By Jordan Schafner
October 21, 2014 (San Diego)—Dave Peiser is asking residents in the 49th Congressional District to “Fire Issa” and “Hire Peiser.”
His opponent, Republican Darrell Issa, is the richest man in Congress and has become a national lightning rod for controversy. Issa chairs the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he has launched repeated investigations into the Obama administration, while failing to investigate allegations of corporate wrongdoing that impact consumers.
He was named the most corrupt member of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in 2013 and has drawn criticism for ethical issues ranging from youthful indictments for grand theft to allegations that he gives preferential treatment to large donors testifying before his committee. Issa’s controversies inspired Peiser’s campaign to launch a website called www.FireIssa.com.
Strategies for a David vs. Goliath battle
A community activist with a masters degree in business administration and a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering, Peiser has strong experience in business and nonprofit leadership. Though he has far less money and the race has drawn little media attention locally, Peiser believes he can beat Issa by knocking on doors and bringing constituencies together that don’t believe they are being served by Issa. He’s set up his own campaign website: www.HirePeiser.com.
“Issa’s out of touch and only shows up for fundraisers,” says Peiser, a Democrat. “It’s not just the Democrats who aren’t happy with Issa. It’s a lot of Republicans I talk to as well.” He is running a campaign that he calls a “national mandate to fire Darrell Issa,” drawing contributions from at least 25 states—and he’s working on making that all 50, running an extensive e-mail, media and social media campaign to attract supporters.
Peiser has raised over $60,000 thus far from hundreds of donors. Most (65%) live in the district and many are in small amounts of $5, $10 or $25. Many are from Postal workers, since Issa is enemy number one for the Postal workers union, leading efforts to shut down post offices and privatize postal services.
Still the challenges are daunting. Issa has support from the Republican Party and right-wing groups such as the Tea Party. The district has a strong Republican registration advantage—and some voters support Issa’s self-proclaimed “watchdog” attacks on the Obama administration. The district includes much of San Diego’s North County as well as portions of Orange County.
Asked if he has a “secret weapon” in the race, Peiser says knocking on doors is the best way to let people know he’s running and what he stands for. He has about a hundred volunteers, though only a small paid staff including
campaign consultant Chris Protty, who is very experienced and has worked on presidential campaigns as well as for Senators and Congressman.
“He knows the numbers and who we should be talking with, what we should be spending our time doing,” Peiser says.
He views the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which allowed virtually unlimited spending on political campaigns, as “one of the biggest problems our democracy faces right now.” He hopes to someday see a constitutional amendment to make clear that “money is not speech and corporations are not people.” He adds, “If we want a true democracy, we want to make it possible for truly anyone to run for office.”
But having a lot of money doesn’t guarantee victory—as former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney found out. Name recognition is one key to winning—and Peiser is banking on an aggressive marketing campaign. He says he’s running to win, and he has a long history of involvement in the community in causes ranging from charities to environmental issues.
Fired up over climate change and jobs
Peiser went to Washington D.C. to lobby in favor of climate change legislation and is involved in the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. He’s met with Issa’s aides and concluded that they don’t care about constituents’ concerns. He also joined with League of Conservation Voters members as a speaker when the group presented Issa with a climate change denier award—a statue of a unicorn.
He believes that nothing will change as long as people like Darrell Issa are in office and says that's the reason he's running--in order to take the passionate voices of constituents who care about issues and be able to do something for them.
When asked his highest priorities if elected, Peiser cites jobs and climate change. He spoke about the need to do something for the long term unemployed and people who are underemployed. He wants to put funding toward infrastructure which would employ a lot of people, as well as money toward renewable energy.
“The renewable energy piece of it ties in with my strong desire to do something about climate change,” Peiser added. He favors what he calls a “carbon rebate” which would be a check to every American paid for by a tax on the oil, gas and coal industries. That check would grow over 20 years as industries would be charged more and more based on how much carbon is in their fuels. He believes this would incentivize cleaner fuels and give the investment community an obvious signal that we’re serious about moving to renewables.
Peiser stated that we should aim for 2029 as the year we could be using 100% renewable electricity. He added that this will spur job growth through research and development--and if you are putting solar panels on roofs, those are all local jobs that can't be outsourced to another country.
When asked about problems caused by wind turbines in East Count including health issues from infrasound and stray voltage, noise, visual blight and bird deaths, Peiser said he was unaware of most of these issues. He said his understanding is that the newer windmills move slower, but are still able to generate electricity. He noted that flying into buildings is the top killer of birds and cars and transportation is another huge cause of bird death, while deaths from wind turbines are much fewer.
He was also asked about birds getting burned up from industrial-scale solar facilities in the desert. He remarked that it’s better for solar to be decentralized than to have those huge solar farms.
