CRITICISM GROWS OVER ISSA "WATCHDOG" ROLE

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Campaign opponent Peiser calls Issa “out of touch” with constituents

By Jordan Schaffner

Photos: Rep. Darrell Issa (left) and opponent Dave Peiser (right)

July 13, 2014 (San Diego)—San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa has been touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election, UT San Diego reported recently.  Issa, who is also seeking reelection this fall, chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee on Waste, Fraud and Abuse.

But despite reportedly  issuing triple the number of subpoenas as the prior three chairs combined, Issa’s investigations have yielded no tangible results, drawing criticism that the self-proclaimed “watchdog” has wastefully expended taxpayer dollars on investigations targeting the Obama administration on unsubstantiated claims, while failing to launch investigations against corporations charged with the same allegations.

Issa has also been named among the most corrupt members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

According to the Huffington Post, as a member of the House Oversight Committee on Waste, Fraud and Abuse, developed to reign in unnecessary spending, he is one of the most wasteful spenders.  Democrats say the Benghazi investigation is driven by Issa's desire to smear Clinton ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run. All 17 of the committee's Democrats sent him  a letter urging him to stop politicizing the incident and to focus on ways the committee can strengthen security at diplomatic posts. Their letter cites three times Issa earned "Four Pinocchios" from the Washington Post Fact Checker for his false claims about Clinton. The costs of Issa's IRS investigation are staggering. His probe of that agency has cost at least $14 million and more than 97,000 hours, according to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Issa launched that investigation in response to allegations in 2012 that the IRS was singling out and rejecting Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status. But a closer review showed that the IRS was also targeting progressive groups, which invalidated GOP claims that the agency was pursuing conservative groups for political reasons. The review also indicated that the IRS was appropriately targeting all politically affiliated groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Issa has been trying to make the case that President Barack Obama used the IRS to target political enemies in an election year. To date, the committee has reviewed more than 500,000 documents and interviewed 38 former and current IRS employees, but produced no evidence of any political motivation behind the IRS' activities or of White House involvement in such an effort.”

Issa’s Democratic opponent in the Congressional race, Dave Peiser, says Issa has failed to pay attention to the needs of his constituents and is “out of tune, out of town and out of touch” on major issues ranging from veterans’ care to immigration reform. 

For instance, Peiser takes issue with Issa's recent vote to block passage of legislation that would have cleared up the paperwork and backlog at the Veterans’ Administration.  On his campaign site, Peiser laments the actions of the seven-time congressman, who, he says, “self-servingly grabs national headlines by putting partisan politicking ahead of the needs of those in his district.” 

Oddly, Issa’s campaign website has no section for campaign issues or his own legislative record. Instead, the site focuses nearly entirely on his committee’s investigations, even though none have led to any arrests, prosecutions, or other tangible results.

Issa, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, does state on his website that he is “living the American dream” as the grandson of immigrants and recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

But Peiser states wryly, “He’s made it and he’s shut the door on the rest of us.  His policies do not reflect the values of the middle and working classes who are struggling to realize the American Dream for themselves, and for their family’s future.”

Democrats aren’t the only ones faulting Issa. Consumer advocate and past independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has accused Issa of abdicating his responsibility as chair “in pursuit of fanciful allegations…while ignoring extensive abuses such as huge corporate contract scandals or inadequate enforcement budget,” Nader said, the Washington Times reported.  Nader added that this limits the abilities of agencies to bring corporate contractors who violate the law “to justice and preserve taxpayer assets throughout the federal government.”

Locally, Issa has been accused  of breaking promises made to tribal representatives and area residents to investigate strong evidence indicating fraud by a wind developer to pocket lucrative federal subsidies for a wind project in Ocotillo with inadequate wind resources, as ECM reported

Despite being provided a report and statements from an international wind energy expert who concluded, that the U.S. government has grounds to pursue a claim against Pattern Energy under the False Claims Act, Issa did nothing, stopped returning constituent calls, and refused to respond to media inquiries.  Issa’s office provided no reason for his failure to follow through on the promised investigation, however he has accepted large campaign contributions from energy companies, including more than $60,000 from a wind industry corporation.

This is not the first time that questions have been raised about Issa’s ethics.

