|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Duncan D. Hunter|
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|
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Edolphus Towns|
|Succeeded by||Jason Chaffetz|
Darrell Edward Issa
November 1, 1953
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Education||Siena Heights University (BA)|
|Net worth||$436.5 millon (est. 2014)|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1970–1972|
Darrell Edward Issa (// ICE-ə; born November 1, 1953) is an American businessman and politician who is the U.S. Representative for California's 50th congressional district. 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, most recently California's 49th congressional district. From January 2011 to January 2015, he served as Chairman of 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 $250 million, Issa during his tenure was the wealthiest serving member of Congress.
Issa announced on January 10, 2018, that he would not seek reelection for his House seat. 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 2020 top-two primary, advancing to face Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in the November 2020 general election. Issa defeated Campa-Najjar in November 2020.
Early life, education and military service
Issa, the second of six children, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Martha (née Bielfelt) and William Issa, who sold trucks and ground valves. His father was a Lebanese American of the Maronite Catholic faith and his mother is of German and Bohemian (Czech) descent and a Latter-day Saint. In 2006, he was one of four Arab-American members of Congress.
The family moved to the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cleveland Heights in the later years of his childhood. Many of his friends were Jewish, and Issa 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 for three years in the Army. He became an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician assigned to the 145th Ordnance Detachment. Trained to defuse bombs, Issa stated that his unit provided security for President Richard Nixon, sweeping stadiums for bombs prior to 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 of 1971 World Series games, but that Issa's unit did perform security sweeps during the series. However, First Lady Pat Nixon was present at Game 2 of the 1971 World Series, throwing the first pitch. After the series, Issa was transferred to a supply depot, a result of receiving poor ratings.
Twice that year, he was arrested. In the first incident, he was indicted by a grand jury for an alleged theft of a Maserati, 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 glove compartment; Issa was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. He pleaded guilty to a charge of 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, followed by Stark branch campus of Kent State University, where he enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in the Army Reserve from 1976 to 1980 and was promoted to the rank of 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, stated "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 Issa for $20,000; they eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
After leaving the military, Issa and his second wife, Kathy Stanton, moved back 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) as well as 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 that assembled bug zappers, CB radio parts, and other consumer products for other companies. One of those clients, car alarm manufacturer Steal Stopper, would become 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. But early in the morning of September 7, 1982, the offices and factory of Quantum and Steal Stopper 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 cause of the fire noted "suspicious burn patterns" with fires starting in two places aided by an accelerant such as gasoline.
Adkins said Issa appeared to prepare for a fire by increasing the fire insurance policy by 462% three weeks previously, and by removing computer equipment holding accounting and customer information. St. Paul Insurance, suspicious of arson and insurance fraud, initially paid only $25,000, according to Issa.
Steal Stopper soon regained its previous prosperity. As car theft rose in the United States during the 1980s, so did the demand for security devices. Rolls Royce, BMW, and General Motors joined Ford and Toyota as customers. In 1985, Issa sold the company to a California-based maker of home alarms, and moved to the San Diego suburb of Vista, where he has lived ever since, to work for the company. Shortly afterward he left to start Directed Electronics, Inc. (DEI).
Issa was able to use his knowledge of the weaknesses in automotive security that car thieves preyed on to develop effective theft deterrents. Using sensors that, when armed, would detect motion and pressure on the body of the car, his device would create 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 a million dollars in the company's first year to $14 million by 1989.
Issa is partner in 17 limited partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs) that own commercial properties across North San Diego County. Currently Issa is CEO of small business Greene Properties. Greene Properties, Inc. is a privately held real estate investment company with commercial real estate holdings in San Diego North County. Headquartered in Vista, CA, they manage 3 commercial office buildings in Carlsbad, CA with a total of 26,354 SqFt. Employees include his second wife and son William "Will" Issa as assistant property manager. The office is located in the same building as Issa's former congressional office near their house of the last 20 years.
Early political career
With his involvement in consumer-electronics trade organizations, Issa became politically active. He went to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress and became one of California's largest individual campaign contributors to Republican candidates. In 1996 he was chairman of the successful campaign to pass California Proposition 209, a ballot initiative which prohibited public institutions in California from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in the areas of 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 run against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He spent $10 million of his own money in his campaign, 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 had 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 the primary election 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 Party primary, had crossed party lines to strategically vote for Fong.
