Darrell Issa: Chairman of the Committee that Investigates

… to (maybe) be investigated.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is the go-to-guy for scrutiny of the White House. A government watchdog group filed a complaint alleging he has improperly used his position to his financial advantage with the House Office of Congressional Ethics on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

A New Yorker profile of Issa published in January explored the Congressman’s past legal troubles. Lizza noted that Issa did not like to discuss his past and seemed frustrated by the attention being drawn to it.

“Fast and Furious” was the first big case Issa’s committee took up. It’s dragged on for months already and doesn’t appear likely to end very soon. The temporary head of the ATF resigned because of this scandal but Issa is convinced people higher up had to know about it or, if they didn’t, they’re incompetent. For more on the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunner furor, the Washington Post created an elegant graphic detailing the progress of the scandal and how it has progressed.

Now, what does this have to do with the ethics charges being leveled at Issa? If you’re John Hinderaker of PowerLine, it’s all part of the continuing liberal conspiracy to discredit Issa. Issa’s spokesperson has also said the accusations are part of the White House’s smear campaign. The “ethics complaints” started with ThinkProgress, were picked up by the New York Times and were then cited by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in their complaint.

Now, the New York Times piece about the interweaving of Issa’s business concerns and government office was not an excellent piece of journalism. In fact, the reporter who wrote the piece, Eric Lichtblau, was mentioned in the New Yorker profile.

Issa told me that he did not set the fire at the Quantum factory in 1982, and he is furious that the story has dogged him. He lashed out at Eric Lichtblau, the New York Times reporter who, in 1998, while working for the Los Angeles Times, first aired allegations from Issa’s former business partner Joey Adkins. Lichtblau, Issa charged, “is a notorious hatchet man.” (“Everything in that story was accurate,” Lichtblau told me in response. “The picture that emerged of his early start in Cleveland was very different from the Horatio Alger story he had adopted.”)

Hinderaker points out that the piece had multiple factual errors, some of which the Times corrected and some which it has refused to correct. The one the Times corrected most quickly was a one-letter but rather important difference between “multimillion” and “multibillion-dollar.” They also corrected information based on an incorrect IRS filing by Issa’s family foundation and the price at which Issa bought a medical complex which his earmarks for highway development will increase the value of. Actually, they had to correct that price twice because of a typo – so four corrections total.

Issa’s office wanted more corrections than that, of course, and seem to have some good points. Like this one about the Toyota hearings:

The allegation that Rep. Issa “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings because of “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota” is again an example of a factual error in the Times story that lends no support to the story’s central premise. While the Times story tells readers that Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is a “major supplier of alarms to Toyota,” the story offers no evidence, and Directed Electronics is, in fact, not a supplier to Toyota. The New York Times also fails to note that Rep. Issa does not have a personal financial interest in Directed Electronics.

And there are a number of generalizations based on the inaccurate statements that were corrected by the New York Times that were not revised in the story after the corrections were issued. Hinderaker points out, disgustedly, the way a group he describes as “liberal” is basing its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics on a discredited “hit piece.”

If these allegations of ethical wrongdoing are baseless, then the office will just let them drop and not pass them on to the Ethics Committee, which actually investigates these things.

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