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Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa 117th Congress.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
Assumed office
January 3, 2021
Preceded by Duncan D. Hunter
Constituency 50th district (2021–2023)
48th district (2023–present)
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by Ron Packard
Succeeded by Mike Levin
Constituency 48th district (2001–2003)
49th district (2003–2019)
Chair of the House Oversight Committee
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Edolphus Towns
Succeeded by Jason Chaffetz
Personal details
Born
Darrell Edward Issa

(1953-11-01) November 1, 1953 (age 70)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouses
Marcia Enyart
(divorced)
Kathy Stanton
(m. 1980; div. 2021)
Children 1
Residences Vista, California, U.S.
Education Siena Heights University (BA)
Signature Darrell Issa
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1970–1972
1976–1980
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain

Darrell Edward Issa (/ˈsə/ ICE; born November 1, 1953) is an American businessman and politician serving as the U.S. representative for California's 48th congressional district. He represented the 50th congressional district from 2021 to 2023. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2019, representing two districts primarily covering North County in the San Diego area, first the 48th district for one term and then the 49th district for eight terms. From January 2011 to January 2015, he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issa served as CEO of Directed Electronics, which he co-founded in 1982. It is one of the largest makers of automobile aftermarket security and convenience products in the United States. With a net worth of approximately $460 million, Issa is the wealthiest serving member of Congress as of 2023.

On January 10, 2018, Issa announced that he would not seek reelection to the House. Democrat Mike Levin was elected on November 6, 2018, to become the district's next representative. On September 19, 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Issa to be director of the United States Trade and Development Agency.

On September 26, 2019, Issa announced that he was running for California's 50th congressional district in the 2020 election. He placed second in the March top-two primary, advancing to face Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in the November general election. Issa defeated Campa-Najjar.

Early life, education, and military service

The second of six children, Issa was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Martha (née Bielfelt) and William Issa, who sold trucks and ground valves. His father was the son of Lebanese Christian immigrants, and a member of the Maronite Catholic faith. His mother is of German and Bohemian (Czech) descent and a Latter-day Saint.

During his childhood, the large family moved to a three-bedroom house in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cleveland Heights. Many of Issa's friends were Jewish, and he reportedly worked for a rabbi at one point. He became very familiar with Jewish culture.

In 1970, on his 17th birthday, Issa dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army. He became an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician assigned to the 145th Ordnance Detachment. Trained to defuse bombs, Issa has said that his unit provided security for President Richard Nixon, sweeping stadiums for bombs before games in the 1971 World Series. A May 1998 investigation by Lance Williams of the San Francisco Examiner found that Nixon had not attended any 1971 World Series games, but that Issa's unit did perform security sweeps during the series. First Lady Pat Nixon was present at Game 2 of the series, where she threw the first pitch. After the series, Issa was transferred to a supply depot, a result of receiving poor ratings.

Issa received a hardship discharge from the Army in 1972 after his father suffered a heart attack, After that, he earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Twice that year, Issa was arrested. In the first incident, a grand jury indicted him for theft of a Maserati, in a complicated scheme with his brother William, but prosecutors dropped the charge. In the second incident, he was stopped for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and a police officer noticed a firearm in his car's glove compartment; Issa was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. He pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm and was sentenced to six months' probation and a small fine. Issa has said he believes the record has since been expunged.

Issa majored in business administration at Siena Heights University, a small Roman Catholic college in Adrian, Michigan, completing his degree at the Stark campus of Kent State University. While at Kent State, he enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps; at graduation he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Issa served in the Army Reserve from 1976 to 1980, and was promoted to captain. From September 9–26, 1980, Issa served on active duty while training with the 1/77th Armor Battalion as an Assistant S-1. His evaluation report, by then-Lt. Col. Wesley Clark, read, "This officer's performance far exceeded that of any other reserve officer who has worked in the battalion" and "Promote ahead of contemporaries. Unlimited potential."

Shortly before his discharge from the Army in 1980, Issa was again indicted for grand theft auto. The prosecution dropped the case in August 1980. In 1981, Issa was in a car crash. The other motorist sued him for $20,000; they eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Business career

Quantum/Steal Stopper

After leaving the military, Issa and his second wife, Kathy Stanton, returned to the Cleveland area. According to Issa, he and his wife pooled their savings, sold their cars (a 1976 Mercedes and a 1967 VW Beetle) and a BMW motorcycle, and borrowed $50,000 from family members to invest in Quantum Enterprises, an electronics manufacturer run by a friend from Cleveland Heights. It assembled bug zappers, CB radio parts, and other consumer products for other companies. One of those clients, car alarm manufacturer Steal Stopper, became the path to Issa's fortune. It was struggling badly, and he took control of it by foreclosing a $60,000 loan he had made to it when its founder, Joey Adkins, missed a payment. Adkins remained as an employee.

Issa soon turned Steal Stopper around, to the point that it was supplying Ford with thousands of car alarms and negotiating a similar deal with Toyota. Early in the morning of September 7, 1982, Quantum and Steal Stopper's offices and factory in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights caught fire. The fire took three hours to put out. The buildings and almost all the inventory within were destroyed. An investigation of the fire noted "suspicious burn patterns" with fires starting in two places aided by an accelerant such as gasoline.

