Campaign Contributions Undermine Rep. Issa's Investigative Integrity Once Again

March 24, 2011 9:45 am ET — Matt Gertz

Rep. Darrell Issa

Courage Campaign's Issa Watch points out that while Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) district encompasses the San Onofre nuclear power plant, his Oversight Committee is unlikely to hold aggressive hearings into nuclear safety in the wake of the situation in Japan:

If Darrell Issa is serious about addressing potential safety risks in his own district at San Onofre and in communities throughout the country near nuclear plants, he would press strongly to begin investigation immediately. But Edison International, which owns a 78.2% stake in the plant, is also Issa's third-largest career source of campaign funds and matched the Koch Brothers' $5000 donation to Issa's leadership PAC and supporting Issa's PACs in the past.

Indeed, Edison International owns nearly 80 percent of the plant through its Southern California Edison subsidiary. The company's political action committee has given Issa's campaigns $46,000 over the years, including $5,500 during the last cycle. The PAC has also given $10,000 to Issa's own PACs.

This isn't the only worthy topic unlikely to see aggressive hearings in the Oversight Committee thanks to big donations to Issa.  As we've noted, Issa's single largest career donor is AT&T's political action committees, which have dropped $55,500 into his coffers. As The Washington Post reported yesterday, these donations are parts of the "fierce lobbying clout" that AT&T has assembled which makes harsh oversight of their intended merger with T-Mobile USA unlikely.

Of course, the hearings that do happen are hardly uncontaminated by Issa donors. Last month, Issa neglected to point out that one of the witnesses before him had previously given over $10,000 to his campaigns. Issa's spokesman later explained the donor's presence by saying that "Mr. Issa certainly thought that [Nassif's] testimony was both important and relevant to the hearing taking place"; the spokesman did not explain why his donations went undisclosed until they were uncovered.