Getting to know Darrell Issa

GETTING TO KNOW DARRELL ISSA…. The new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is, of course, Rep. Darrell Issa, a far-right California Republican. As we’ve seen in recent months, Issa is set to make quite a name for himself — he’s accused President Obama of being “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”; he’s asked business leaders to set his regulatory agenda for him; and he’s signaled an interest in launching a series of White House witch-hunts.

But before we get annoyed by where Issa’s going, it’s worth pausing to appreciate where he’s been. In a fascinating piece for the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza takes a close look at Issa’s rise to great wealth and political power and some of the “troubles” the right-wing congressman has had along the way.

Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.

Yes, the man House Republicans have tasked with investigating potential White House wrongdoing spent a fair amount of his adult life as an apparent criminal.

Lizza’s story is worth reading in its entirety — it’s a long one, which is tough to excerpt — but we’re talking about a guy with one run-in with the law after another, including arrests and indictments. There are also many suspected crimes — he’s accused of deliberately burning down a building and threatening a former employee with a gun — which did not lead to formal charges, but which nevertheless cast the congressman in a less-than-flattering light.

There was also an incident in which Issa crashed into a woman who needed to be hospitalized, driving away before the police could arrive because, as he told the person he hit, he didn’t have time to wait. Issa didn’t face charges, but he was sued over the matter, and agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

And in case that weren’t quite enough, the article also notes instances in which Issa appears tohave lied about his background. The congressman, for example, claimed to receive the “highest possible” ratings during his Army career, despite the fact that at one point he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.” Issa also claimed to have provided security for President Nixon in 1971, which wasn’t true, and a national Entrepreneur of the Year award Issa claimed to have won, but didn’t.

Issa has twice sought statewide office in California, but his scandalous past derailed both bids.

That past, apparently, does not bother House Republicans, who recently handed Issa broad oversight authority and subpoena power.