Adkins said Issa had appeared to prepare for a fire by increasing the fire insurance policy by 462% three weeks earlier, and by removing computer equipment containing accounting and customer information. St. Paul Insurance, suspicious of arson and insurance fraud, initially paid only $25,000, according to Issa.

Directed Electronics

Steal Stopper soon returned a profit again. As car theft rose in the U.S. during the 1980s, so did the demand for security devices. Rolls-Royce, BMW, and General Motors joined Ford and Toyota as customers of Steal Stopper. In 1985, Issa sold the company to a California-based maker of home alarms, and moved to the San Diego suburb of Vista, to work for the company.

Shortly afterward, Issa left to start Directed Electronics, Inc. (DEI). He has continued to live in Vista. Issa used his knowledge of the weaknesses in automotive security to develop effective theft deterrents. Using sensors that, when armed, would detect motion and pressure on the car's body, his device made loud noise to draw attention to a would-be car thief, such as the car's horn honking or a speaker playing a recording with Issa's voice saying: "Protected by Viper. Stand back" and "Please step away from the car", warnings for DEI's signature product, the Viper car alarm. Sales grew from $1 million in the company's first year to $14 million by 1989.

Greene Properties

Issa is partner in 17 limited partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs) that own commercial properties across North San Diego County. He is CEO of Greene Properties, Inc., a privately held real estate investment company with commercial real estate holdings in San Diego North County. Headquartered in Vista, it manages three commercial office buildings in Carlsbad with a total of 26,354 square feet. Employees include his wife and son William "Will" Issa as assistant property manager. The office is in the same building as Issa's former congressional office, near their house of the last 20 years.

Early political career

Activism

Active in consumer-electronics trade organizations, Issa became more directly involved in politics. He went to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress and later became one of California's biggest individual campaign contributors to Republican candidates. In 1996, he chaired the successful campaign to pass California Proposition 209, a ballot initiative that prohibited Californian public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in public employment, public contracting, or public education. He was instrumental in persuading the national Republican Party to hold its 1996 convention in San Diego.

1998 U.S. Senate election

Issa's first campaign for elected office was in 1998, when he sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate to face incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He spent $10 million of his own money in the primary, running against California State Treasurer Matt Fong, Congressman Frank Riggs, and three others. Fong's campaign raised $3 million from contributions and complained that Issa's wealth made for an uneven playing field (Issa received only $400,000 in contributions from others). An Issa spokesman countered that the money was needed to compensate for Fong's statewide name recognition. Issa lost to Fong, 45% to 40%; Riggs got 10% of the vote. A San Francisco exit poll suggested large numbers of Asian Americans, who typically vote in the Democratic primary, had crossed party lines to strategically vote for Fong.

U.S. House of Representatives

Dick Cheney and Darrell Issa
Issa with Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001
President George W Bush delivers remarks before signing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008
Issa watches President George W. Bush deliver remarks before signing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Tenure

Oversight committee

After the 2010 elections, Issa became chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was a vocal advocate for investigations into the Obama administration, including the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, corruption in Afghanistan, WikiLeaks, and the Food and Drug Administration, among other topics.

Legislation

In 2013 Issa introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013 (H.R. 2061; 113th Congress). H.R. 2061 aimed to make information on federal expenditures more easily available, accessible, and transparent. President Obama signed the bill into law on May 9, 2014.

Issa introduced the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014 (H.R. 1211; 113th Congress) on March 15, 2013, a bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act in order to make it easier and faster to request and receive information. The bill would have required the Office of Management and Budget to create a single FOIA website for people to use to make FOIA requests and check on the status of their request. It would also have created a Chief FOIA Officers Council charged with reviewing compliance and recommending improvements, and required the federal agency to release the information it disclosed to the person who requested it publicly afterward.

Issa argued in favor of the bill because it "shifts the burden of proof from the public requestor seeking information about a government agency...to the government being open and transparent unless it has a good reason to withhold." The bill passed the House unanimously on February 25, 2014, but a nearly identical Senate bill failed when it was tabled by House Speaker John Boehner.

Issa introduced the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 1232; 113th Congress) on March 18, 2013, to make changes and reforms to the framework that manages how the federal government buys new technology. One of the requirements would be that the government develop a streamlined plan for its acquisitions. The bill would increase the power of federal agencies' chief information officers (CIO) so that they could be more effective.

Each agency would also be reduced to having only one CIO, who would be responsible for the success and failure of the agency's IT projects. The bill would also require the federal government to make use of private sector best practices. The bill was intended to reduce IT procurement-related waste. It passed the House in a voice vote on February 25, 2014. In December 2014 it passed as a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Issa also introduced and co-sponsored The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (Pub.L. 113–283, S. 2521; commonly referred to as FISMA Reform), which Obama signed into law on December 18, 2014.

