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The Darrell Issa Hit Piece: Most Inaccurate NYT Article … Ever?

Well, no, there’s always Walter Duranty. But this one is truly remarkable, made more so by Issa being the lead investigator on a scandal objectively larger than Watergate.

by
Patrick Richardson

Bio

August 16, 2011 - 7:52 am

As Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, begins to close in on Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Operation Fast and Furious, the MSM bringing out their knives for the combative congressman seemed a fait accompli.

Sunday, the Times jumped in. And they didn’t just use knives, they sprayed it around with an elephant gun.

Eric Lichtblau’s front-page article started by claiming Issa has made billions while investigating corruption with his committee:

Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The article further claimed that Issa had:

 … bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses [The NYT, presumably in response to complaints from Issa, has since changed this to “multimillion-dollar” and issued a correction for this single inaccuracy. As we will see, it was far from the only mistake], started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.

The NYT also claimed Issa took it easy on Toyota during their recall scandal, because he was a major supplier of automotive alarms to Toyota:

But perhaps his clearest statement on the issue came last year amid Toyota’s recalls of millions of automobiles with dangerous acceleration problems. Then, Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls.

The article also stated that Issa had made plenty of money off the stock market crash:

In one sale months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less that $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months. … Invesco, as the AIM fund’s manager is now known, told The Times it did not provide Mr. Issa’s foundation the steep discount. That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.

The article also noted that after Issa secured earmarks for a highway widening project, he then bought a medical complex near the project for $10.3 million. The article stated that the local assessor’s office now values it at $16 million, a 60 percent appreciation.

All these are damning accusations against a man the article derided as “a powerful gadfly” — or they would be, if any of the accusations were actually true. According to a statement by Issa spokesman Fredrick Hill, none of these accusations are true, and further, they are easily falsifiable.

Regarding the opening line — “Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course” — Hill notes:

The office building located at 1800 Thibodo Rd. in Vista does not overlook a golf course.

Apparently the NYT has never heard of Google Maps. One has only to search for the address to get a street view which shows the “gleaming office building overlooking a golf course” is in fact a four-story concrete and glass box overlooking a freeway.

As noted above, the NYT corrected the “multibillion-dollar” business claim, but presumably they are standing behind the rest of the piece. Which they shouldn’t. Per the Toyota claim:

This is factually incorrect. Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is not a “major supplier” or even a supplier to Toyota [emphasis added].

It’s worth noting that Issa sold his controlling interest in DEI when he was elected to Congress; the article notes this as well. However, Lichtblau also adds:

He remains a board member with a half-million shares in the firm held by his family trust.

“Family trust” of course implies that Issa does not hold these shares personally.

Regarding the “60 percent appreciation” claim — which would be an ethical problem if it were actually true — a release by Hill claims:

According to the final settlement statement of the medical plaza property, the purchase price paid by Rep. Issa’s company for the property was $16.6 million. This figure, $16.6 million, is essentially identical to its current tax assessment and wipes out the 60 percent appreciation the New York Times story alleges Rep. Issa’s commercial property enjoyed.

The most appalling element of Lichtblau’s article may be that he has apparently resurfaced that  old problem at the “Paper of Record”: plagiarism. Noted the Heritage Foundation:

On March 30, 2011, The Center for American Progress, in a blog post that itself contained significant factual errors and omissions, made accusations related to federal funds Rep. Issa sought for his congressional district and property holdings located within the congressional district. The Center for American Progress’ researcher who authored this blog post appears unhappy with Eric Lichtblau’s attempt to pass this work off as his own in a tweet sent out last night:

lhfang (Lee Fang): Hey @EricLichtblau & @thepubliceditor your NYT Issa piece looks awfully familiar (see http://t.co/uZQBIsz &http://t.co/NSw0Wrc)

The central theme of the NYT article seems to be that Issa is a wealthy man — and he is, with a net worth of about $250 million — and a successful businessman. Worse yet, he’s an American success story: the grandson of Lebanese immigrants who came from a hardscrabble background in a blue-collar neighborhood in Cleveland who worked hard and became wealthy. Further, he’s a persistent thorn in the administration’s side, and is uncovering a scandal worse than Watergate.

Obviously he must be destroyed by the MSM — even if they have to lie to do it.

Issa’s team is treating the article as a badge of honor:

Beginning with the opening line, the New York Times piece is riddled with factual errors and careless assertions that has resulted in a story predicated on innuendo and not fact. It’s disappointing that the so-called “paper-of-record” has decided to publish a story that is nothing more than a compilation of left-wing blog posts that are easily found by a simple Google search. It’s the same old playbook, every time Darrell Issa starts gaining ground, the left-wing smear machine goes on the attack. If anything, this story validates the work that the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pursuing.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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