Rep. Darrell Issa: Oversight Chairman and Wealthy Businessman

By Richard Thayer

Last week Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, used his position on that committee to launch a website that for all intents and purposes is an advertisement for a bill he is sponsoring that would, if passed, dismantle the United States Postal Service. And, ironically, the people who would be adversely affected by this–the taxpayers–are the ones paying for it.

Rep. Issa first made his intentions known back in April when his committee conducted a hearing in which he and his Republican colleagues took turns lambasting the postmaster general and the president of the APWU. Why? Because they had reached a settlement on the APWU’s contract, a settlement that didn’t sit well with the Republicans. And they made it abundantly clear during the hearing that they did not approve.

Interestingly, up until that hearing the Postal Service hadn’t mentioned the possibility of taking away the unions’ collective bargaining rights as a way of resolving their financial problems. No, that particular idea didn’t float to the surface until last month. One can’t help but wonder if Rep. Issa, or some of his associates, didn’t make this suggestion to the Postal Service some time after that hearing.

In light of Rep. Issa’s interest in the Postal Service, we decided to do a little research on him in an effort to get a better handle on what actually motivates him to do what he does.

In our last post we shared some information taken from Ruth Marcus’ Oct. 27, 2010 article in The Washington Post in which she speculated on the congressman’s dual personality, there being both a Good Darrell and a Bad Darrell, and wondering which one would wind up chairing the House Oversight Committee.

I’m fairly certain she has her answer by now.

As for Rep. Issa’s motives, they have become crystal clear over the intervening months as more and more inquiring journalists have looked into his past, a past that was relatively unknown until his becoming chairman of the Oversight Committee.

His motive seems to be this: the already very wealthy congressman wants to become even wealthier. Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Except when your duties as a tax payer-funded representative overlap your business dealings. When that happens, you have a conflict of interest and certain ethical issues are involved.

So far, no one has actually accused Rep. Issa of unethical dealings, but they come about as close as you can possibly get without someone initiating an investigation. However, if red flags keep going up, it may just be a matter of time.

The New York Times, The New Yorker and Think Progress have published articles questioning Rep. Issa’s varying business interests–and they are many–and their intertwining with his responsibilities as the chairman of the Oversight Committee. The pieces call into question whether or not Rep. Issa’s effectiveness as the Oversight chairman is being compromised by his business dealings.

For the sake of time, I’ll use just one example from The New York Times piece in which Issa, as San Diego’s representative, appropriated millions of dollars (pork) for road work and public projects aimed at improving traffic flow to property north of the city. All well and good. Despite Congress’s vocal outcry against pork, they all do it, even the tea party crowd.

However, it just so happens that one of those projects will widen a highway that runs by a medical plaza, and as a result of that, the value on the property has skyrocketed. Can you guess who owns the property?

Like most, if not all, of his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, Issa is pro-business and anti-regulations, proclaiming incessantly that government shouldn’t hinder the nation’s “job creators” with regulations and taxes.

But in Issa’s case — more so than anyone else in Congress — many of the businesses he’s protecting, like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, are businesses in which he has a vested interest.

Says Robert M. Stern, owner of the nonprofit Center for Government Studies in California, “The idea is you’re supposed to be a full-time congressman. There may not be a direct conflict of interest, but it creates an appearance that he is trying to influence a policy on issues where he has an involvement.”

I would imagine that if he were a Democrat instead of a Republican, the Ethics Committee would have been called in to investigate by now.

So what does Issa have to gain from seeing the Postal Service go under? I mean, after all, it’s a quasi-government agency, not a public one.

Well, if Issa’s bill were to pass, and the Postal Service were to get its way, it would be just a matter of time before the Postal Service would be privatized. That’s the ultimate goal of senior postal management and men like Rep. Darrell Issa: You bust up the unions, bust up the Postal Service, and then you take what’s left over and create from it the postal equivalent of a Wal-Mart, with minimum wage and no benefits.

Interestingly, the product that initially made Rep. Darrell Issa a multi-millionaire, is a car alarm system that’s called Viper.

It may have been named after its creator.



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