The new chair of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is California Republican Darrell Issa. If everything we hear about his plans to use the committee to investigate, investigate, investigate every Fox-imagined rumor about Obama’s White House, we shall be hearing and reading quite a lot about this man in the coming months..
Issa (pronounced Ice-ah) grew up in Ohio, His mother was a Mormon and his father Eastern Orthodox of Lebanese immigrants. He is the second oldest in a family of six children. Issa left high school before graduation to join the army. He signed up for defusing bombs, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD). When running for office, he claimed that he had provided security for President Nixon by sweeping and clearing baseball stadiums of bombs before games in the 1971 World Series. (Nixon never attended any games in the series but it makes a good story.)
When Issa’s father had a heart attack, his son received an army hardship discharge to help the family. He earned a GED, and attended a small Catholic college. That first year he was arrested twice, but not charged. The first time was for stealing a Maserati from a showroom and the second time for having a gun with ammunition in the glove compartment of a car he was driving. (He had been stopped by police for going the wrong way on a one-way street.)
There also was an earlier instance of a possible car incident when he was in the service. An army buddy angrily accused Issa of stealing his Dodge Charger. The next day the car was found abandoned on a public highway. (Issa has denied the charge.)
These accounts are repeated in both Issa’s biography in Wikipedia [Here] and in an excellent Issa profile by Washington Correspondent Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker (January 24, 2011). [Here] Lizza is careful to mention that the authorities have dismissed the Ohio car theft and gun charge against Issa, as well as another more serious charge of arson. (What has surprised me, though, is that these detailed incidents were left in the Wikipedia entry without Issa or his staff scrubbing the stories.)
The arson charge was about the complete destruction of his factory by fire in 1982. The fire left incendiary-like burn marks, although the supposed source of the fire was a defective electrical socket. What added to the suspicions of the insurance company was that three weeks before the fire, Issa had increased his insurance coverage from $100,000 to $462,000. In addition, an employee testified that before the fire, Issa had removed an Apple computer and back-up discs and other invaluable records.
As Lizza wrote: [Here]
The Ohio state fire marshal never determined the cause of the fire and no one was ever charged with a crime.
Lizza also added that in the course of the arson investigation the Ohio authorities reported that: [Here]
We were unable to find the source of his financing for the business ventures he is engaged in at the present time.
After reporting the above statement from almost 30 years ago, Lizza moved on to later chapters in Issa’s life, but it was much like leaving a decaying dead elephant in the middle of the floor. The stench just doesn't go away.
In 1985 Issa sold his alarm business and moved to California, starting another alarm company, Directed Electronics, Inc., DEI, which are also Issa's initials and whose Viper alarm system uses his voice. The company has been hugely successful, making Issa a very rich man. In the 1990's Issa shifted his attention and began to move into conservative politics. He had his eyes on running for the Senate, but did not win the GOP primary.
Issa was instrumental in unseating Gov. Gray Davis and although most thought that he would run for the governor's seat himself, he ended up supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger. He finally settled for running for the House in a safe conservative district near San Diego. And that’s where he’s been since 2001.
Lizza reports that Issa has hired a group of young media experts to manage his image. They call themselves Issa Enterprises. Their purpose is to make Issa into a Washington insider, a power player. And Issa has the money and the ambition to make it happen. (May I also add cunning?)
Ryan Lizza ended his fascinating New Yorker profile with a description of a telephone exchange he had with Issa. He asked the Congressman where he initially got his money to start his company. After hedging, Issa finally said,
“Everyone has a past.”
Indeed, Mr. Issa. So did Joe McCarthy...