Issa's House of glass

When U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., took over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, he was famously dubbed the Obama administration's "annoyer-in-chief." Issa called the Obama administration the most corrupt in history and promised that investigations he was planning over the next two years would save American taxpayers $200 million.

The adage — "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" — comes to mind in the wake of a New York Times front page exposé of Issa's own questionable activities involving the commingling of his business and government life.

One of the richest men in Congress, Issa has frequently participated in government actions that directly benefit his far-flung business interests, the Times reports. For example, he helped arrange a federal earmark for $800,000 worth of roadwork near a medical plaza he owns north of San Diego that enhanced traffic flow and the property's value.

Issa strongly objected to the government's role in encouraging Bank of America to purchase Merrill Lynch during the 2008 financial crisis without disclosing that he had been immersed in business deals with Merrill Lynch involving hundreds of millions of dollars. At a 2008 House hearing into a proposed merger of two satellite radio companies, Issa praised the proposal without mentioning that an electronics firm he owns was involved in a lucrative deal with one of the companies.

On his congressional website, Issa calls the New York Times article a "hit job" riddled with factual errors. The Times has corrected one mistake. The newspaper says it "misstated the worth of companies involved in his (Issa's) splitting up of a holding company."

But the larger substance of the article has not been challenged. That is — Issa continues to run his expansive business empire while also serving as a member of Congress. Other congressmen with similar wealth have put their holdings into blind trusts to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Issa has not. That raises obvious questions of conflict. It's impossible to know when Issa's official actions are intended to benefit the American people, his constituents or his own narrow self-interest.

In addition, given the extent of his involvement in his private business, his ability to devote sufficient attention or energy to his congressional duties is called into question.

After all, serving in Congress is supposed to be a full-time job.

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