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Darrell E. Issa (pronounced Eye-suh; born November 1, 1953) is an American politician and formerly a CEO of Directed Electronics, the Vista, Californiamarker based manufacturer of automobile security and convenience products. Since 2001, he has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the 49th congressional district of California. His district consists of portions of southern Riverside Countymarker and northern San Diego Countymarker. The district was numbered as the 48th District during his first term and was renumbered the 49th after the 2000 Census.

Aside from his service in Congress, Issa is also known for being a major contributor to the 2003 recall election of Governor Gray Davis, and a guest speaker at Republican events.

Personal life

Issa was born in Cleveland, Ohiomarker, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. His net worth is approximately 251 million, making him the wealthiest member of Congress. Issa enlisted in the Army during his senior year of high school, where he served as a bomb disposal technician.

He attended Kent State University Stark in North Cantonmarker, Ohio and Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michiganmarker, on an ROTC scholarship, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1976. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a US Army Officer, serving as a tank platoon leader and a computer research and development specialist, among other command roles. He left the Regular Army in 1980 with the rank of captain. He later moved to Vista, Californiamarker, a suburb of San Diegomarker, where he now lives.

Issa made his fortune through his company, Directed Electronics Incorporated, that is most famous for its flagship product, the "Viper" car alarm. It bears one notable siren that is a recording of Issa's voice, "please step away from the car." As of 2004, Directed Electronics was North America's largest aftermarket automotive electronics manufacturer. Issa divested all personal interest in Directed Electronics after being elected to public office, but is the richest member of the House and the second richest in all of the 111th Congress.

Issa is married to Kathy and has a son, William who is in his late 20s. They have three cats and a dog.

Political career

First campaign

Issa's first campaign for elected office came in 1998, when he sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate to run against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He backed the campaign with $12 million of his personal wealth, but lost the primary election to California State Treasurer Matt Fong. Fong's campaign raised $3 million from contributions and complained that Issa's wealth made for an uneven playing field (Issa had only $400,000 in contributions). An Issa spokesman countered that the money was needed to compensate for Fong's statewide name recognition. Fong prevailed in the open primary by a margin of 22 percent to 20 percent for Issa. A San Francisco exit poll suggested that large numbers of Asian-Americans had crossed party lines to vote for Fong.

House of Representatives

Two years after Issa's failed Senate bid, Congressman Ron Packard, a nine-term incumbent, announced his retirement. Issa capitalized on his name recognition from the 1998 Senate race, and won the Republican primary against State Senator Bill Morrow. This win was tantamount to election in the heavily Republican district (only the Orange Countymarker-based 48th District is considered more Republican). During his 2002 run for re-election, the Democrats failed to field a candidate, and his closest competition was from Libertarian Karl Dietrich. A write-in candidate from that election, Mike Byron, went on to become the Democratic challenger in 2004.

Issa currently serves on the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, the House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He serves as the ranking member of the Oversight Subcommittee on Domestic Policy and has also played an active legislative role on the issues of immigration, intellectual property protection, and the Middle East.

Most recently, Issa mounted an unsuccessful campaign to join the ranks of the House GOP leadership hierarchy. He finished third of the four candidates vying for the chairmanship of the House Republican Policy Committee, and was ultimately passed over in favor of Thaddeus McCotter of Michiganmarker.

Gubernatorial recall

Issa came to national prominence when he contributed over $1.6 million to help fund a signature-gathering drive for the petition to recall Gray Davis. At the time he made the contribution, it was widely believed that Issa intended to place himself on the ballot to replace Davis. However, following the entrance of fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger into the race, two days before the filing deadline, a tearful Issa announced that he would not run. Issa later said that his mission had been accomplished since Davis was recalled and he wanted to continue representing his district in Congress and work towards Middle East peace.

For the recall election, Issa endorsed Schwarzenegger. However, at one point in the campaign he actually suggested that people should vote against recalling Davis, concerned that Schwarzenegger and fellow Republican Tom McClintock would split votes and install Democratic lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante as Davis' successor.

Middle East involvement

As one of the few Arab-Americans in Congress, Issa has had a significant but sometimes controversial role in U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East. He traveled to Lebanonmarker and Syriamarker in an effort to negotiate the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. In 2003, he appeared at a Washington rally by Iranian groups protesting against the Islamic government in Iranmarker.

Activist Debbie Schlussel wrote a column calling him "Jihad Darrell", charging that he sympathized with Hezbollah despite its being listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. Issa denied this; he later speculated that Schlussel's column might have inspired an aborted Jewish Defense League plot in 2001 to bomb his district office in San Clemente. JDL leader Irving Rubin was arrested along with Earl Krugel in connection with the plot, which reportedly had focused on other targets before shifting to Issa's office.

Issa voted "yes" for the use of military force in Iraq (2002) and Afghanistanmarker.

On June 16, 2006 he voted to reject setting timetables for withdrawal from Iraq and on December 14, 2005 he voted for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

On April 5, 2007, Issa met with Syrian president Bashar Assad to discuss Middle East issues, one day after Assad met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi's visit brought strong criticism from Republicans, including President Bush.

Political views

Issa has generally conservative political views. He is generally pro-life, but has supported stem cell research, saying that "The promise of stem cells to provide innovative treatments and cures warrants investment in more advanced research".

He voted for the authorization (and later reauthorization) of the PATRIOT Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Securitymarker.

He has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

He has opposed attempts to ease restrictions on illegal immigration such as the blue card system, saying that it provides amnesty for illegal immigrants.

He supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emission, but also believes that " the science community does not agree to the extent of the problem or the critical threshold of when this problem is truly catastrophic."

He has been critical of No Child Left Behind, supporting a modification that would, in his words, "give states the freedom to adopt best practices for their students by returning flexibility and control to the educators and parents who are the real experts on education".