U.S. House of Representatives
Nine-term incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Ron Packard decided not to run for re-election in 2000, in California's 48th congressional district. Issa ran for Packard's seat, capitalizing on his name recognition from the 1998 Senate race. The district was primarily based in northern San Diego County, but had small portions in Riverside and Orange counties. Issa finished first in the all-party primary with 35% of the vote, winning a plurality in all three counties; Republican State Senator Bill Morrow was second, with 24% of the votes. Issa won the November general election, defeating Democratic nominee Peter Kouvelis 61%–28%.
After redistricting, Issa's district was renumbered as the 49th District, and lost its share of Orange County. Like its predecessor, the district was heavily Republican; it had a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+10. No Democrat filed against Issa that year. He won re-election to a second term by defeating Libertarian nominee Karl Dietrich, 77%–22%.
In November 2006, Issa won re-election to a fourth term, defeating Democratic nominee Jeeni Criscenzo, 63%–33%.
In 2008, Issa won re-election to a fifth term, defeating Democratic nominee Robert Hamilton, 58%–37%. The 21-point margin of victory was the second smallest in Issa's career. He carried San Diego with 60% of the vote and Riverside with 57% of the vote.
In 2010, Issa won re-election to a sixth term, defeating Democratic nominee Howard Katz 63%–31%.
After the 2010 census, Issa's district was renumbered as the 49th District and made significantly more compact. It lost its share of Riverside County, along with most of its share of inland San Diego County. They were replaced with a small portion of southern Orange County including San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and part of Laguna Niguel. The district was more competitive on paper than its predecessor. The old 49th had a PVI of R+10, while the new 49th has a PVI of R+4.
Issa won re-election to a seventh term, defeating the Democratic nominee, Jerry Tetalman, 58%–42%. The sixteen-point margin of victory was the smallest in Issa's political career. Issa carried the San Diego portion of his district with just 55% of the vote, while he dominated the Orange County part with 66% of the vote.
The open primary in June 2014 was contested by Issa and two Democrats: Dave Peiser and Noboru Isaga. The top two vote getters, Issa (62%) and Peiser (28%), advanced to the general election. In the November election Issa was elected to an eighth term, 60% to 40%.
In the open primary in June 2016, Issa received 51% of the vote to 46% for Democrat Doug Applegate, a retired Marine Colonel. Issa and Applegate both advanced to the general election in November. In October, Applegate and Issa were seen by the Cook Political Report as equally likely to win the election.
Issa sent out a campaign mailer which featured a photograph of President Barack Obama signing a law. The mailer stated that Issa was "very pleased" that Obama signed the Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act which Issa had co-sponsored. Obama responded to the mailer by saying that Issa's "primary contribution to the US Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped up investigations that have led nowhere." Obama said that, because of fading support for Donald Trump, Issa was now promoting his cooperation with the president despite Issa's previous stance that Obama was corrupt.
Issa responded by saying, "I've worked with the administration on good legislation where it was possible, called out wrongdoing wherever I saw it and will continue to do so."
As of November 23, 2016, Issa held a 3,234-vote lead with approximately 6,000 ballots remaining uncounted. Issa declared victory in the race, while Applegate had not yet conceded. The Associated Press finally declared Issa the winner on November 28, citing a small but convincing lead with only a few votes left to count.
Multiple Democrats, including 2016 candidate Doug Applegate and environmental attorney Mike Levin, launched campaigns for California's 49th district. Given the close margin of victory over Applegate in 2016, the election was expected to be highly competitive. For months, Issa's Vista, CA office was the site of weekly protests where hundreds of people gathered as pushback against President Trump and his agenda and actions. One rally in May saw 800 people show up to protest the House vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (OCA). On January 10, 2018, Issa announced that he would not run for re-election.
On September 26, 2019, Issa announced that he was running for California's 50th congressional district in the 2020 election. The incumbent was Republican Duncan D. Hunter, then under indictment. In December 2019 Hunter pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, and he resigned from Congress effective January 13, 2020, leaving the seat vacant. The 50th had absorbed much of Issa's former base in heavily Republican inland San Diego County. Issa placed second in the March 3, 2020, blanket primary and ultimately beat Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar by nearly 30,000 votes. Issa said he could switch districts because he owns his mother's home in Bonsall while living and raising his family in Vista.
Following the 2010 elections, Issa became chairman. He became 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 issues. In 2010 he told the press that he wanted the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to hold investigative hearings "seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks."
