Politics

Issa responds: NYT ‘hit piece’ ‘riddled with factual errors and careless assertions’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter

In a lengthy article Monday, The New York Times attempted to connect House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s private business interests with his public service as a Congressman. Drawing on talking points from the far left-wing Center for American Progress, the Times story implied that Issa’s mission in Congress isn’t to protect citizens from their government.

The California Republican was quick to strike back at the Times’ reporting, contesting what he considers to be factual errors and incorrect statements strewn throughout the piece. Issa’s contentions begin with the first sentence of the Times story.

“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,” Times reporter Eric Lichtblau wrote. According to Issa’s Congressional office, that building does not overlook a golf course.

The New York Times also reported that Issa had split a “holding company” he owned into “separate multi-billion dollar businesses.” Issa does not own a “multi-billion dollar business,” never mind several of them, according to his office.

The Times also hit Issa for what the newspaper asserted is a tie between Toyota and the congressman’s former company, Directed Electronics. The article states that Issa’s company provided car alarm systems to Toyota, so as a result, Issa may have taken a relaxed approach to the Japanese automaker during an investigation into the company’s vehicles’ safety.

“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,” Lichtblau wrote.

Issa’s congressional office again directly countered the Times’ reporting: Directed Electronic is not a supplier of alarms to Toyota at all, his office says, much less a “major supplier.”

Additionally, the Times alleges foul play because Issa pulled a hefty sum of his family foundation’s finances out of the stock market months before it crashed. Lichtblau writes that Issa’s foundation made a nearly 1,900-percent return on its investment in less than a year. Issa’s office contends that this conclusion is wildly inaccurate.

“In one 2008 sale, months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less than $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months, the foundation reported to the Internal Revenue Service,” Lichtblau wrote. “It reported acquiring the security, then known as AIM International Small Company Fund, at a cost basis representing a tiny fraction of the market value. In addition, Mr. Issa sold at least $1 million in personal holdings in the same fund that year but was not required to report what he paid.”

“Invesco, as the AIM fund’s manager is now known, told The Times it did not provide Mr. Issa’s foundation the steep discount,” Lichtblau continued. “That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.”

Issa’s Congressional office points out that the Times used a false report to come to those conclusions. The initial foundation investment was $500,000, not $19,000, according to Issa’s office, meaning the foundation incurred a $125,000 loss when it sold the asset “months before the stock market crashed.”

Issa spokeswoman Becca Watkins said the Times’ inaccuracies and falsified implications about the congressman stem from the inaccurate reports of left-wing bloggers. Those include ThinkProgress, the left-wing advocacy blog of the Center for American Progress, and the left-leaning Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“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,” Watkins said in an email. “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.”

Lichtblau implies that Issa uses his position as a U.S. congressman and House Oversight Committee chairman to further his own financial agenda. He suggests Issa’s fights against extraneous government regulations are more a means to protect his own personal financial interests than they are reflective of a fiscally conservative ideology.

“After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, [Issa] publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more,” Lichtblau continues. “And in an era when the auto industry’s future has been a big theme of public policy, Mr. Issa has been outspoken on regulatory issues affecting car companies, while maintaining deep ties to the industry through the auto electronics company he founded, DEI Holdings.”

New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha told The Daily Caller that the paper will stick to its story and believes it’s accurate.

“We believe the story to be an accurate and fair account,” Rhoades Ha said in an email. “Of course we will have a look at any factual issues his staff has raised.‬‪ However, there is nothing in the Congressman’s complaint that questions the heart of the story.‬ The Times has made several attempts to reach the Congressman — by phone and by email — to get his comment. And he has declined.”

At the time of this article’s publication, the Times has already issued one correction: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly described value of businesses that resulted from splitting a holding company owned by Representative Darrell Issa. They are multimillion-dollar businesses, not multibillion-dollar businesses.”