Two AP Stories With the Same URL

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_US_LIBYA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-10-09-18-50-07

Accessed 20121009, 1636 CDT

Oct 10, 3:18 PM EDT

State Dept: Security adequate in Benghazi

By LARRY MARGASAK and MATTHEW LEE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — State Department officials said Wednesday that security levels at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were adequate for the threat level on the anniversary of 9/11 but that the compound was overrun by an “unprecedented attack” by dozens of heavily armed extremists.

The officials testified before an election-season congressional hearing on accusations of security failures at the consulate that led or contributed to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.  The officials said the number of U.S. and local security guards at the compound was consistent with what had been requested by the post.

“We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11,” said Charlene Lamb, the deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security in charge of protecting Ameri­can embassies and consulates around the world.

But White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight “there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from hap­pening.”

“There were four Americans killed,” he said.

Lamb noted that there were five diplomatic security agents at the consulate at the time of the attack, along with additional Libyan guards and a rapid response team at a nearby annex.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the administration’s early response to the attack and has made it a campaign issue, saying Monday that President Barack Obama has led a weak foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer in Libya, said he had requested more security but that request was blocked by a department policy to “normalize opera­tions and reduce security resources.”  Under questioning, though, he said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase.

“I’m confident that the committee will conclude that Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya officers conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of their task,” Nordstrom said.

Lamb rejected allegations from Republican lawmakers, supported by Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member U.S. military team that helped protect the embassy in Tripoli, that an extension of Wood’s mission could have made a difference during the attack.

“It would not have made any difference in Benghazi,” Lamb said, pointing out that Wood’s team was based in Tripoli and spent nearly all of its time there.

Wood, a member of the Utah National Guard who left Libya in August, told the committee that the security in Benghazi “was a struggle and remained a struggle throughout my time there.”

In testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he said that U.S. security was so weak that in April, only one diplomatic security agent was stationed in Benghazi.

However, Lamb and Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy stress­ed that the regional security officer’s requests for personnel had been met.

“The Department of State regularly assesses risk and allocation of resources for securi­ty, a process which involves the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best information available,” said Kennedy, a four-decade veteran of the foreign service.

“The assault that occurred on the evening of Sept. 11, however, was an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” he said.

The attack on the consulate and the Obama administration’s evolving explanations of what happened have become a political football in the run-up to November’s presidential election with Democrats saying that Republicans are trying to use a tragedy to score partisan points.

In statements immediately after the attack, neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned terrorism.  And both gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about an anti-Islam video.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory ma­terial posted on the Internet,” Clinton said on the night of the attack.  “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  Our commit­ment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.  But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The hearing opened with a blunt partisan exchange between the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland who accused Republican members of withholding documents and witnesses and keeping Democrats out of the loop on a fact-finding trip to Libya last week.

Issa denied any wrongdoing.

Republican committee members sought to take the witnesses to task for a shifting explanation of what happened in Benghazi

The committee hearing followed assertions late Tuesday by the State Department that it never concluded that the Sept. 11 attack stemmed from protests over a privately made video ridiculing Islam.  That had been the initial explanation offered by some in the ad­ministration, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, before officials said it had been a planned terrorist attack.

Some Republicans have focused on the shift, suggesting that the administration was try­ing to cover up that it was unprepared for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In Wednesday’s hearing, Kennedy said officials, including Rice, relied on the assess­ments of intelligence officials in offering public explanations for the attack.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Note that the following URL is the same as the above

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_US_LIBYA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-10-09-18-50-07

Accessed 20121009, approx. 1658 CDT

Oct 10, 7:29 PM EDT

Republicans hammer State witnesses on Libya attack

By LARRY MARGASAK and MATTHEW LEE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration’s early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.

GOP lawmakers refused to accept the department’s explanation Wednesday that protec­tion judged adequate for the threat was overwhelmed by an unprecedented assault in Ben­ghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

They also rejected Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy’s explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stem­ming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a deliberate, planned act of terrorism.

A top State official acknowledged she had declined to approve more U.S. security as vio­lence in Benghazi spiked, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate.

“I made the best decisions I could with the information I had,” said Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security.

Regardless of allegations of blame, there is no dispute over the tragic result.  U.S. Am­bassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – including two former Navy SEALs – were killed in what administration officials now describe as an act of terrorism.

In statements immediately after the attack, neither President Barack Obama nor Sec­retary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned terrorism.  And both gave credence to the notion that the attack was related to protests about the privately made anti-Islam video.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory materi­al posted on the Internet,” Clinton said on the night of the attack.  “The United States de­plores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.  But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Five days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said her best information at the time was that the attack stemmed from a protest that became violent.

