Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2000, 8th term.

Born: November 1, 1953, Cleveland, OH

Home: Vista, CA

Education: Siena Heights U., B.A. 1976

Professional Career: Founder & pres., Directed Electronics, 1982-99.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Christian Church

Family: Married (Kathy) , 1 child

Darrell Issa is a Republican first elected in 2000. As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee until 2015, he made himself President Barack Obama’s chief investigative nemesis. His aggressive, headline-grabbing pursuits of alleged waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration made him a hero to conservatives and the scourge of liberals.

Issa (ICE-sah) grew up in a working-class section of Cleveland, the son of an X-ray technician. Hampered by dyslexia, Issa found academics difficult, and he dropped out of high school to join the Army. After his service, the military paid for him to finish school, and he graduated from Siena Heights University in Michigan. A brother’s run-ins with the law for car theft spurred Issa’s idea for his first business venture. He invested all of his savings, some $7,000, in a car-alarm business in Cleveland, eventually taking it over with his wife, Kathy, and relocating the business to Vista, Calif., north of San Diego. Their Directed Electronics became the nation’s largest manufacturer of vehicle security systems, including the popular Viper system, and earned them a fortune. (In 2010, the Center for Responsive Politics ranked Issa as the single wealthiest member of Congress, with an estimated average net worth of $448 million.) Issa also became active in the high-technology industry, serving as chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association.

In the early 1990s, he turned to politics, contributing to Republicans and chairing the 1996 campaign to pass Proposition 209, which banned the use of racial quotas and preferences in California. In 1998, he ran for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer and spent $9.8 million of his own money. He lost the primary 45%-40% to Matt Fong. In November 1999, when Ron Packard of the heavily Republican 48th District announced his retirement, 10 candidates ran in the Republican primary. This turned into a contest between Issa and state Sen. Bill Morrow. Morrow questioned Issa’s business practices, and Issa raised questions about Morrow’s honesty. On most issues, the candidates took similar positions. Issa spent $1.5 million of his own money on the primary and beat Morrow 46%-30%. In the fall, the Democratic nominee abandoned his campaign after getting little national party support, and Issa won 61%-28%.

House Republican leaders chose Issa over several more senior Republicans after the 2008 election to be the ranking member on Oversight and Government Reform, with broad jurisdiction over the federal government. In the early days of the Republican Congress in 2011, he called the Obama administration “one of the most corrupt administrations ever.” He later said that he meant it was guilty of overspending and inefficiency. He began his chairmanship by accusing the Department of Homeland Security of letting political appointees interfere with Freedom of Information Act requests, and subsequently made a regular point of describing the administration’s refusal to release documents as inconsistent with its stated philosophy of openness. His committee issued a stinging report on the administration’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, accusing the administration of giving BP too much control over cleanup operations and failing to insure that affected Gulf Coast residents were paid fairly and quickly for their losses.

The so-called “Fast and Furious” investigation dominated the committee’s agenda for the remainder of the 112th Congress (2011-12). The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives operation, which began in 2009, allowed guns to be shipped illegally into Mexico in an effort to track them to drug cartels. Two guns linked were found a year later at the scene of the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. Issa and other committee Republicans repeatedly pressed the administration to discuss who at the Justice Department was aware of the operation, as well as who authorized it. Justice officials, citing executive privilege, said releasing material Issa sought could jeopardize ongoing investigations. The spat became a hot topic for the far right and conspiracy theories flourished, including one floated by Issa himself at a National Rifle Association convention that the Obama administration deliberately lost the guns to later push for renewal of a ban on assault weapons.

Attorney General Eric Holder eventually emerged in Issa’s crosshairs. House Republicans voted in June 2012 to hold him in contempt of Congress for allegedly withholding information. Seventeen Democrats joined the GOP, immunizing the Republicans from accusations of pure partisanship. Still, the White House accused Issa and the GOP of a witch hunt against Holder. The Justice Department’s inspector general issued a September 2012 report faulting ATF for misguided strategies and errors in judgment and management, which Issa said proved his point.

He turned his attention to the administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 tragedy at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed. Issa’s office released 166 pages of “sensitive but unclassified” State Department communications related to Libya on the committee’s website. But it did not redact identifying information about Libyans working with the United States. Ethics watchdog groups, who earlier had filed ethics complaints against Issa for releasing wiretap information related to Fast and Furious, joined Democrats in expressing outrage. Former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called Issa “reckless.” Issa responded that, “Anything below ‘Secret’ (classification) is in fact just a name on a piece of paper.”

When Democrats earlier held the majority, Issa sought investigations and subpoenas that Chairman Edolphus Towns of New York declined to grant. The two disagreed sharply on opening an investigation of Countrywide Financial, a bank that had given favorable treatment to Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. In October 2009, Republicans filmed Democrats leaving the hearing room after they canceled a hearing on Countrywide. In retaliation, Towns ordered the locks changed and barred the Republicans from the room. But Issa and Towns found agreement in some areas, including Issa’s 2009 bill requiring agencies to standardize information in their reports to create more transparency and another bill giving the Government Accountability Office authority to probe the inner workings of the Federal Reserve.

