
Issa responds to ethics problems with conspiracy theories
~ Issa has been battling EPA standards since long before taking the reigns of the OVersight Committee, and has gone after them often since. He was able to force the delay
of new greenhouse gas standards, but the White House is now threatening veto
of any erosion of air pollution protections.
~ It's not just environmental regulations that have drawn Issa's ire. He's also been a leading advocate of the GOP's vehement opposition to business regulations. But according to a new study, it turns out small businesses don't actually care
about those regulations.
~ That isn't the only areas prompting some concern. Questions over the role of Kurt Bardella, fired as an Issa spokesman for a breach of trust, then rehired a few months later for a different role, seems to be back doing the exact same work
despite assurances that he would not be. That got not only a "Tighten Up, Issa," but a "Capitol Hill, Fail, WTF" string of tags from Media Bistro.
~ That's among the many items chronicled in an article running through Issa's many problems
, where Issa is still inventing conspiracy theories that imagine only the White House could orchestrate any attempt to hold Issa accountable for his behavior.
Issa’s requested DoE loan would have benefited major GOP donor
We found out today that Darrell Issa used to be a big fan
of the Department of Energy's clean energy loan program, promoting several California companies for consideration by the DoE's program. One of the companies, Aptera Motors, has spent the last few years bouncing around Northern San Diego, seeking different funding models before announcing several months ago that it wouldn't be expanding in the region, instead looking to the Midwest and South for possible expansion options
One of the main early sources of capital for Aptera was the Beall Family Trust
, administered by Don Beall
. Don Beall, as it happens is a major California Republican moneyman, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to state and national Republican candidates, committees, PACs and ballot measure campaigns.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, that funding includes checks to Darrell Issa and the New Majority Committee
, which has steadily funded
Issa's campaigns for years, toting up a $16,000 total. In fact, Issa received his only direct check from Beall in November, 2009 -- less than two months before Issa wrote
to the Department of Energy recommending Aptera for the loan program.
The Center for Responsive Politics also
shows that Beall's portfolio also includes the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican National Committee, and the California Republican Party, not to mention dozens of congressional, senatorial, and presidential candidates.
But the big money from Beall has mostly gone to state-level candidates and causes. According to FollowTheMoney.org
, a check from Beall has become almost automatic for statewide Republican camapaigns and conservative causes in California, often in chunks of $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 a pop. A good friend to have for any California Republican looking to improve their profile, their influence, or their office.
Incidentally, the Chairman of the Board at Quallion, for whom Issa also signed a letter of support to the Department of Energy's loan program, is also a major source of campaign money in California. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that Alfred Mann has been good for hundreds of thousands of dollars
in political contributions over the years, spread out over both Democrats and Republicans.
So, when Issa has an opportunity to score some partisan points at the expense of Barack Obama, he'll ignore that the Solyndra loans originated with the Bush Administration and the conservative Walton family
. But when the same program can spend tax dollars to help out a major California Republican money-man with an investment, the same DoE loan program looked like a much better opportunity to Issa.
This could be written off as a coincidence if it didn't fit so neatly in with Issa's long pattern of behavior. Questions over whether Issa has used his office to benefit his private investments have led to an official ethics complaint
. He's repeatedly put on stacked hearings with witness lists made up of personal friends and representatives from major campaign contributors
. Only after
requesting millions in earmarks for leading campaign donors and securing nearly a million dollars in earmarks for improvements around his investment properties did he declare earmarks to be "tantamount to a bribe." And reports are
that Issa has taken advantage of the struggling economy to snap up $80 million in real estate while his constituents are forced to sell low. And he still isn't sure if he's ignoring the billion-dollar NewsCorp scandal
because he knows Rupert Murdoch personally, or for some other reason
Issa recommended this particular program despite his strong rhetoric about earmarks being "tantamount to a bribe" and the Department of Energy's loan program "as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in government.
" We know that there's a long pattern of Issa co-mingling public and private business. And we know the DoE loan would have been a big boost to an investment of a major Republican money-man. And Issa's track record thus far doesn't recommend the benefit of the doubt.
Issa sought funds via “easy way to end up with corruption in government”
Yesterday, Darrell Issa was flummoxing himself
trying to figure out whether he knows Rupert Murdoch or not, and whether or not that might be a reason not to investigate the billion-dollar NewsCorp scandal. Today, it turns out Issa doesn't know how he feels about loan guarantees for green energy companies. This month, Issa is outraged about it because there are tangential ties between Solyndra and the Obama administration, but last year he was not only a fan, he was actively requesting loans
from the Department of Energy for California companies:
Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who said government subsidies to specific companies can encourage corruption, sought U.S. help in the past for clean- energy projects in his home state of California.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu to support an Energy Department loan for Aptera Motors Inc., a Carlsbad, California, electric-car maker, according to a letter received by the department Jan. 14, 2010.
“Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Motors will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” Issa wrote in letters obtained yesterday.
“There’s been this attitude that somehow the government can weigh-in with loan guarantees and money and pick specific company winners and losers,” Issa said yesterday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program. “We see that as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in government.”
This throws a big bucket of cold water on Issa's credibility in chasing Solyndra, again underscoring the political calculations going into what he chooses to investigate and what he chooses to ignore
But this is just the latest in a long history of Issa twisting himself in knots over steering money to specific projects. From Fiscal Years 2007-2009, Issa requested nearly $600 million in federal earmarks, including several for his leading campaign donors
. Then he swore off earmarks
and declared that "an earmark is tantamount to a bribe.
It was in those earmarks though that Issa secured nearly $1 million in earmarks
that benefit his private investments, but as Bloomberg's report today highlights, after equating earmarks to bribes, Issa simply switched to a different process for trying to steer federal investment to his district and the surrounding areas -- just not technically using earmarks to do it.
But now, all that work that Issa put in trying to direct federal investment towards specific companies was, according to Issa, an "easy way to end up with corruption in government."
Since the questionable intermingling between Issa's public behavior and private investments has already merited ethics charges, Issa is uniquely positioned to comment on the issue. Turns out, by Darrell Issa's own assessment, corruption gets into government via all the mechanisms he's used to steer taxpayer dollars to his own pet projects.
Good to know.