President Barack Obama, asked on ABC about the changing accounts of what instigat­ed the attack, said the information was evolving.

“As information came in, information was put out, the information may not have always been right the first time,” he said.  “These are people I know, and if there is something to be fixed, it will get fixed.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that in hindsight “there is no question that the security was not enough to prevent that tragedy from happening. There were four Americans killed.”

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tried to blame Republicans for cutting more than $300 million in diplomatic security funds worldwide.

“The fact is that, since 2011, the House has cut embassy security by hundreds of mil­lions of dollars below the amounts requested by the president,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s senior Democrat.

Lamb, the official in charge of protecting U.S. embassies and consulates, told the com­mittee, “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11.”

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., asked Lamb if she turned down requests for more security in Benghazi.

“Yes sir, I said personally I would not support it,” she replied.  “We were training local Libyans and army men” to provide security, a policy in force at U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., retorted there was “as much as 30 percent turnover in the people you were training.”

Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security.  “There was no plan and it was hoped it would get better,” he said.

Nordstrom told the committee that conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the af­termath of an incident.  How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?”

He said he was so exasperated at one point he told a colleague that “for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who headed a 16-member military force in Libya, disputed State Department officials who said the special operations troops were replaced by people with the same skill sets.

The skills of his troops were “way above the skill level of local (forces) armed with a pis­tol,” Wood said, adding he was he was frustrated that pleas for more security were not met.

“We were fighting a losing battle, we weren’t even allowed to keep what we had,” he tes­tified.

Nordstrom acknowledged in response to a question from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that while the State Department was refusing more security, his and others’ pay was in­creased because he was serving in such a dangerous area.

Kennedy defended Rice for her comments indicating the attack was a protest gone a­wry.

“If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sun­day, Sept. 16, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said,” he said.  “The informa­tion she had at that point from the intelligence community is the same that I had at that point.  As time went on, additional information became available.  Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack.”

Kennedy, a four-decade veteran of the Foreign Service, said the department uses the best information from people on the ground at diplomatic posts around the world as well as experts in Washington in assessing risk and allocating security resources.

“The assault that occurred on the evening of Sept. 11, however, was an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” he said.

Meanwhile, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, met Wednesday with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf and other officials in Tripoli on ways Libya can better help the U.S. track down those responsible for the deaths at the consulate.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/u-s-security-official-in-libya-tells-congressional-investigators-about-inappropriately-low-security-at-benghazi-post/

Accessed 20121010, 1841 CDT

by Jake Tapper

Oct 10, 2012 6:55am

U.S. Security Official in Libya Tells Congressional Investigators About ‘Inappropriately Low’ Security at Benghazi Post

{Consulate attack in Libya: original source’s popup when moused-over}

ABC News has learned that Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. di­plomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was “inappropriately low” — and believed that State Department officials stood in the way of his attempts to change that.

Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian bor­der and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna — which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi.  But State De­partment officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.

Nordstrom was worried — he did not know how much the Americans could rely on mem­bers of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security — the “17th of February Martyrs Brigade.”  Mostly merchants and shopkeepers before the war, they seemed eager, but they hadn’t much experience and other than a daily $30 stipend for food from the U.S. Embassy, they hadn’t been paid in months.

Nordstrom had “no idea if they would respond to an attack,” he told investigators.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will hold hearings on what went wrong today at noon ET.  Nordstrom will testify at that hearing.

Nordstrom twice wrote to the State Department — in March and July 2012 — to beef up the presence of American security officers in Benghazi, but neither time was there a response.  At no point from December 2011 through July 2012, when he left Libya, were more than three Diplomatic Security Service agents permanently and simultaneously stationed at the Benghazi post.

Nordstrom wanted at least five personnel to be stationed at Benghazi, but the State Department would not allow it.  There were American security officers, however, at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, including three Mobile Security Detachments, which were part of the DSS, and a 16-member Security Support Team detailed from Special Operations Command AFRICOM, commanded by Wood.  But the State Department would not give him permission to deploy them to be stationed at Benghazi.  Deputy Assistant Secretary for international programs Charlene Lamb, in Nordstrom’s view, wanted to keep the num­ber of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

Wood, a former Green Beret, told ABC News that he and other members of the Secur­ity Support Team wanted to remain in Libya past their deployment was scheduled to end in August, and that Ambassador Stevens wanted them to remain as well.  Nordstrom has said that Lamb told him not to request for the Security Support Team to be extended again. (Its deployment had been previously extended in February 2012.)

