Archive for the ‘Darrell Issa’ Category



The GOP, Issa and Gadhafi’s Zenga Zenga Remix

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The minoritarian tyrants holding hostage a deal on California’s budget seem keenly intent on squandering their best chance in a generation of exercising some actual power over state fiscal policy.

At a time when Gov. Jerry Brown is aggressively courting GOP support for his budget plan, most of the Capitol’s Republicans have decided that it’s a better play to hold their breath ‘til they turn blue than it is to extract substantive policy concessions from Brown, in exchange for a couple of votes on a process issue.

The GOP’s cuckoo caucus keeps pushing away the governor, proclaiming to the heavens their absolute, no joke, thoroughly unlimited and utterly unconditional opposition to new taxes.

Yeah, well, except…nobody’s asking them to support more taxes.

All Brown wants is backing for a procedural move to put before voters the question of whether or not to extend some temporary tax and fee hikes approved in 2009. For that, the trading window is open for the very kinds of conservative policy changes – Fix pensions! Cap spending! Ease regulations! All the surf and turf you can eat for $9.99! – that Party of Lincoln types have been wetting the bed over for years.

Once again, slowly: no one is asking any Republican to be for higher taxes.

Nothing (nada, nichts, rien) whatsoever stands in the way of GOP warriors barnstorming the state from San Ysidro to Yreka, Coachella to Pt. Concepcion, preaching hellfire and brimstone about the unspeakable, godforsaken horrors that surely will rain down on California if the Vehicle License Fee does not revert from 1.15 to 0.65 percent come July 1.

What we keep failing to understand is, given their oft-expressed certainty that they speak for “the people of California” on tax matters, why are Republicans so fearful of making their case to voters?

As a political matter, the head-in-the-sand crowd has not exactly attracted a tidal wave of support for their stance, as the clock keeps ticking towards the March 10 deadline for a deal. There’s grumbling among  responsible business types about the kiddy korps tactics of the GOP leadership, much eye-rolling by some senior party strategists and even a stray warning flag hoisted by our favorite, reliably righty pundit.

Chronicle carrot top conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders, who’s the closest thing to a right-winger permitted to cross the San Francisco city and county line, on Tuesday issued a caveat-conditioned call for her brethren and sistren to put the sucker on the ballot:

The truly conservative move is to negotiate concessions — preferably pension reform or a spending cap — because it’s time to settle the tax-versus-cuts argument once and for all…

Brown has told Californians that if they want this level of government, then they have to pay for it: “I think we have to meet the moment of truth now.”

Truth is: (a) He needs to give Republicans something in exchange for having their heads put on sticks. (b) Voters aren’t likely to vote for his tax package without real reforms. And without real reform, failure is more than an option.

But, hey, if the Reps won’t even listen to their own, we say the hell with sweet reason: As a gang of unscrupulous political polemicists, we’re thinking we’ll  drop all this rational argument stuff in favor of propounding some seriously jaundiced and dogmatic rhetorical parallels between a) the inexorable budget absolutists in Sacramento and b) the despotic kleptocrats  being serially deposed across the Arab world.

On second thought, nah. As Richard Nixon famously said,  it would be wrong, that’s for sure.

We’ll let Meyer do it instead.

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Score one for Paul Revere: Much chuckling and good cheer among the hard-bitten political types  over at Third Lantern, the Democratic hack community’s guerrilla oppo research unit assembled to throw brickbats at California Representative Darrell Issa, the Grand Inquisitor of Congress.

The Ice Man just suffered a major embarrassment when he was forced to can his supposedly brilliant 27-year old press secretary for inexplicably piping e-mails from other reporters to our old friend Mark Leibovich, who’s on leave from the New York Times while researching a book on the incestuous culture of Washington.

