Now that we're all being treated to the sight of Darrell Issa puffing up and bloviating about his work as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, this clip with Ari Melber and Martin Bashir is an excellent reminder of which fox currently chairs the henhouse. Ryan Lizza's 2011 profile of Issa served as the basis for today's discussion.
There is the car theft, for example. Oh, alleged car theft, I should say. After all, the man who made his fortune from a car alarm company was accused of auto theft at one point:
A member of Issa’s Army unit, Jay Bergey, told Williams that his most vivid recollection of the young Issa was that in December, 1971, Issa stole his car, a yellow Dodge Charger. “I confronted Issa,” Bergey said in 1998. “I got in his face and threatened to kill him, and magically my car reappeared the next day, abandoned on the turnpike.”
Ok, maybe that was a prank, but after that, there was this:
On March 15, 1972, three months after Issa allegedly stole Jay Bergey’s car and one month after he left the Army for the first time, Ohio police arrested Issa and his older brother, William, and charged them with stealing a red Maserati from a Cleveland showroom. The judge eventually dismissed the case.
While the Maserati case was pending, Issa went to college. Just before 11 p.m. on Friday, December 1, 1972, two police officers on patrol in the small town of Adrian noticed Issa driving a yellow Volkswagen the wrong way down a one-way street. The police pulled him over, and, as Issa retrieved the car registration, an officer saw something peculiar in the glove compartment. He searched it, and, according to the police report, found a .25-calibre Colt automatic inside a box of ammunition, along with a “military pouch” that contained “44 rounds of ammo and a tear gas gun and two rounds of ammo for it.” Issa was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The policeman asked why he was armed. “He stated in Ohio you could carry a gun as long as you had a justifiable reason,” the report said. “His justifiable reason was for his car’s protection and his.” Issa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of an unregistered gun. He paid a small fine and was sentenced to six months’ probation.
When Issa ran for the Senate in 1998, he rewrote his past:
"He had been a soldier, and he claimed that he was part of an elite bomb detecting unit that guarded President Nixon at the 1971 World Series," said Williams.
Williams called up the Nixon Presidential Library, and was told that Nixon hadn't gone to any World Series games that year. Then Williams looked into Issa's purportedly stellar career in the Army.
"The biography that he was providing the press in the context of his campaign was all wrong. He had a bad conduct rating. He was demoted, and a fellow soldier accused him of stealing his car," said Williams.
But probably the most suspicious and most uninvestigated event in Issa's checkered past is the mysterious 1982 fire at his factory at a time where he was buying out the owner of Steal Stopper, the predecessor to Issa's car alarm company. Issa quadrupled his insurance coverage and then boom! The place burned down. Lizza:
Joey Adkins, the former owner of Steal Stopper, provided the main evidence against Issa. On the afternoon of September 20, 1982, in a lengthy recorded interview with an insurance investigator, he described a series of suspicious actions by Issa before the fire. Adkins, who still worked for Steal Stopper, said that Issa removed the company’s Apple II computer from the building, including “all hardware, all software, all the instruction books,” and also “the discs for accounts payable, accounts receivable, customer list, everything.” According to Adkins, Issa also transferred a copy of every design used by Steal Stopper from a filing cabinet to a fireproof box. He also said that Issa put in the box some important silk screens used in the production of circuit boards. Insurance officials noted that, less than three weeks before the fire, Issa had increased his insurance from a hundred thousand dollars to four hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars. “Quite frankly,” Adkins told the investigator, “I feel the man set the fire.”
So did the insurance company. They finally settled out of court for about $20,000, which was a fraction of what Issa had sued them for.
Not mentioned in the Bashir discussion but equally interesting is this small nugget:
The insurance company, meanwhile, had found something peculiar about Issa, unrelated to the arson: there was no indication of where his initial capital came from. After interviewing a family member, an investigator reported, “She was unable to advise us as to his financial banking [sic] to become an officer in Quantum Inc.” A second report noted, “We were unable to find the source of his financing for the business ventures he is engaged in at the present time.”
This is the guy holding himself out as the crusader for What is Right and Just. Or as Bashir called him, a "paragon of virtue."
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