When Will Rep. Issa Release Documents On Allegedly Tainted Earmarked Funds?
Last week, ThinkProgress reported that in 2008, a company owned by the family of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) purchased a medical office building whose value would apparently benefit from federal funds Issa was seeking at the time to widen a neighboring highway. Issa, who has up to a $25 million stake in the company, successfully secured hundreds of thousands of dollars for the project in an appropriations bill that was signed into law a few months after the building's purchase.
Since the story's publication, Issa has been in damage-control mode, attacking ThinkProgress on Twitter and in the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune, which picked up the story over the weekend. Even disgraced former Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella has gotten into the act, posting on a local blog what is apparently a 1,300-word response to the Union-Tribune article from Issa's district office. Meanwhile, the California-based Courage Campaign has called on Issa to reimburse taxpayers for the federal money he earmarked.
Issa's response to the controversy has been that he started trying to earmark funds for the highway project in 2006, that local government supported the project, and that he did not make additional requests after the building's purchase. According to the Union-Tribune:
In the spring of 2006, the North County congressman requested $13 million in federal funds for to pay for West Vista Way widening and other improvements. Issa also sought $2 million each in 2007 and 2008, according to his office.
None of the $13 million request was approved. In fiscal year 2008, the project was awarded $245,000; the following year it received $570,000.
But there is still a crucial unanswered question regarding that $570,000 earmark. Issa publicly requested the FY 2009 funding in March 2008. His family's company purchased the building in question in October 2008. Funding for the highway expansion was included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, which was introduced in February 2009 and signed into law the following month.
When did Issa become aware that the funding would be secured? Was it before or after the building's purchase? Did he have inside information that the earmark was going to go through at the time the real estate transaction occurred?
There's really only one way to be sure: Issa's office should release all documents relating to the earmark in question. Issa should also arrange for his family's company to release all documents related to the building's purchase.
In his role as chair of the House Oversight Committee, Issa has repeatedly demanded that government agencies produce reams of documents to ensure that they were meeting their ethical responsibilities. Surely Issa will do no less now that his own ethics have been called into question.