Lamb will testify before the House committee later today.

“I do recall one conversation with her where she (Lamb) said that since we now had a residential safe haven in Benghazi that she didn’t seem to have a problem with having no agents on the compound because if something happened then personnel could simply go to that residential safe haven,” Nordstrom told investigators.

That safe haven proved a deathtrap.  Situated inside the main residence in Benghazi, consisting of three bedrooms and a bathroom set aside from the rest of the building by metal grillwork and several locks, the safe haven is where Stevens and information officer Sean Smith suffered severe smoke inhalation after the attackers set the house on fire.

On Tuesday afternoon, State Department officials acknowledged that despite earlier explanations from the Obama administration, there was no protest outside the Benghazi compound at all.  Only an hour before gunmen methodically and deliberately stormed the post, the streets were empty and everything seemed calm.  Obama administration of­ficials originally claimed the trouble began with demonstrations against an anti-Muslim video, a protest that, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told ABC News’ THIS WEEK on the Sunday after the attack, “seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists.”

Rice and White House officials now say those initial accounts were based on early intelli­gence, since corrected.  State Department officials now call the attack unprecedented giv­en the number of gunman, weapons and lethal force used.

-Jake Tapper

The other Michael Moore

Originally here.
______________________________________

How Do You Autopsy a Whale?

Determining cause of death with the help of blubber knives

By Rebecca Boyle Posted 10.06.2011 at 5:56 pm

Michael Moore’s Whale Necropsy Kit Michael Moore, a veterinarian and whale biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, displays the contents of his portable whale necropsy kit. Rebecca Boyle

Some unknown terrible person shot a defenseless pilot whale last month, leaving it to swim the Atlantic in agony for weeks before it finally beached itself on the New Jersey shore and died. Authorities are still looking for the shooter. The bullet wound caused a fulminant infection in the whale’s jaw that prevented it from eating, so it basically starved to death. This was determined during a necropsy, an autopsy for animals.

Along with sympathy for the poor creature, this debacle aroused an interesting question: How does one autopsy a whale? With four-ton meat hooks, whaling knives and bone saws, actually. Michael Moore, a veterinarian and whale biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, does it all the time.

Moore spends much of his time studying North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species whose name derives from whalers’ adage that these were the “right whales” to hunt, because they’re easy to spot and float when they die. They’re no longer hunted for their oil, but they are entangled in fishing lines and injured in ship collisions, often suffering for a great while and also succumbing to starvation. “It’s the most egregious animal welfare issue globally at this time,” in Moore’s words. But protecting them requires understanding how they died, and to do this Moore must take them apart, studying their broken bones and lobster net-tangled flukes to determine their exact causes of death.

whalingIn partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Moore deploys on-call, toting a case full of knives to examine right whales that have beached or are floating in the open ocean. Right whales are baleen whales and at least two orders of magnitude bigger than the toothed pilot whale that was shot, so in most cases, they must be examined right where they‘re found — that means on the beach. They either beach themselves and die there, or they’re towed to shore once they have been located at sea.

Moore uses a Japanese whaling hook, which is useful for pulling back sheets of blubber to get at the animal’s internal organs. He carries a bone saw — formerly his mother’s — to get through jaws and vertebrae to find the location of a fatal injury. He’s even visited indigenous Alaskan tribes to study their ancestral whale processing techniques.

The pilot whale that died was small, so it was trucked to a necropsy facility at the the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., down the shore north of Atlantic City. It weighed about 740 pounds when it beached, quite gaunt for an animal that should normally weigh more than a ton. Researchers knew something was seriously wrong, but they had to perform a necropsy to determine what it was.

At WHOI’s Marine Mammal Center, where Moore is the director, researchers use a special CT scanner for examining animals’ internal structures, like the inner ears of whalesand dolphins. Down the hall is an autopsy room for necropsying smaller mammals like the pilot whale.

The creatures are brought in on trucks and hoisted into the facility on chains rigged to the ceiling, attached to four-ton-rated meat hooks. They lay on negative-pressure steel tables, the same types used in human autopsy procedures, which suck out odors and pathogens as the biologists get to work. The lab also contains deep freezers for stringing up deceased animals; it harbors an overwhelming odor of chemical and organic substances. (It’s somewhat legendary at WHOI that Moore lost his sense of smell while in veterinary school, which he says enables him to get literally inside a rotting animal carcass without losing his lunch or his cool.)