Issa’s voting record has been relatively moderate, especially on foreign affairs issues. Of Lebanese descent, he has been vocal in condemning the sponsorship of terrorism by Arab nations while also urging the United States to reach out to build coalitions with friendly Arab nations. That earned him enemies among pro-Israel groups, including extremists on that side of the conflict. Two members of the militant Jewish Defense League were charged with plotting to blow up Issa’s office in San Clemente, a Culver City mosque, and a Muslim public affairs building. One of them died in 2002 and the other pleaded guilty to civil rights and weapons violations in 2005.

Issa also has been active on patent reform issues. Drawing on his experience as a patent holder (he holds 37 of them), he sponsored a bipartisan bill that became law in 2011 giving district court judges hearing patent cases access to clerks trained in patent law. With Democrat Howard Berman of California, he co-sponsored legislation to create a review process of already-issued patents and to tighten rules for calculating damages in patent lawsuits. The technology industry had led the charge for patent reform, contending it is being held hostage by “patent trolls” who obtain patents solely for the purpose of launching infringement suits to cash in on multibillion-dollar damage awards. Issa also supported requiring radio stations to pay royalties to record companies and performers as well as to composers of music.

With ambitions for statewide office, Issa in 2003 spent $1.7 million of his own money to get the signatures needed for a recall election of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. His hopes of getting unified support as a replacement candidate were dashed when Arnold Schwarzenegger got in the race. Issa tearfully announced that he would not run. He has been reelected easily and his newly redrawn 49th District is hospitably Republican.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(760) 599-5000

(760) 599-1178

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2269
Washington, DC 20515-0549

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3906

(202) 225-3303

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2269
Washington, DC 20515-0549

DISTRICT OFFICE

(760) 599-5000

(760) 599-1178

1800 Thibodo Road Suite 310
Vista, CA 92081-7515

DISTRICT OFFICE

(760) 599-5000

(760) 599-1178

1800 Thibodo Road Suite 310
Vista, CA 92081-7515

DISTRICT OFFICE

(760) 599-5000

(760) 599-1178

33282 Golden Lantern Suite 102
Dana Point, CA 92629

DISTRICT OFFICE

(949) 281-2449

33282 Golden Lantern Suite 102
Dana Point, CA 92629

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(760) 599-5000

(760) 599-1178

PO Box 760
Vista, CA 92085

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 760
Vista, CA 92085

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Aerospace

Agriculture

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Appropriations

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Arts

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Banking

Michael O'Neill
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-3906

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Campaign

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Communication

Congress

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Consumers

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Crime

Education

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Energy

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Amy Walker
Deputy District Director

amy.walker@mail.house.gov
(949) 281-2449

Environment

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Finance

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Foreign

Michael O'Neill
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-3906

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Amy Walker
Deputy District Director

amy.walker@mail.house.gov
(949) 281-2449

Grants

Sunana Batra
District Representative; Staff Assistant

Gun Issues

Health

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Housing

Immigration

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Insurance

Michael O'Neill
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-3906

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Internet

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Judiciary

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Labor

Land Use

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Medicare

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Military

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Native Americans

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Public Works

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Rules

Veronica Wong
Chief of Staff

Science

Amy Walker
Deputy District Director

amy.walker@mail.house.gov
(949) 281-2449

Small Business

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Amy Walker
Deputy District Director

amy.walker@mail.house.gov
(949) 281-2449

Social Security

Lenna Wright
Field Representative

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Michael O'Neill
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-3906

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Telecommunications

Tyler Grimm
Legislative Director

Trade

Michael O'Neill
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-3906

Chelsea Cuellar
Legislative Assistant

Amy Walker
Deputy District Director

amy.walker@mail.house.gov
(949) 281-2449

Transportation

Veterans

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Welfare

Travis Galloway
Marine Corps Fellow

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Darrell Issa
Votes: 94,365
Percent: 60.23%
Dave Peiser
Votes: 62,313
Percent: 39.77%
2012 GENERAL
Darrell Issa
Votes: 159,725
Percent: 58.16%
Jerry Tetalman
Votes: 114,893
Percent: 41.84%
2012 PRIMARY
Darrell Issa
Votes: 71,329
Percent: 61.09%
Jerry Tetalman
Votes: 35,816
Percent: 30.68%
Dick Eiden
Votes: 7,988
Percent: 6.84%
2010 GENERAL
Darrell Issa
Votes: 119,088
Percent: 62.78%
Howard Katz
Votes: 59,714
Percent: 31.0%
2010 PRIMARY
Darrell Issa
Unopposed
2010 PRIMARY
Darrell Issa
Votes: 60,447
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Darrell Issa
Votes: 140,300
Percent: 58.3%
Robert Hamilton
Votes: 90,138
Percent: 37.45%
2008 PRIMARY
Darrell Issa
Votes: 41,369
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (63%), 2008 (58%), 2006 (63%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (77%), 2000 (61%)

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