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Issa's Earmarks Questioned

Lake Elsinore and Wildomar's congressman bought property where earmarks he requested would likely improve property values.

A liberal political action group demanded Lake Elsinore and Wildomar’s congressman pay for allegedly misused taxpayer dollars.

The Courage Campaign, a group mostly dedicated to gay rights, published a demand that Darrell Issa, R-Vista, give $815,000 he requested in earmarks back to taxpayers.

This was in response to an investigation published on the political blog “Think Progress” by the American Progress Action Fund. It found Issa bought property whose value would likely appreciate due to the earmark requests. 

“At a time when middle-class families struggle to make ends meet, and our government plans draconian cuts to programs that help the most vulnerable, it is outrageous for the wealthiest man in the U.S. House to line his pockets at taxpayer expense,” said Rick Jacobs, the Courage Campaign’s chairman in an emailed statement. “Darrell Issa should lead the effort to reduce waste, fraud and abuse by reimbursing taxpayers for the $815,000 in federal earmarks that enrich his family business.”

Issa is the richest man in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a net worth of more than $450 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Issa’s family’s business, Viper LLC, bought a commercial property at 2067 West Vista Way in his hometown of Vista in 2008, according to Lee and Associates, the property’s seller. A few months after the purchase, Issa requested $815,000 in earmarks to improve the neighborhood around the property, according to Think Progress.

The earmarks aimed to widen Vista Way, build bus stops, parking lots and improve sewer and utility systems, the group said.

Think Progress’ accusations are false, said Issa’s spokesperson, Frederick Hill. “Think Progress used false information to try and make a big deal out of a non-issue,” he said.

Issa requested the earmarks before he bought the property, not after, he said. The congressman bought the building in October 2008, according to the seller, but he stopped making earmark requests in March 2008, Issa announced on his website.

Also, Issa pledged to make earmark requests only if the City Council passes a resolution supporting the request, he said. The City of Vista passed a resolution in 2008 to that effect. Read the resolution by clicking here.

The San Diego Association of Governments made a similar request in 2008, which can be read byclicking here.

Issa made the requests despite publicly denouncing earmarks, said Todd Stenhouse, a spokesperson for the Courage Campaign. “It is the highest form of hypocracy,” he said.

The congressman wrote a letter to House republicans bemoaning how easily earmarks can be abused and asking his colleagues to make their earmark requests public. Read the letter by clicking here.

“Here you have somebody who said earmarks are tantamount to bribes, then you have him purchasing a $16.5 million property smack-dab in the middle of his last earmark,” Stanhouse said. “The simple fact is, this is going to fatten his already bulging wallet.”

George Cambero April 11, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Darrell Issa, should be protecting our best interest however he is doing what most career politicians do they used their politically power and inside konowledge to buy distress properties and then do like Issa did request for $ 815,000 to make improvements to the sorrounding area where he purchase the property to improve property prices make a profit at our expense....
William Horn April 11, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Earmarks are one reason our budget is so out of whack. Partisan politics on steroids. It's time for reform. Here's what I'd like to see. First, TERM LIMITS, 4 terms for the House, 2 terms for the Senate. Next, if any warriors, air land or sea, are put in harms way, every congressman's eligible children, grandchildren, son's-in-laws, daughter's-in-law, and other physically fit blood relatives are immediately conscripted into the military, trained and sent to that location, no exceptions. For the most part, congressmen are not patriots and they need to be shown the way by the voters. Issa and I see eye-to-eye on many issues, but his actions often don't match his words. He should be shown the door next election, regardless of his status in Congress. Finally, if a Congressman is convicted of any felony, out the door you go - no deals.

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