The 11-foot-long pilot whale died shortly after authorities reached its side on the beach on Sept. 24. But it wasn’t until a necropsy a couple weeks later that they knew what happened. The bullet entered near its blow hole, but the wound had closed and faded a bit, suggesting it had been shot about a month prior. The .30-caliber round lodged in its jaw, causing the infection.

“This poor animal literally starved to death,” said Bob Schoelkopf, co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, in an interview with the AP. “It was wandering around and slowly starving to death because of the infection. Who would do that to an innocent animal?”

That question is now in the hands of the authorities. For biologists like Moore and Schoelkopf, necropsies can at least answer the question of how. Why, of course, is something else entirely.
_________________________

Filed but not forgotten.

NY TREASON on Rep. Issa’s Office, plus other documents


Originally
here.


August 14, 2011

A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself

By

Correction Appended

VISTA, Calif. — 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.

Just a few steps down the hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.

The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.

Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.

Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, 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.

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.

He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $16.3 million.

His constituents cheer the prospect of easing traffic. At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.

But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.

After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he 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.

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.

He has a seat on its board, and his nonprofit family foundation, which seeks to encourage values like “hard work and selfless philanthropy,” has earned millions from stock in DEI, which bears his initials. Mr. Issa’s fortune, in fact, was built on his car alarm company, and to this day it is his deep voice on Viper alarms that warns potential burglars to “please step away from the car.”

In recent months, The New York Times has examined how some lawmakers have championed particular industries, pushing measures to protect and enrich supporters. In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.

Mr. Issa, 57, did not respond to repeated written requests in the last three weeks to discuss his outside interests. In the past, he has said his business background has made him a better lawmaker. In at least one Congressional matter, however, he recused himself after being advised of a potential conflict.

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.

“If anything,” the congressman said, “Toyota probably got a harder time by having an automobile supplier sitting up there on the dais saying ‘Hold it, I’m not letting you off the hook now.’ “

A Powerful Gadfly

As the influential chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Mr. Issa has proven both a reliable friend to business and a constant annoyance to an Obama administration that he sees as anti-business. Even before formally taking over the committee in December, he made headlines by asking 150 businesses and trade groups to identify regulations that they considered overly burdensome, and he has issued numerous subpoenas on his own authority in investigating programs he believes are harmful.

His pro-business policies usually align closely with those of the firms he has worked with in his wide-ranging business career both before and after he joined Congress. Congress has historically had more than its share of millionaires from storied American fortunes, from the Rockefellers to the Kennedys. But typically, those members lower their business profiles considerably and limit their active dealings to avoid potential conflicts of interest and the political repercussions that might follow from private business decisions.

Senator John D. Rockfeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, for one, has much of his money in blind trusts, run by outside trustees. And Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, has a number of family and marital trusts for money generated largely through the fortune of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Mr. Issa, who grew up in a hardscrabble neighborhood near Cleveland and now owns homes north of San Diego and in Washington, has assets totaling as much as $725 million, outstripping by some measures even Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Kerry. (Because lawmakers must disclose their assets only within broad dollar ranges, public reports do not allow for precise figures.)

According to his filings, Mr. Issa’s minimum wealth doubled in the last year, and he appears flush with cash: he bought dozens of mutual funds in 2010 worth as much as $80 million, managed by Wall Street powerhouses, without selling off any securities.

Mr. Issa’s transactions cover many pages in his annual disclosure reports, as he has traded huge volumes of stock funds and municipal bonds on a weekly or even daily basis. In 2008 alone, he traded some 360 securities totaling between $650 million and $2 billion.

Those investments have often produced sharp profits.

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. 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. That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.

A former government official said House ethics committee officials quietly inquired into Mr. Issa’s business interests last year because of possible conflicts in his electronics connections.

While the exact focus of those inquiries is not known, Mr. Issa’s ties to the industry are well established: in each of his first five years in Congress, he reported accepting free trips to Las Vegas from the Consumer Electronics Association for its annual convention. Such corporate-sponsored trips were allowed at the time, but Congressional rules have tightened since.

The inquiries did not produce sufficient evidence of ethics problems to move forward, the former official said.

Standards for determining a financial conflict are murky. House members are generally restricted from using their positions “for personal gain” or on matters in which they have a direct financial interest. But a 2009 ethics committee ruling added to the ambiguity, finding there is no prohibition on the mere “appearance” of a conflict.

There are also restrictions on taking salaries from certain businesses. While Mr. Issa’s wife draws a salary at their property management company, Mr. Issa — the firm’s president — does not.