Committee assignments



Criticism and controversy

Allegations of criminal involvement in early years

In 1971, Issa allegedly stole a Dodge sedan from an Army post near Pittsburghmarker. The allegation was made by a retired Army sergeant, and published in a 1998 newspaper article. Issa denied the allegation. No charges were filed.

In 1972, Issa and his brother allegedly stole a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership in Cleveland. He and his brother were indicted for car theft, but the case was dropped.

Also in 1972, Issa was convicted in Michigan for possession of an unregistered gun. He received three months probation and paid a $204 fine.

On December 28, 1979, Issa and his brother allegedly faked the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan. Issa and his brother were charged for felony auto theft, but the case was dropped by prosecutors for lack of evidence. Later, Issa and his brother were charged for misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued by prosecutors. Issa accused his brother of stealing the car, and said that the experience with his brother was the reason he went into the car alarm business.

A day after a court order was issued, giving Issa control of automotive alarm company A.C. Custom over an unpaid $60,000 debt, Issa allegedly carried a cardboard box containing a handgun into the office of A.C. Custom executive, Jack Frantz, and told Frantz he was fired. In a 1998 newspaper article, Frantz said Issa had invited him to hold the gun and claimed extensive knowledge of guns and explosives from his Army service. In response, Issa said, "Shots were never fired. ... I don't recall having a gun. I really don't. I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life."

Blackwater controversy

On February 7, 2007, during a hearing in which four mothers, wives, and daughters of four security guards killed in Iraq testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa made controversial remarks, implying that the hearing was partisan and insinuating that the women's testimony was written by their attorney. The families have sued North Carolinamarker-based Blackwater USA, the company that employed their relatives as security guards, to gain information about the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths, and to seek compensatory damages. Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky of Illinoismarker lambasted Issa saying, "I also wanted to take exception to questions about who wrote this, first of all, because I think clearly the implication was that somehow these wonderful women could not possibly have written that wonderful, heartfelt testimony and that it took a lawyer in order to put it together and I resent that very much."

9/11 victims

In April 2008, Issa said that the federal government "just threw" buckets of cash at New York for the September 11, 2001 attacks "that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it." He went on: "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."

Politicization of Tim Russert's death

On June 17, 2008, a few days after the sudden death of Tim Russert, the United States House of Representatives took up a resolution to honor his memory. Many congressmen gave brief speeches in praise of Russert. However, Issa used his speech to push for domestic oil drilling, saying "We are going to miss Tim Russert when it comes to the people on both sides of the issue of why we have ... $5 gasoline and $135 oil. I think Tim Russert would have been just the right guy to hold people accountable, who would talk about the 68 million acres [280,000 km²] that are, quote, inactive, while in fact 41 million [170,000 km²] are under current lease and use and are producing millions of barrels of oil and natural gas a day."

2008 House election

In 2008, Issa breezed through a challenge from the Democratic candidate Robert Hamilton, prevailing by a 20 point margin in a year that, on the whole, favored Democrats. He was widely expected to win the election, considering that the 49th district has a fairly high PVI rating of R+10.

References

  1. http://ftp2.census.gov/geo/maps/cong_dist/cd109_gen/cd_based/california/cd109_CA49.pdf
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/issa_text121201.html
  3. http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/11/06/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5553408.shtml
  4. California Recall Backer Feels Heat - New York Times
  5. http://www.thehill.com/homenews/senate/57139-kerry-issa-harman-most-wealthy-new-kids-of-09-are-rich-kids-too
  6. Issa Raising More Money by Using His Own / Millionaire's funds create coffer bigger than Matt Fong's
  7. Asian Demos help set up showdown with Barbara Boxer
  8. SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics - Democrat is looking for a big upset over incumbent Issa in 49th District
  9. Issa, who started recall, now tells voters to reject it / Risk of GOP vote being split prompts call to retain Davis
  10. Washington Times - Congress joins rally against Tehran regime
  11. Schlussel: Darrell Issa: Traitor, or useful idiot?
  12. SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Metro - Rep. Issa's fight with columnist has dark side
  13. Tolerance.org: Chair of Jewish Defense League Arrested in Failed Bomb Plot
  14. http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=16553&type=category&category=47&go.x=18&go.y=12
  15. [1]
  16. http://issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueStatements.View&Issue_id=30e7b3e4-e62f-4939-b74f-5838aaba851b&CFID=13424721&CFTOKEN=47735344
  17. http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=16553
  18. http://www.atr.org/current-taxpayer-protection-pledge-signers-th-a2851
  19. http://issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueStatements.View&Issue_id=cd3a1282-ecaf-4b8c-9b59-fe6b4b860198&CFID=13424721&CFTOKEN=47735344
  20. http://issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueStatements.View&Issue_id=69e0e896-8706-4170-b0da-0ea287008217&CFID=13424721&CFTOKEN=47735344
  21. http://issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueStatements.View&Issue_id=aad9cb4d-bd08-4eb9-9a1a-2c5680e7bd95&CFID=13424721&CFTOKEN=47735344
  22. Issa was charged in San Jose car theft
  23. "Issa Dogged By New Reports Of Past Legal Troubles" NBC San Diego, 2003-06-25
  24. Recall chief held twice on illegal weapons charges
  25. by Roxana Tiron, the Hill, February 08, 2007.
  26. http://edition.cnn.com/2005/LAW/04/11/blackwater.lawsuit/index.html
  27. Richard Sisk and Michael McCauliff, "GOP Rep. Darrell Issa under fire from everywhere after 9/11 comments", New York Daily News, April 3, 2008
  28. "The Raw Story » Issa: Tim Russert would have wanted more domestic oil drilling"


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