In February 2011, the Watchdog Institute, a nonprofit investigative reporting center based at San Diego State University, published an investigation alleging that as leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he built a team which included staff members with close connections to industries that could benefit from his investigations.
On February 16, 2012, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services's regulation requiring insurance plans to cover birth control, which Issa believes is a violation of the religious freedom of people who oppose the use of birth control. Sandra Fluke was submitted as a witness by Democratic members, but Issa did not permit her to testify, saying her name was submitted too late, a claim which was challenged by Democrats.
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. The bill was signed into law by President Obama 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. The bill would also have created a Chief FOIA Officers Council charged with reviewing compliance and recommending improvements. It would also have required the federal agency to release the information it disclosed to the person who requested it publicly afterwards.
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 unanimously in the United States House of Representatives on February 25, 2014. However, 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 existing Chief Information Officers (CIO) within federal agencies so that they could be more effective.
Each agency would also be reduced to having only one CIO in the agency, who is then responsible for the success and failure of all IT projects in that agency. 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 was 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) and was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama on December 18, 2014.
On May 7, 2014, Issa introduced a simple resolution in the House that passed without objection 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 thru the collection of 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.
In 2001, Issa's district office in San Clemente 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 complaint and 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 that the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, awarded Issa with 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."
- Committee on Foreign Affairs
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Congressional Constitution Caucus
- Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus
- Climate Solutions Caucus
- Freedom Caucus 
- Republican Study Committee
9/11 first responders
In April 2008, the Daily News reported that Issa questioned federal expenditures pertaining to disability-compensation claims from 9/11 first responders. He was criticized for making comments that the federal government "'just threw' buckets of cash at New York for an attack 'that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it'" and asking "why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration." In September 2009, Issa's office released a statement indicating that his comments had been misrepresented and that the questions he asked concerned the then still unpassed bill H.R. 3543, which, according to that statement "would give U.S. taxpayer dollars to those who did not suffer physical injury and did not work at or around Ground Zero."
2003 gubernatorial recall election
Issa came to national prominence in 2003 when he contributed more than $1.6 million to help fund a signature-gathering drive for the petition to recall California Governor Gray Davis. At the time he made the contribution, it was widely believed that Issa intended to place himself on the ballot to replace Davis. However, following the entrance of fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger into the race, two days before the filing deadline, Issa announced that he would not run. Issa later said his mission had been accomplished with Davis's recall and that he wanted to continue to represent his district in Congress and work towards Middle East peace. At one point in the campaign he suggested people[clarification needed] should vote against recalling Davis unless one of the two leading Republican contenders dropped out, concerned that Schwarzenegger and fellow Republican Tom McClintock would split votes, resulting in Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante being elected to succeed Davis. Issa endorsed Schwarzenegger in the election.
Issa attracted attention for his close relationship with and strong support for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Issa endorsed Trump in March 2016. When the Donald Trump and Billy Bush recording surfaced, Issa condemned Trump's remarks but did not rescind his endorsement.
In early February 2017, Issa expressed his support for a special prosecutor to look into President Donald Trump's ties to Russia. On February 27, he walked back his previous comments. Issa supported Trump's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, saying "Comey had lost my confidence long ago."
As of May 2017, Issa had voted in line with Trump's positions 100 percent of the time; by October 2018, that number had fallen to 93.3%.
Before the 2010 election, Issa pledged that, if elected, he would probe "Climategate", which refers to the hacked Climatic Research Unit e-mails that climate change denialists falsely asserted showed scientific misconduct and fraud by climate scientists. Issa called President 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.[failed verification] He voted for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2005 after successfully amending it to require judicial notification, reporting requirements and facts justifying the use of roving survelliance at new facilities or places.
Issa was 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 Islamic 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."
After Darrell Issa voted to pass the AHCA, about 800 people from the organization protested, decrying that a significant portion of Issa's voters use the ACA. The group was also unhappy about a picture taken where Issa stood "front and center" for a photo op held in tribute to the success of the Republicans in passing the AHCA.
He 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.
Russian hacking of 2016 election
Issa has stated that he believes Russia meddled with the 2016 election, but that he supports Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey (who was leading the investigation into the 2016 election meddling), and he believes the US should be focusing on other issues.
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.
Issa voted no on 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."
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.
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- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Darrell Issa at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 48th congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 49th congressional district
| Chair of the House Oversight Committee
Duncan D. Hunter
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 50th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
G. K. Butterfield
| United States Representatives by seniority