A Balancing Act

Lawmakers must also avoid outside work that can pose a “time conflict,” and “detract from a member’s full time and attention to his official duties,” the guidelines say. By all accounts, these rules were designed to promote the notion of a full-time legislature.

Mr. Issa’s outside interests certainly appear to have kept him busy. Associates describe him as actively involved in business decisions, particularly in his auto electronics firm. His office did not discuss how he balances the time demands of Congress and his outside businesses. His management company, Greene Properties, which he runs with his wife from the office down the hall from his Congressional office in Vista, has acquired more than two dozen properties in the last five years, valued at up to a total of $80 million.

In nearby Carlsbad, a new office complex he owns advertises for prospective tenants. A few miles away, a Hooters restaurant rents space in another building he owns. Nearby, his medical complex bustles with doctors and patients and has few vacancies.

“Issa’s a smart businessman,” said Dean Tilton, a local real estate broker. “We haven’t seen real estate prices this low in 20 years, and he’s taking advantage of that.”

The hard-hit San Diego area has also benefited from federal money Mr. Issa brought through earmarks, which allow lawmakers to award money for their own pet projects. Indeed, more than two dozen of Mr. Issa’s properties are within five miles of projects he has personally earmarked for road work, sanitation and other improvements, an analysis by The Times shows.

His medical complex, for instance, sits directly along West Vista Way, a busy corridor scheduled for widening with $815,000 in funds Mr. Issa earmarked. The congressman bought the complex in 2008, soon after securing the first of two earmarks for the two-mile project and unsuccessfully seeking millions more. The assessor’s office now values the complex at $16 million, a 60 percent appreciation.

Mr. Issa owns a number of commercial properties near the planned $171 million expansion of State Route 76. The project, intended to ease traffic for tens of thousands of commuters, was helped by $245,000 in his earmarks.

A regional transportation official said the earmarks supplemented state financing to move the projects along.

Local leaders say they are just grateful for the money, regardless of any suggestions locally in San Diego that Mr. Issa stands to benefit.

“I don’t really blame the guy,” said John Aguilera, a Vista city councilman. “As a politician, that’s his job to bring a slice of the pie back home, and as a businessman, he’s going to invest in the areas that he champions.”

Some ethics experts wonder, however, whether Mr. Issa’s business interests invite problems.

“The idea is you’re supposed to be a full-time congressman,” said Robert M. Stern, who runs the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies in California. “There may not be a direct conflict of interest, but it creates an appearance that he is trying to influence a policy on issues where he has an investment.”

In 2009, as earmarks became a damaging symbol of Congressional abuse, Mr. Issa joined other lawmakers in pledging to discontinue them. And in recent weeks, he has attacked “the culture of government overspending” in pushing for deep cuts in the national debt.

Mr. Issa’s dual roles reach beyond earmarks.

At a House hearing in 2008 on a much-debated proposal to merge the satellite radio companies Sirius and XM, despite objections on competitive grounds, Mr. Issa praised the “viable combined market” the deal would create as he questioned Sirius’s chief executive and talked of opportunities for expansion.

What Mr. Issa did not mention was that his electronics firm was then in a lucrative partnership with Sirius to distribute its audio products.

While Mr. Issa sold off his controlling interest in DEI soon after he was elected, he remains a board member with a half-million shares in the firm held by his family trust. His management firm also receives $2 million a year for leasing DEI its Vista plant.

DEI’s partnership with Sirius, which continued after the merger, caused friction with competitors. In a lawsuit settled out of court, U.S. Electronics accused Sirius and DEI of freezing it out of the market through anticompetitive practices that relied on “a web of deception, threats and lies” aimed at “the enrichment of certain of its officers and directors.”

When a watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity, asked Mr. Issa about his role in the merger, his office said the congressman’s participation in the House hearing posed no conflict because his founding of DEI was “public knowledge.” But after advice from House ethics lawyers, Mr. Issa avoided any votes on the issue afterward.

With its brand-name audio and electronics products, DEI caught the eye of an equity company, Charlesbank Capital, which bought the company in June for $305 million, or $4.45 a share — nearly three times the presale price. The premium promises a payday of at least $2 million for Mr. Issa’s foundation, which has already earned more than $10 million from sales of DEI stock. (Mr. Issa is now a defendant in a lawsuit brought by DEI shareholders; the suit claims the deal was structured to give him and other directors a “windfall not shared by other stockholders.”)

