The office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is striking back at an extensive piece in the New York Times on reportedly close ties between his congressional priorities and his business interests.
The Times reports that unlike most members of Congress, the California Republican appears very involved in the day-to-day operations of his multi-million dollar business empire. In Issa’s case, “it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa,” writes Times reporter Eric Lichtblau.
Amongst the charges: Issa arranged for $800,000 in earmarks that will help widen a busy road in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million. The Times reports “more than two dozen of Mr. Issa’s properties are within five miles of projects he has personally earmarked for road work, sanitation and other improvements.”
Lichtblau reported that the House Ethics Committee quietly probed Issa’s business interests last year but did not find enough evidence to move forward with an investigation.
Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told TPM that the congressman “has never been contacted by the Ethics Committee about any potential violation.”
Issa’s team says the report is nothing more than an attack on the congressman for aggressively pursuing the Obama administration in his position as head of the House Oversight Committee.
“Beginning with the opening line, the New York Times piece is riddled with factual errors and careless assertions that has resulted in a story predicated on innuendo and not fact,” Issa spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins said in emails to TPM and other media outlets.
“It’s disappointing that the so-called ‘paper-of-record’ has decided to publish a story that is nothing more than a compilation of left-wing blog posts that are easily found by a simple google search,” Watkins said. “It’s the same old playbook, every time Darrell Issa starts gaining ground, the left-wing smear machine goes on the attack. If anything, this story validates the work that the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pursuing.”
Hill sent out a press release calling the NYT story a hit piece and alleging factual inaccuracies. Specifically, the office took issue with this paragraph from the Times report:
In one sale months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less that $19,000 - a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months … Invesco, as the AIM fund’s manager is now known, told The Times it did not provide Mr. Issa’s foundation the steep discount. That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.
Issa’s office said the assertion “is based on an incorrect form obtained by the New York Times. The Issa Family Foundation’s initial investment in the AIM Small Company fund was not $19,000 but $500,000. The asset was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss - not a 1,900 percent gain as was reported.”
Read the full New York Times report here.
Late update: Issa’s office later took issue with another part of the story which said that the value of the medical plaza Issa owned went up 60 percent in large part because of an earmark he helped secure. Said Issa’s office: “According to the final settlement statement of the medical plaza property, the purchase price paid by Rep. Issa’s company for the property was $16.6 million. This figure, $16.6 million, is essentially identical to its current tax assessment and wipes-out the 60 percent appreciation the New York Times story alleges Rep. Issa’s commercial property enjoyed.”
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