If you’re not sure why it was a bad idea for the now-departed, Icarus-wannabe Kurt Bardella to do such a thing, just imagine the ump tipping off hitters on the dog-ass Dodgers about what pitch Timmy Lincecum was going to throw next. If that doesn’t work for you, check out everything you’d ever want to know about the story over at Politico, which started flogging this yarn about seven seconds after they apparently learned that at least one of the reporters with compromised email worked for them.

Let’s be clear about one thing, however: Leibo did absolutely nothing wrong in this matter. He’s a principled and top-rank journalist whose job entails gathering as much useful information as possible from his sources. If one of them turns out to be a major knucklehead, that would not be his problem. (Oh, and BTW, turns out Politico itself filed a Freedom of Information request in 2009 seeking correspondence between government officials in numerous federal agencies and a huge number of other news organizations. How do you spell “hypocrisy?”)

That said, here are a few, extremely sympathetic words for Bardella and Issa from Dan Newman of the aforementioned Third Lantern hit team:

“The fish rots from the head, and clearly Darrell Issa has put together a team that shares his ethically challenged approach to business and politics. BTW – did the Congressman put a box with a gun on Kurt’s desk?” Newman emailed us, with a link to a 1998 L.A. Times story:

One of Issa’s first tasks as the new boss was to remove an executive named Jack Frantz.

According to Frantz, Issa came into his office, placed a small box on the desk and opened it. Inside, he said, was a gun.

“He just showed it to me and said ‘You know what this is?’ ” Frantz said.

Issa invited Frantz to hold the gun at one point and told him he had learned about guns and explosives during his military days, Frantz said. Because he was about to be fired, Frantz said he saw it as “pure intimidation.”

The bookkeeper, Brasdovich, also recalled Issa having a gun at the company that day. “It was pretty terrifying,” she said.

Issa confirmed that he wanted to remove Frantz–who years later was convicted in a telemarketing scheme–because he failed to collect outstanding bills.

But, as for having a gun, Issa said, “Shots were never fired. If I asked Jack to leave, then I think I had every right to ask Jack to leave. . . . I don’t recall [having a gun]. I really don’t. I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”

Shots were never fired! God, we love this business.

ICYMI: We have doughboy bodies, too, so how come we can’t get hot Hollywood babes like Jimmy Kimmel?

ICYMI 2: The Gadhafi (spell it however you want)i zenga zenga hip hop remix is sweeping the world. Here’s another Zenga mix (thanks to Tony Seton).

How Ace Inc. Aims to Ice Grand Inquisitor Issa

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Hopelessly hardcore California political junkies will recall the travail of the late Democratic Assemblyman Carmen Perino, who once suffered the indignity of witnessing his campaign manager’s arrest in a notorious murder-for-hire case in Stockton.

Reacting to the news of his key adviser being taken into custody in connection with a contract killing, Perino famously commented: “What he does on his own time is his own business.”

His off-the-cuff, see-no-evil comment came to mind this week, as Calbuzz mulled the matter of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Unindicted, another cagey pol whose public career bears the stain of private scandal.

At the moment, Issa is the GOP’s It-Man, an erstwhile comic figure and back-bencher whose profile has remarkably and suddenly soared in his new role as the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

It’s a perch from which he’s proclaimed his plan to serve as Chief Inquisitor of the Obama Administration, launching at his whim investigations of what he told Rush Limbaugh is “one of the most corrupt Presidents in modern times.” And, by extension, to launch his own bid to be treated by the Beltway’s mediaocracy as a Serious Person to be reckoned with, to hear Kurt Bardella, his peach-fuzzed flack, tell it to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:

“My goal is very simple,” (Bardella) said. “I’m going to make Darrell Issa an actual political figure. I’m going to focus like a laser beam on the five hundred people here who care about this crap, and that’s it. We’ve been catering more to that audience, so Darrell can expand his sphere of influence here among people who track who’s up, who’s down, who wins, who loses. Then we can broaden that to something more tangible afterward.”

Such a modest young man.