Ties to Merrill Lynch

The lines between Mr. Issa’s many interests have also become entangled in his frequent criticism of regulators and his frequent defense of Wall Street. At a series of hearings in 2009, Mr. Issa accused Treasury officials of a “cover-up” of their role in Bank of America’s $50 billion purchase of Merrill Lynch months earlier. Most pointedly, he accused Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, of bullying Bank of America “behind closed doors” into buying Merrill Lynch at bargain rates and then lying about it.

“I for one,” Mr. Issa told the Fed chairman, “am looking at Main Street America, the stockholders who in some cases got less than they would have gotten through other means. This includes Chrysler, General Motors and, of course, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.”

Mr. Issa did not mention his own extensive links to Merrill Lynch.

In a television interview days later, however, he said: “I bank at Merrill Lynch. I’m very well aware that every broker there, all the people who were stockholders, were furious that they were in fact being fire-saled to them.”

And Mr. Issa is no ordinary Merrill customer.

His transactions there have totaled more than a billion dollars in the last decade, records show. In the aftermath of the firm’s acquisition in September 2008, in fact, he bought and sold at least $206 million in Merrill Lynch mutual funds in the next 15 days, records show.

His ties to the bank deepened last year, records show, as Merrill Lynch gave him two “personal notes” for lines of credit worth at least $75 million.

Likewise, Mr. Issa has aggressively defended Goldman Sachs, another Wall Street giant.

When the Securities and Exchange Commission brought a major lawsuit charging Goldman with fraud last year, Mr. Issa fired back by opening an investigation. The timing of the lawsuit, he said, smacked of a “partisan political agenda” meant to help President Obama and bolster a bill overhauling financial regulations.

His charge drew nationwide attention, putting regulators on the defensive, but the S.E.C. inspector general later found “no evidence” of political meddling.

Mr. Issa came to Goldman’s defense again last month in a letter to regulators complaining about restrictions on financial firms. Broker dealers “such as Goldman Sachs” faced “a substantial reduction in leverage” because of excessive capital requirements, he wrote.

As with Merrill Lynch, Mr. Issa is keenly interested in Goldman’s performance.

A few weeks before opening his inquiry into the Goldman lawsuit, in fact, he bought another large batch of shares in one of the firm’s high-yield mutual funds, records show. By the end of the year, his stake in Goldman’s fund was worth as much as $25 million.

Barclay Walsh contributed research.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 16, 2011

An article on Monday about the business empire of Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, misstated the worth of the companies involved in his splitting up of a holding company. The split entailed separate multimillion-dollar companies, not multibillion-dollar ones.

Correction: August 26, 2011

An article on Aug. 15 about Representative Darrell Issa’s business dealings, using erroneous information that Mr. Issa’s family foundation filed with the Internal Revenue Service, referred incorrectly to his sale of an AIM mutual fund in 2008. A spokesman for the California Republican now says that the I.R.S. filing is “an incorrect document.” The spokesman, Frederick R. Hill, said that based on Mr. Issa’s private brokerage account records, which he made public with redactions, the purchase of the mutual fund resulted in a $125,000 loss, not a $357,000 gain.

And the article, using incorrect information from the San Diego county assessor’s office, misstated the purchase price for a medical office plaza Mr. Issa’s company bought in Vista, Calif., in 2008. It cost $16.3 million, the assessor’s office now says — not $10.3 million — because the assessor mistakenly omitted in public records a $6 million loan Mr. Issa’s company assumed in the acquisition. Therefore the value of the property remained essentially unchanged, and did not rise 60 percent after Mr. Issa secured federal funding to widen a road alongside the plaza.


Originally here.


NYT’s Issa story under scrutiny

By: Jake Sherman and Keach Hagey

August 19, 2011 09:56 AM EDT

New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau opened his Monday front page story on the overlap between Rep. Darrell Issa’s business and governmental work with a compelling scene:

“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.”

But here’s the problem: Lichtblau, a Pulitzer Prize winner, says he never saw that exact view of Shadowridge Country Club — though he did visit the third floor of the building. And Issa’s office says the course cannot be seen from anywhere in the building.

That’s only a minor point in a story that Issa, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, is saying is riddled with inaccuracies. In the days since the story ran, Issa has been on a crusade against the story, which put Issa’s business and political life under a tough spotlight.

Issa claims that The Times asserted a building he bought went up in value, when it did not and the story said Issa went easy on Toyota during congressional inquiries because a company he founded was a supplier to them, when in fact Issa says his Directed Electronics corporation does not have a relationship with Toyota. Issa’s camp also says the Times’ assertion that his charitable foundation reaped a windfall from a financial holding is false, as he actually lost money on the investment.

