Why Isn’t Darrell Issa In Jail?


issa1As we watch U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, whom Calbuzz first got to know during the 1998 Republican primary for U.S. Senate (won by Matt Fong, who later lost to Sen. Barbara Boxer), we keep wondering why our colleagues in the Washington press corps have not figured out the truth about this guy: he’s a thug.

Having landed by hook and by crook as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he has used his position to investigate the Obama administration’s every move from Benghazi to Cincinnati, coming up empty at every turn and, along the way, embarrassing himself, the Republican caucus, the House of Representatives and, oh yeah, the state of California.

Issa is a wealthy bully and proven liar with a checkered personal history featuring criminal and civil legal proceedings that involve car thefts, concealed weapons charges and allegations of insurance arson, among his other sterling qualifications for high office.  A reasonable man might imagine a less wealthy person perched in Stony Lonesome rather than on the dais of a prestigious and powerful congressional committee.

None of Issa’s past, um, indiscretions are a secret, at least since May 1998, when Lance Williams, then of the San Francisco Examiner, began reporting on the guy. Given that his shady past was admirably re-collated by Ryan Lizza in a 2011 New Yorker profile, Issa’s lies and prominent roles in a long train of extra-legal abuses should be well known to esteemed Washington press hounds who spend their days smooching his expensively draped derriere.

Cliff’s Notes rap sheet: Here’s a compilation of Issa’s dealings, lifting from Lizza’s  New Yorker profile, titled “Don’t Look Back,” which borrowed from Lance Williams’s reporting, which itself leaned on Ace Smith’s 1998 opposition research.

nixon— He lied to San Diego Union Tribune that his army unit had provided security of Richard Nixon at the 1971 Pirates-Orioles World Series; Nixon never attended the series.

— He lied that he had won Inc.’s national Entrepreneur of the Year award; he won a regional prize in San Diego and was one of a few hundred nominees for the national award.

— He lied that he had received “the highest possible ratings” while in the Army; at one point he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.”

— In 1971, he stole Jay Bergey’s yellow Dodge Charger which was found abandoned on a highway after Bergey confronted and threatened Issa. No charges were filed.

— On March 15, 1972, 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, on December 1, 1972, two police officers on patrol in the small town of Adrian, Ohio, stopped Issa driving a yellow Volkswagen the wrong way down a one-way street and 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. 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.

maserati— According to court records, on December 28, 1979, brother William Issa sold Darrell’s red 1976 Mercedes sedan to Smythe European Motors, in San Jose for $16,000. Soon afterward, Darrell reported the car stolen from the Monterey airport. He later told the police that he had left the title in the trunk. The brothers were indicted for grand theft. Darrell argued that he had no knowledge of William’s activities; William claimed that his brother had authorized him to sell the car, and he produced a document dated a few weeks before the robbery that gave him power of attorney over his brother’s affairs. On February 15th, with the investigation ongoing, Darrell returned to the San Jose dealership and repurchased his car, for $17,000. In August, 1980, the prosecution dropped the case.

— In January, 1981, at an intersection in Cleveland, Issa crashed a truck into a 1959 Thunderbird Classic driven by Juanita Martin, 44. According to court documents, Issa told her that he did not have time to wait for the police and left the scene. Martin ended up in the emergency room the next day with neck and back pain that she said caused “permanent damage.” A month later, she sued Issa for $20,000; they settled for an undisclosed amount.

Arson_t607— At about 2:30 am, September 7, 1982, Issa’s Quantum and Steal Stopper office went up in flames. A fire-analysis report commissioned by the St. Paul insurance company, and dated October 19, 1982, a month after the incident, concluded that the fire was “incendiary.” The report cited “suspicious burn patterns,” such as “two separate major areas of origin,” and it said, “No accidental source of heating power was located at either of these two major areas of origin.” The manner in which stacks of cardboard boxes burned was inconsistent with an accidental fire. A flammable liquid appeared to have been poured over the boxes. The blue flames seen emanating from the roof were evidence, according to the investigators, of burning carbon monoxide that is produced when an accelerant like gasoline ignites. The black smoke was also a clue. “Such black smoke normally occurs in a fire only when a hydrocarbon is burning,” the report said. When investigators tested burn damage from inside the factory, they found “the same identical mixture of flammable hydrocarbons” in four samples taken from diverse locations.

On Sept 20, 1982, in an interview with an insurance investigator, Joey Adkins, the former owner of Steal Stopper, said Issa had 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.”

The Ohio state fire marshal never determined the cause of the fire and no one was ever charged with a crime. According to Issa, St. Paul paid Quantum twenty-five thousand dollars, but refused to pay his claim for the Steal Stopper inventory. Issa sued St. Paul for a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and the two parties eventually settled out of court for about twenty thousand dollars.