On May 7, 2014, Issa introduced a simple resolution in the House (which passed 231 - 187): Recommending that the House of Representatives find Lois G. Lerner, former Director, Exempt Organizations, Internal Revenue Service, in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The resolution holds Lois Lerner, one of the central Internal Revenue Service officials involved in the 2013 IRS scandal, in contempt of Congress for her refusal to testify about the scandal before Issa's committee in response to a subpoena.

In July 2017, Issa introduced the CLASSICS Act to Congress in a bipartisan effort to empower artists by collecting royalties for the preceding three-year period and also by ensuring their creative rights remain in force for pre-1972 recordings just as newer artists are guaranteed by current legislation. Issa has been a consistent cosponsor of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act as well; granting radio performance rights for musicians and record producers.

Bombing plot

In 2001, Issa's San Clemente district office was targeted in an aborted bombing plot. Jewish Defense League leader Irving Rubin was arrested along with Earl Krugel in connection with the plot, which reportedly had focused on other targets before shifting to Issa's office. Issa speculated that the cause of the incident may have been a column written by political commentator Debbie Schlussel in which she charged that Issa sympathized with Hezbollah despite its being listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, charges he denied.

Ethics complaints and 2010 award

In September 2011, a liberal advocacy and lobbying group, American Family Voices, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Issa, alleging he had repeatedly used his position of authority on the Oversight Committee to improperly intervene in dealings with Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and DEI Holdings, all of which Issa is associated with in some way. Issa's office rejected the allegations.

The year before, the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, gave Issa its Good Government Award for his contributions to government oversight and transparency. These included publicizing documents produced by the New York Federal Reserve Bank in response to a congressional subpoena, publicly exposing the NYFR's secret "back-door bailout" of AIG's counterparties, and cofounding a Transparency Caucus dedicated to "promoting a more open and accountable government through education, legislation, and oversight." In 2012 Issa featured in TechCrunch's list of "The 20 Most Innovative People in Democracy."

In late February 2021, Issa and a dozen other Republican House members skipped votes and enlisted others to vote for them, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while actually attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held at the same time as their slated absences. In response, the Campaign for Accountability, an ethics watchdog group, filed a complaint with the House Committee on Ethics and requested an investigation into Issa and the other lawmakers.

Committee assignments

For the 118th Congress:

  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Europe
    • Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability
  • Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
    • Subcommittee on Research and Technology
    • Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
  • Committee on the Judiciary
    • Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet (chairman)
    • Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust
  • Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Constitution Caucus
  • Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus
  • Climate Solutions Caucus
  • Freedom Caucus
  • Congressional Armenian Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee

Political positions

Issa voted with the majority of House Republicans 95% of the time during the 111th Congress.

Civil rights

Issa voted against an amendment, which ultimately failed narrowly, that stated that religious corporations, associations and institutions that receive federal contracts cannot be discriminated against on the basis of religion. Democrats warn that such a provision could potentially allow discrimination against the LGBT community in the name of religious freedom.

Environment

Before the 2010 election, Issa pledged that, if elected, he would probe "Climategate", which refers to the hacked Climatic Research Unit emails that climate change denialists falsely asserted showed scientific misconduct and fraud by climate scientists. He called Obama's unwillingness to investigate Climategate "unconscionable" and an abdication of responsibility.

Foreign and defense policy

In 2001, Issa voted for the authorization of the PATRIOT Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. He voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in 2005 after successfully amending it to require judicial notification, reporting requirements and facts justifying the use of roving surveillance at new facilities or places.

Issa is one of several Lebanese-Americans in Congress. He had a significant role in U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East. He traveled to Lebanon and Syria in an effort to negotiate the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. In 2003, he appeared at a Washington rally by Iranian groups protesting against the Islamist government in Iran.

In March 2015, Issa supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, saying, "We must make it clear that we will support our allies and punish our enemies through steadfast resolve and decisive action."

In June 2021, Issa was one of 49 House Republicans to vote to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (AUMF) against Iraq.

Health care

Issa favors repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and voted in support of the budget resolution to repeal it in January 2017.

On May 4, 2017, Issa voted to repeal Obamacare and pass the American Health Care Act.

Science

Issa supports embryonic stem cell research and has voted to allow it.

He co-sponsored both the 2008 and 2009 versions of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act and sponsored the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) introduced in 2011, all of which aim at a reversal of the NIH's Public Access Policy, which mandates open access to NIH-funded research.

Tax reform

Issa voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. He was one of two California Republicans to vote against the bill, alongside Dana Rohrabacher. Issa expressed concern that "many" of his constituents would face increased taxes under the proposal and that "Californians have entrusted me to fight for them. I will not make the incredible tax burden they already endure even worse."

Technology

Issa opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act because of the amount of discretion it would give the Department of Justice.

Personal life

In the 1970s, Issa married his high school sweetheart, Marcia Enyart. They eventually divorced. After he left the military, Issa married Kathy Stanton. The two met while neighbors, when Stanton locked her keys inside her apartment and Issa climbed up the balcony to get into her apartment. They were married in 1980 and had one son. In July 2018 he filed for divorce from Kathy, and their divorce became final in March 2021.

See also

  • List of richest American politicians
  • List of Arab and Middle Eastern Americans in the United States Congress
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