As a young man originally from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Issa dropped out of high school at 17 and enlisted for three years in the Army, trained to defuse bombs, the New Yorker reported. Issa reportedly claimed his unit provided security for President Richard Nixon, sweeping stadiums for bombs prior to games in the  1971 World Series. A May 1998 investigation by the San Francisco Examiner said Nixon had not attended any of that year's World Series games, though Issa’s unit did perform security sweeps for the World Series.

Soon after, Issa received a hardship discharge from the service in 1972 when his father suffered a heart attack.  He  earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.   

Twice that year, he was arrested, the New Yorker reports. In the first incident he was indicted by a grand jury for an alleged theft of a Maserati but prosecutors dropped the charge.  In the second incident, he was stopped for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and a police officer noticed a firearm in his glove compartment. Issa was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. He pled guilty to a charge of possession of an unregistered firearm, and was sentenced to six months’ probation with a small fine. Issa has said he believes the record has since been expunged. 

After the alleged car theft, he then turned his life around and launched a successful car alarm company based in Vista called Directed Electronics.  Later he conducted a hostile takeover of a large rival car alarm company, creating the Viper car alarm, and eventually made millions from it. 

In addition to becoming a technology industry leader and CEO, Issa also served as Chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association, the Board of Governors of the Electronics Industry Association, and as Director of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Greater San Diego County Chamber of Commerce. In 1994, Issa received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Inc. Magazine, Ernst & Young, and The San Diego Union-Tribune

He ran for Congress and now has a net worth of over $200 million.  In Congress, he has protected the interests of  rich and powerful corporations like Google and Bank of America that have donated to his campaign, according to Open Secrets. 

Issa also gained fame for funding the recall election against Democratic California Governor Gray Davis, then ran for the office himself, but was defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In Congress,  Issa has devoted much of his time to investigating the Obama administration through the oversight committee he chairs, including the crisis in Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Acorn, Obamacare and other issues of interest to Republican voters.

After he has spent $14 million dollars on investigating the Obama administration on the IRS scandal alone and finding no credible evidence, some of his opponents want Issa investigated for illegally publishing information from a sealed wiretap application in the congressional record, during the Fast and Furious investigation. http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/darrell-issa

Interestingly, he has also authored a spending sunshine bill that passed the house and includes a website showing how government funds are spent. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/apr/28/bill-issa-spending-sunshine/

Mr. Issa’s office was contacted four times requesting comment for this article, but failed to respond. 

His opponent, Peiser, holds a Master of Business Administration degree from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering.

He worked at the international company Siemens Medical in New Jersey and in California. He also spent two years working for Siemens-Elema in Sweden as Product Manager. He managed the marketing and development of an angiographic analysis and reporting system with annual sales of $2.5 million. He also managed worldwide support for a Cath Lab Recording System with 700 installations worldwide, his website states.

After various healthcare related positions and consulting engagements, in 2001, he founded Peiser Solutions,  an IT consulting firm servicing small businesses primarily in San Diego County. In 2008, Peiser co-founded Greenliness.com, an online retail business providing earth-friendly devices.

Peiser's platform focuses on climate change action, job creation, and improving the Affordable Care Act. He also pledges to protect the US Postal Service. He lives in Encinitas.  Peiser finished ahead of two other Democrats in the June primary, winning the right to square off against  Issa in the November run-off race. 

Because Peiser is a new candidate without a track record, no negative information was found about him in an internet search.   

A radio interview by North San Diego Business with Peiser can be heard here: http://northsandiegobusiness.com/online-radio-show/meet-dave-peiser-candidate-49th-congressional-district/#.U4uZI_ldWSq

Peiser has posted a video on his candidacy here: to: https://www.facebook.com/PeiserForCongress .

For  more information from the candidates’ points of view, you can visit both of their websites at:

http://www.peiserforcongress.com/  and https://www.darrellissa.com/

 

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Jordan is a freelance writer

Jordan is a freelance writer who has written several past stories for us, including a piece on dangers posed by child predators in local libraries, a hearing on higher education issues, an investigation into ecological issues involving the San Diego River, interfaith leaders’ efforts to help workers, and coverage of local families impacted by a typhoon in the Philippines. Besides journalism, he also does videography, web editing and screenplay writing, and has produced a documentary to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Who is Jordan Schaffner

Me, I would like to know who this Jordan Schaffner is who wrote this article?