(Ours is a measured compilation. For a more colorful rendition, check here.) So the next time you see Rep. Darrell Issa on “Meet the Press” or Fox News or any other national media outlet, you might wonder in a quiet moment, “Why is this man not in jail?”

sam-sheppard-mugshot_480x480Iconic, post-ironic headline history: As all Calbuzz news junkies of a certain age will instantly recall, that thought, as memorialized in today’s headline, is a journalistic tribute to one of the more famous Page One screamers of all time: “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?”

It was Fourth of July weekend of 1954, when Marilyn Sheppard, the elegant wife of the wealthy Dr. Sam Sheppard, was brutally murdered in the couple’s bedroom in the high-end Northeast Ohio suburb of Bay Village. Working at warp speed, and with a massive assist from what would now be called “the local media,” Cleveland cops, prosecutors and judges railroaded convicted Sheppard on a life sentence that lasted only 10 years before the Supreme Court tossed it, in large part because of what they called “the carnival atmosphere” of his arrest and trial as fomented by the gentlemen and (very few) ladies of the press.

Exhibits A, B, Z and ZZZ in the Supremes’ decision were culled from the columns of the now defunct Cleveland Press, a fiercely aggressive afternoon paper which printed 399 pieces on the case in six months, and which shaped public opinion and pressured local law enforcement types in the days immediately after the sensational killing with a relentless drumbeat of Page One editorials sporting headlines like, “Getting Away with Murder,” “Why Don’t Police Quiz Top Suspect?” and, most infamously, “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard In Jail?”

At least one future Calbuzzer, despite his tender years at the time, has a clear recollection of  “The Press,” festooned with that bold, black hedder, landing on the apartment stoop around 4 p.m. on Friday, July 30, about six hours before Cleveland’s finest followed the newspaper’s calm and reasoned argument and hauled the man — whom the copy desk invariably referred to as “Dr. Sam” — down to the hoosegow. (Speaking of copy editors and other nit-pickers, we hasten to add that the headline was changed in post-home delivery editions to read, “Quit Stalling — Bring Him In”.)

So, 59 years later, we appropriate that headline, in a post-ironic usage of aesthetic homage, in celebration of America’s extraordinary press freedoms, no matter how abused, because we are nothing if not post-ironic guys. Your mileage may vary.

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There are 18 comments for this post

  1. avatar Sideline says:

    Darrell Issa should be questioned about his handling of the IRS matter every single time he appears in public. Were I a member of the media who had been duped into printing Issa’s cherry-pickin’s, I would need a good editor to restrain my sense of vengeance in going after the SOB for lying to me, and subjecting me to the humiliation of seeing his lies reprinted under my byline. But that’s just me, I suppose.

    Ironic that the Right so often laments the alleged bias of the media, even when it is those major media outlets that act as the happy bullhorn for the spin, fakery and outright lies of the Right, while burying later discovered truths among the opinion pages and filler.

  2. avatar tedhumphreville says:

    Nice character assassination. How come the FBI is doing such a poor job of investigating the IRS scandal? We’ll probably need a special counsel it’s so bad. Find every last one in the IRS and White House in this scandal. If Issa finds facts, then fine. But let’s focus on the important question. I get so tired of this character assassination. Probably pretty standard for the left these days. Common and predictable by these writers.

  3. avatar tedhumphreville says:

    I want a thorough investigation, Steve. No targeting? Are we looking at the same facts? All I want is a thorough investigation sparing no one.
    This article is a typical hit piece.

    I’m a tax accountant and have been following this closely.
    What’s funny is how liberals deny it.
    it’s quite a phenomena.

    Oh yeah, it’s going to taint the IRS for years.

    Again all I want is a thorough investigation.
    It points to Washington.

    • avatar TheOtherJim says:

      Ted — I guess you’re not looking at the same facts, which might be because Issa suppresses anything not favorable to his narrative. The IRS attempted to find a way to identify all political groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, and assembled a list of words (the BOLA list) that might aid them. This list included words associated with conservative groups and words associated with progressive groups. It was completely apolitical, even though the director of the office was a Bush appointee. Since the IRS is underfunded and understaffed — a direct result of Republican control of the House — they really didn’t have the time to deal with the flood of applicants.

      Bear in mind that any group that intends to influence elections is not eligible for tax-exempt status. This amounts to a subsidy from those who actually pay taxes which you, as a tax accountant, should know.

      So the real scandal here is that a woefully underfunded IRS attempted to find a shortcut to help them deal with a torrent of paperwork. A secondary scandal is that these groups did not know that they didn’t have to apply for 501(c)(4) status; all they had to do was claim it. The only issue here would be their application for tax-exempt status, and it is doubtful that most of these groups — whether tea party or progressive or an offshoot of the “occupy” movement — qualified, under the law, for this.

      So what, exactly, is it that you want investigated?