Foreign policy issues
Asked his views on U.S. response to the ISIL terrorist threats in Iraq and Syria, Peiser stated that he sees justification for U.S. involvement in situations such as when thousands of displaced Yezidis were trapped on a hill facing genocide. But he adds, “I would like to see the countries in the Middle East take leadership for what's going on instead of the United States of America. It seems ridiculous that we're sending thousands of people to the Middle East.”
He believes that part of the reason why we are doing so is to protect our oil interests, pushed by a “climate of fear.” He is supportive of President Barack Obama because he is deliberative and doing his best to bring other parties together in a coalition. He acknowledges that these are hard decisions and that the President is doing what he believes is best.
He added that another reason we focus resources in the Middle East of because of Israel. Being Jewish himself, Peiser is in favor of full support for the state of Israel. However he said that doesn’t mean that Israel is always right 100% of the time.
Peiser’s stance is somewhere between a traditional hawk and dove. He does not favor an isolationist policy where we would only protect our own borders, but also does not believe that the U.S. needs to be the world’s policeman. Military intervention should be limited and approached with caution. He voiced concern over past instances in which the U.S. armed one faction only to later have the group become enemies and turn weapons against us. He also would rather not have us fighting in Syria.
He said it's obvious that the big oil money is driving policy on the Middle East conflict, and it's also driving Congress. He compared the oil wars to the time when the tobacco companies were still marketing cigarettes to everyone and sees a parallel situation with climate change. Although 98% of climate scientists worldwide agree that climate change is real and caused by man’s activities, many members on the Republican side are bought off by the oil companies and they'll keep voting for the special interest--whether it's to send people to war, to protect those interests, or not do anything about climate change, he says.
Peisner notes that Issa makes money off his investments and that his voting record appears to reflect a special interest agenda. “Everything I see him do is either for himself or large multinational corporations or big money people like the Koch brothers,” he states.
Peiser noted that a lot of manufacturing jobs have left America and that there is now an effort to bring them back. He belongs to a group called the Coalition for a Prosperous America toward that end. But he notes,
“My understanding is that when Darrell Issa ran his company[Viper Car Alarms], he outsourced all the jobs to South Korea. It's my take that he's still of the same opinion. It's all about profits for himself and the larger huge corporations.”
Peiser said he spoke to the Dana Point American Legion, a normally conservative group, but that some have turned against Issa because of his repeated attacks on the President. “It's the disrespect of the President of the United States that servicemen do not appreciate, even if they're Republicans.”
Business and humanitarian background
Peiser has worked for Siemens medical electronic equipment as well as database systems for managing outcomes in hospitals. He has also worked at Scripps Health for several years as a project manager and then most recently he has had his own IT business, consulting for small businesses, as well as a sustainable products business online. He has one son going to college at USC, studying architecture and he is divorced.
His community involvement includes serving on the board for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and as president of the nonprofit Class-ACT, helping establish the Microloans for Mothers program after visiting a school and orphanage in Cambodia that rescued orphaned children.
Medicare and Social Security
He criticizes Issa for seeking to privatize Medicare and Social Security. Peiser aims to protect and strengthen these programs, balancing revenues and expenses of Medicare and Covered California through “innovation and better coordination of care,” according to his website.
Immigration, Voting Rights Act and equal pay for women
He supports comprehensive immigration reform and opposes all forms of discrimination. He pledges to support a new Voting Rights Act and stand up for women’s rights, chiding Issa for blocking a bill that would assure women receive equal pay for equal work.
Peiser would like to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. He said it's time to look at marijuana in a similar way as alcohol and stop sending people to jail. Medical marijuana should be treated as such. However, when asked if he would be in favor or recreational marijuana legalization, Peiser said this should be left up to the states to decide.
Affordable higher education
He views public education as “an investment we make in our children” and wants to increase grants for college students and reduce student loan interest.
Summing it all up, Peiser promotes policies that are a liberal alternative to Darrell Issa.
“There is power in the vote. If every Democrat voted for me in the district, I think I would win,” Peiser observes. “We need people to realize that is important to vote and if people are feeling like they have no power, I think they should reassess that and think about the fact that yes, we can change things by voting. And by not voting they are actually voting for the status quo. That’s really my biggest message.”
He adds,”I do look forward to serving in Congress and bringing us all together, which is a passion of mine…I think that’s the opposite of the guy who's in office right now. We can do a lot of things when we work together”
Noting that he’s been a resident of the district for 25 years, raised his family and started businesses here, Peiser concludes, “I'm one of the people working to serve the constituents of this district in a way that really reflects the needs and values of the people who live here.”
East County Magazine also contacted Congressman Issa to request an interview, but he was unavailable.