COURAGE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON ISSA TO REIMBURSE TAXPAYERS $815,000 FOR “PERSONAL EARMARKS”
Think Progress Investigation Shows Oversight Chairman Secured nearly $1 million in Earmarks That Benefit His Personal Real Estate Holdings
Los Angeles: After a Think Progress investigation revealed that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa secured nearly $1 million in federal earmarks for improvements to a Vista, CA neighborhood where he has substantial real estate holdings, the 750,000 member Courage Campaign has called for Issa to reimburse taxpayers the $815,000 in federal money from which his personal business interests stand to benefit.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Darrell Issa is the wealthiest man in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a net worth estimated as high as $450 million.
“At a time when middle class families struggle to make ends meet, and our government plans draconian cuts to programs that help the most vulnerable, it is outrageous for the wealthiest man in the U.S. House to line his pockets at taxpayer expense,” said Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs. “Darrell Issa should lead the effort to reduce waste, fraud and abuse by reimbursing taxpayers for the $815,000 in federal earmarks that enrich his family business.”
In 2008, according to Think Progress, Viper LLC—a real estate holding company operated by Issa’s family in which Issa owns a $25 million stake—purchased a commercial property at 2067 West Vista Way in Vista, California. The property is located less than two miles from two of Viper LLC’s other multi-million dollar commercial properties. Months after the purchase, Issa requested millions of dollars in earmarks to support highway improvements, construction of bus stops, parking lots, sewer and utility systems in the surrounding neighborhood. All told, Issa secured more than $815,000 in taxpayer financed earmarks that could substantially increase the value of Viper LLC’s investment.
Issa’s personal interest in his own earmarks contradicts his 2007 letter to House colleagues, in which he said, “Constituents want to know that the project requests we make benefit our communities, our country, and don’t line our own pockets.”
Though he has recently referred to the practice as “tantamount to a bribe,” Issa has requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks since he took office in 2001, including millions of dollars benefiting two of his top campaign contributors.
Beyond his contradictory record on earmarks, Issa has been dogged by a number of other controversies since assuming the Chairmanship of the House Government Oversight Committee—including past arrests on car theft and weapons charges, ethical misconduct on his Congressional staff, refusing to disclose his meetings with lobbyists, and extensive ties between his committee staff right wing special interests, including billionaire financiers David and Charles Koch.
Earlier this month, Roll Call reported that Issa regularly mixes his business and political work—going so far as to link the websites of his corporate entities and his political campaigns, and spending government resources to fly a Congressional staffer to a trade show at which Issa was tending to his private business interests.
The mounting controversies involving Issa have led fellow Republicans to begin openly questioning his leadership. A former GOP Oversight staffer recently told Talking Points memo, “…there are people wondering what's going on over there. That's not healthy -- when you don't have the confidence of the members of your conference, it gets dicey."
“A pattern is emerging of Darrell Issa enriching himself by taking things that don’t belong to him, granting special access to well-connected interests, and holding himself to a lower standard of transparency and ethics than everyone else,” Jacobs added. “It’s clear that the more people learn about Darrell Issa, the more he appears unworthy of the taxpayers trust, unfit for the responsibilities of his such an important leadership post, and a political liability for his colleagues in the GOP.”
The Courage Campaign is a California based, multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 750,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change across the country. Courage holds politicians accountable, works for reform, and trains and organizes activists to change their communities. Learn more at www.couragecampaign.org.
Issa Watch is the Courage Campaign's national accountability project designed to hold Chairman Issa accountable for his record, rhetoric and performance as House Oversight Committee Chairman. For more information, visit www.issawatch.com.