I woke up this morning to see another sad example of Washington’s pervasive”gotcha journalism” that passes as news. This time it was a New York Times‘ voluminous 2,700-word front page slam on Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Government Operations and Reform Committee.
The Times‘ meme by reporter Eric Lichtblau was that Mr. Issa, a self-made millionaire who grew up in poverty, was a corrupt political predator who enriched himself by mixing political power with his private company and financial empire.
It made for riveting reading. But as the day wore on it was disclosed that much of it was patently false. Moreover, pieces of it had been lifted entirely from left wing web sites who had previously made wild, unsubstantiated accusations about Mr. Issa’s finances.
The Times money quote is here:
“As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.”
To set the scene Lichtblau gives us an opening scene of the luxurious lifestyle of the California congressman:
“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.”
Now it appears that the article is riddle by many factual errors that it takes your breath away.
Among the errors identified today:
- Rep. Issa’s office does not overlook a golf course. It is surrounded by office and apartment complexes and a highway. The closest golf course is 20 minutes away.
- The Times charges, “Mr. Issa has … spilt a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.” Issa does not own a single multibillion-dollar business.
- The Times claims Issa has gone easy on Toyota because of “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota . Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is not a “major supplier” or even a supplier to Toyota.
- The Times claims Issa made a financial killing on an AIM fund investment, converting a $19,000 investment into a $357,000 profit. In fact the investment was a family investment $500,000 that was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss.
The Times’ charged the value of a medical complex and other properties owned by Issa “has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.” The story alleges that Issa’s 2008 purchase of the property was “for $10.3 million and now assessed “at $16 million – a 60 percent appreciation.” However, Issa’s company paid exactly $16.6 milliion, the current tax assessment. As most real estate novices, know southern California’s commercial real estate market has collapsed and property purchased in 2008 has not appreciated 60%.
To top it off, Lichtblau’s article seems to be a product of plagiarism. He apparently lifted whole passages from left wing blogs, including one by the left wing Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). As Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation noted today CAP’s Lee Fang called him out on Twitter, noting “your NYT Issa piece looks awfully familiar.” CREW also charged that Licthblau lifted whole accusations from their web site.
Frederick Hill, an Issa spokesman said “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.”
For the record, the Times is standing by its article.