Darrell Issa is really not happy about a New York Times spread about how business interests have affected his job on the House Oversight Committee.
Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.
Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.
As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.
First of all, the NYT should credit Lee Fang and Think Progress for the work that they’ve done on this. Second, Issa has no real reason to complain about what he has called a hit piece. His spokesman calls it “riddled with factual errors and careless assertions,” but they haven’t put much meat on the bones of those accusations. It’s a plain fact that Issa owns over two dozen properties within two miles of federal infrastructure projects he earmarked himself. So as the infrastructure around the properties improves, the properties gain in value (hey, at least it shows that Issa understands the value of infrastructure!). There’s nothing that complex about this. He has financial interests in which he has not divested himself, and those come into conflict with his stated policy preferences. Maybe he’d have those policy preferences anyway, maybe not. But the conflict of interest is pretty clear. He’s the richest guy in Congress, and he’s still in control of his business while pushing policies that help it.
Methinks Issa doth protest too much.