  4. avatar JohnF says:

    Ted, it is not character assassination if it is true. While the above news is not new, it needs to be broadcast to the voters of Northern San Diego (where I lived for 21 years) before the next election. Darrell Issa is living proof that as Leo Durocher used to say, “Nice guys finish Last” and lousy people with no morals can finish first.
    The IRS no-sandal happened because bureaucrats were forced to interpret lousy laws passed by Congress. By the way, liberal and progressive groups were targeted as often as conservative groups, hardly unfair.

  5. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Ted, all of the Issa brushes with the law outlined above really happened. They’re on the record. That’s not “character assassination,” that’s a simple recitation of the truth. Funny how right wingers such as you, when presented with the facts, scream that the fact-bringers are somehow biased.
    It’s kind of like Harry Truman’s ancient wisecrack. When he was campaigning for president in 1948, he was speaking from the back of his campaign train, and a member of the audience hollered “Give ’em (Republicans) hell, Harry!” Truman replied, “I’m not giving them hell — I’m telling the truth, and they think it’s hell.”

  6. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Good question. The answer seems to be that he bought his way out of trouble more than a few times. A better question is, “Why does anybody ever vote for this man?”

  7. avatar AlexFos says:

    Seems like a bunch of senseless talk and a lot of work which amounts to nothing. He wasn’t found guilty! Conversation is moot! Double jeopardy. So why are we going on like a bunch of senseless fools?

    Gee lets talk about Diane Feinstein who’s husband seems to benefit from everything she does. Isn’t there a law against that? Called conflict of interest? She passes bills, his company gets the work. How convenient! Lets discuss the real reason why the water was turned off and farmers lost their farms in central, CA. Drive the value of the property down. Then their rich friends come along and buy the land for nothing. Or how about a high speed rail that’s being built in the middle of no where? Merced to Bakersfield? Wow we really need a bullet train and we really need to spend the millions on a bullet train? Look Amtrack and the Post Office. Name one thing the Gov does will and doesn’t bankrupt? The millions that will be spent, only to benefit UNION EMPLOYEES! yeah lets talk about the real criminals, shall we?

    LMBO, this was a real joke of story!

  8. avatar JohnF says:

    Alex, have you ever lived in Central California? Do you know anything about their water practices? the Westlands Water District (owned by farmers by the way) sells most of their water to the residents of Los Angles and then complains about a lack of water for farming. The farmers have known for years that this coming, but they thought their political power in both Sacramento and Washington would get them out of this. The drought proved stronger than their political power. Could not get the taxpayer subsidized water to water their cotton plants and honor their contracts to LA. They decided to honor the contracts to LA and bitch about the lack of water. I do not feel sorry for the farmers. Some of them live on North Van Ness ave in Fresno ( a great wealthy neighborhood), others live in Beverly Hills. Hard to feel sorry for them.

    • avatar Sideline says:

      True… In fact, even former Democratic “Gang of Five” member Rusty Areias sold his valley farm’s water to the southland, to be used to hose down driveways and fill swimming pools while the rest of us schmucks were putting bricks in our toilet tanks. And, please, introduce me to some of these small family farmers–I’d like to meet them. When I was a kid growing up in Fresno, our family knew some. We cut grapes in some of their vineyards. They are gone, gone, gone.

    • avatar cawaterguy says:

      Sorry Alex, but those farmers living in Beverly Hills (the Resnicks) that John describes are big Feinstein supporters. Feinstein did everything to get the water exports back to normal levels. You could more argue that Feinstein is in ag’s pocket than you could argue she’s trying to hurt them.

  9. avatar cawaterguy says:

    I think we’re going to see another pretty much identical post on Issa in about 2-3 years. He should be in jail but politics/life isn’t a fairy tale.

    • avatar AlexFos says:

      So you all are screaming over a few farmers who made money on the sell of their property. Well I met plenty of those farmers and that’s a damn lie, not all of them benefiting and no your wrong. Its the liberals screaming about the have’s and the have nots!! There are whistle blowers popping up left and right telling the truth about whats happening with the water, the damns etc. I’ve got a personal friend who works for DWP, so save the BS for someone else. I don’t watch your CNN or spun CBS lame news media! You want the truth go to the source and that’s exactly what I did!


      Give me one piece of evidence where Feinstein tried to get the water back on and all the pumps working. Pathetic folks pathetic…


  10. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Alex, go to your kitchen sink right now. Wet some cloths. Apply them to your forehead. Lie down until it passes.

  11. avatar JohnF says:

    Thank you pjhackenflack for the update. Alex, I need to agree with Chuck, here, calm talk and answer the questions or comments directly relating to the water situation that we talking about. Yes the farmers sold their water to LA and I am not complaining about that. I am complaining that they are trying to have their cake and eat it too, when the water supplies run tight. It is their problem, don’t blame us for selling the water to LA. Your other comments about CNN or DWP are not part of the conversation or problem. Stick to the issues.

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