Alas for the boss of the unfortunate Bardella, however, Issa’s ambitious self-reinvention and reclamation project faces a considerable political challenge, at least in his home state: overcoming his own biography.

From his expensive, but spectacularly failed, 1998 bid for the U.S. Senate to his short-lived 2003 pursuit of the governorship (after successfully bankrolling the recall of Gray Davis), the public memory of Issa in California bristles with words like “arrest,” “indictment,” “arson,” “concealed weapons” and “stolen cars.”

We admit that we’re hopelessly old-school about this kind of thing. Still, we can’t help but wonder at the wisdom of congressional Republicans investing their party’s mantle of moral authority in  a guy who took out a special, short-term, ginned-up fire insurance policy for his business, which mysteriously was burned down by a mysterious arsonist just a few mysterious weeks after.

Truth be told, Calbuzz has spent the last few, entertaining hours chuckling our way through the exhaustively and impeccably researched, 148 original source pages of “The Issa Files,” which documents in excruciating detail the evidence surrounding the 1982 fire that destroyed Issa’s Maple Heights, Ohio based (Go Mustangs!) company, the ashes from which arose his subsequent zillion dollar success in the car burglar alarm business.

As every schoolboy knows by now, the Issa volume was produced by a newly minted independent expenditure outfit called “Third Lantern” (see Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth), wrangled by Ace Smith, the redoubtable prince of the dark arts of campaign oppo research.

“As Congressman Issa begins his frivolous investigations, The Third Lantern will conduct our own examination of Mr. Issa’s behavior and prove he lacks credibility as a Congressional investigator,” our old friend Ace opined, in releasing the material. “The Third Lantern will release documents which will shed light on Mr. Issa’s history and demonstrate that he is solely motivated by partisan rancor of the lowest order.  Stay tuned while we investigate the reckless investigator and reveal the truths that he is so desperate to hide. “

As a politician, Issa has been trying for at least 15 years to escape the acrid stench of smoke and circumstance that links him to the episode. Astonishingly, he claimed to Lizza that he was shocked – shocked! – to hear tell that authorities in the Buckeye State considered the blaze to be arson:

Issa seemed unfamiliar with the insurance company’s fire analysis report concluding that the fire was arson, and said that, as far as he knew, it was officially declared accidental.

Ah, not so much.

For those with real jobs or other annoying responsibilities that keep them from  more amusing pursuits, here are some highlights from the Calbuzz Cliff’s Notes version of The Issa Files:

Page 18: Anonymous call received by local police or fire department sometime soon after fire:  “Unidentified caller said was deliberately set.”

Page 41: Local official reports that member of the Arson Bureau of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, says “his preliminary findings indicate arson,” and that another investigator “indicated possible arson because of low burn patterns.”

Page 45: Investigator relates conversation with insurance agent noting that Issa had just increased amount on his policy: “our Ins’d and his Ins’d increased their insurance coverage only 1 week before the fire.”

pp 47-8: Summary of the Maple Heights fire chief’s suspicions about the fire, including “All areas of (the building) was under automatic sprinkler grid except small area where fire originated.”

pp. 92-94: Fire Analysis concluded that “fire was of incendiary origin” because of “suspicious burn patterns,” and because “no accidental source of heating power was located at either of these two major areas of origin.”  Blue flames and heavy smoke both indicated presence of hydrocarbon accelerant.

Carmen Perino

Page 107: Insurance form shows that Issa increased insurance for the period August 19-September 18, 1982; the fire broke out in the early morning hours of September  7, 1982. The special policy covers 80% of loss.

As the New Yorker piece duly notes, much of the substance, if not the granular detail, of the ethical cloud that trails behind the Grand Inquisitor was brought to light by reporters like Lance Williams and Eric Lichtblau during Issa’s failed bids for statewide office in 1998 and 2003.

“Issa seemed tired of defending himself from these old stories,” Lizza reports.

We just bet he did.