The Times is standing by Lichtblau and the story. The paper is not going to issue the front-page retraction that Issa’s camp demanded Friday morning, though the paper did issue a correction on the story on Tuesday on a separate matter.

Dean Baquet, the Times’ D.C. bureau chief who is becoming a top editor in New York this fall, said he is looking at Issa’s office’s complaints.

“I think if you look carefully at Mr. Issa’s complaints, and the story, you will see that there is nothing that gets to the heart of it,” Baquet said. “Happy to consider any mistakes they point out, and we are looking at those. But I’m not seeing a need for any sort of retraction.”

He also argued that Lichtblau’s lede was not misleading.

“I don’t think it implied — at least to my mind — that Issa’s office overlooked the golf course,” he said. “I think it is trying to give a sense that this is a building in a cool area. That’s the way I always read it. Otherwise it really would have said his office overlooked the golf course. That would have been even cooler to say.”

He believes the pushback over the golf course view is a distraction from the story’s main point.

“It feels to me, to be frank, that the discussion of a very sophisticated and nuanced story has been shifted to what the story did not say, rather than what it did say,” he said. “What it did say is that Mr. Issa is doing something rare among members of Congress by actively leading a business empire and that this raises questions that are rarely confronted. I think that is a very, very legitimate issue to explore in the pages of the paper.”

Lichtblau, who did visit the hall of the third floor, told POLITICO he didn’t see the golf course from any of the windows of that floor. He said he stood at Shadowridge Country Club, about a quarter mile to the southwest of the building, and could see the building from there.

He also said a brochure for the building’s lessor bragged about its golf course views. Issa’s office said it does not know about any advertisement describing such views. A posting on the lessor’s website for the building boasts patios “with direct views to golf driving range.”

Lichtblau said the “golf course was some color, but the point of the lede was, symbolically, what it said to have his business office literally next door to his congressional office.”

Issa’s communications director Frederick Hill wrote in a memo to reporters that Lichtblau’s reporting that Issa’s congressional and corporate offices overlook a golf course is untrue — and they included a video. Hill also says that Lichtblau declined to give Issa’s staff his editor’s contact information.

In the story, Lichtblau said DEI was a “major supplier” of Toyota. Issa’s office denies in an online statement that DEI was a supplier at all.

In a statement Friday evening, Toyota spokesman Carly Schaffner said “DEI Holdings is not a direct supplier of Toyota, however, it is possible that Toyota dealers procure their products. As independent business owners, Toyota dealers make available to their customers a variety of aftermarket products to enhance their automotive ownership experience.”

Lichtblau said the financial information that Issa’s office is now disputing was initially provided to the Internal Revenue Service and other authorities by Issa’s company and foundation.

“If theirs is incorrect data, it’s data that they have supplied to public officials, under penalty of verifying that it’s accurate,” he said.

As Lichtblau notes in the story, he tried unsuccessfully for three weeks to get an interview with Issa to discuss these matters. Lichtblau said Issa’s office did not respond to a detailed memo he sent asking about the specific matters with which it is now taking issue, including the apparent 1,900 percent return on one of his foundation’s investments.

Issa and his aides have long had tension with Lichtblau. The California Republican and his aides were unhappy with a May 23, 1998 story that Lichtblau wrote while he was at the Los Angeles Times and Issa was running for the U.S. Senate – the headline on that piece was “Issa’s Rags-to-Riches Tale Has Some Ugly Chapters.”

Lichtblau theorized this history likely contributed to Issa’s decision not to participate in the story while it was being reported.

“He really does have a long memory when it comes to that story, so it’s unfortunate that, given that, that may have been part of the reason that they just completely shut us down in reporting the story,” he said.

Issa’s camp expects to hear back from Times editors, and separately The Times’ public editor has also been poking around on the issue.

“Congressman Issa’s office forwarded us the request for retraction that was sent last evening to Times editors, so we will have to review it like we do any other complaint we receive,” said Joseph Burgess, assistant to the Times’s public editor. “Prior to that, we were looking into the correction requests made by Congressman Issa’s office.”

The Times Friday ran another story about Issa’s business dealings, this time taking aim at a public offering of a corporation he is involved with. It was the second story about the Oversight chairman this week.

Issa is the bombastic chairman of the top investigative committee in Congress, and takes it upon himself to be the check on the Obama administration’s actions. He is worth several hundred million dollars in assets, making him perhaps the richest lawmaker in Washington.

© 2011 POLITICO LLC



Originally
here.


The influential chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee is neck-deep in a war of words with none other than The New York Times, and neither powerful interest appears to be backing down.

Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista, was the subject of a front-page report Monday raising questions about whether he has used his official powers to enhance his personal interests.

One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Issa did not cooperate with the reporter writing the story. The paper said Issa did not respond to repeated requests to discuss his business and political interests.

“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,” the story said.

The story questioned his ties to satellite radio company Sirius and the former investment house Merrill Lynch, and his participation in federal policymaking affecting those companies. Other members of Congress, the Times noted, place much of their wealth in blind trusts to avoid conflicts. Not so with Issa, an active businessman.

More locally, the newspaper claimed that “more than two dozen of Mr. Issa’s properties are within five miles of projects he has personally earmarked for road work, sanitation and other improvements.”

Almost immediately, Issa disputed the premise of the article and took issue with specific elements of the report, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lichtblau.

The initial response noted the story misreported the value of Issa’s holdings as “multibillion-dollar” rather than “multimillion-dollar.” The Times corrected that error Tuesday.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, which runs selected Times stories off the wire, sought Issa’s side of the story before running this one. On Friday, his staff released a seven-page rebuttal outlining 13 separate problems with the story and demanding a front-page retraction.

“It’s very clear with the errors, the exaggerations and half-truths that this was not a story to find facts,” spokesman Frederick Hill said. “This was a story to try to smear Congressman Issa.”

The U-T decided not to publish the original story while the Times reviews Issa’s complaints.

“We believe the story to be an accurate and fair account,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said. “Of course we are looking at any factual issues his staff has raised.”

Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, said Issa may be overreacting to a legitimate examination of a public official’s record.

“The New York Times was doing its job, alerting the public as to where are some potential conflicts of interest,” Nelson said. “That’s a role the news media should be playing.”

Hill responded: “Being subject to scrutiny is certainly fair, but Congressman Issa believes that news reporting should be accurate and fact-based.”

The Times reported that Issa is worth as much as $725 million — more by some measures than Sens. John D. Rockefeller and John Kerry. Hill did not dispute that Issa’s net worth has climbed during his service in Congress, but said the congressman has never exercised undue influence.

“His investments have performed well,” Hill said.

The Watchdog reviewed four of the most serious allegations about the Times story.

SALE PRICE INCORRECT

Issa’s office said the Times misreported the sale price of an office building Issa bought after he secured Congressional earmarks for road improvements on the same street.

The Watchdog reported in April that Issa requested $17 million in earmarks for street improvements along West Vista Way before he bought the building and that the lower amount of $815,000 was approved.

The Times said the sale price of the building was $10.3 million and it “soared” in value to $16.6 million due in part to the earmarks pushed by Issa.

County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk Ernie Dronenburg on Friday confirmed the original sale price was $16.6 million, which is the amount The Watchdog reported in April.

The correct dollar amount of the sale could indicate that the earmarks increased the value of the building before Issa bought it, causing him to pay more.

1,900 PERCENT PROFIT

Issa’s office says The Times was wrong in citing a “1,900 percent” profit the Issa Family Foundation made over seven months following an initial investment of less than $19,000 in the AIM International Small Company Fund.

The Times used the gain as an example of how Issa’s investments “have often produced sharp profits.”

Hill said the assertion appears to be based on “an incorrect form obtained by The Times.” He said the investment actually was $500,000 and the foundation lost $125,000 by the time it was sold.

SUPPLIER OF TOYOTA

The Times reported Issa “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 congressional hearings because his electronics company was “a major supplier of alarms to Toyota.”

Issa said the story “offers no evidence and Directed Electronics is in fact not a supplier to Toyota.”

The automaker issued a statement saying, “DEI Holdings is not a direct supplier of Toyota, however, it is possible that Toyota dealers procure their products. As independent business owners, Toyota dealers make available to their customers a variety of aftermarket products to enhance their automotive ownership experience.”

VIEW IN QUESTION

Issa’s office takes issue with a reference in the first paragraph saying the Vista Republican’s office building is “overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego.”

The U-T visited Issa’s offices on Friday, and the Shadowridge Country Club isn’t plainly visible. It’s about a 1.5 mile drive from Issa’s parking lot to the clubhouse.

The Times reporter told the website Politico that he did not see the golf course from the building, but that he saw the building from the golf course. The U-T was unable to gain access to the course, which is private.

The area is not characterized by rugged foothills so much as suburban living. Down the street are a Burlington Coat Factory, Target and 24 Hour Fitness.

“I don’t think it implied — at least to my mind — that Issa’s office overlooked the golf course,” Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet told Politico. “I think it is trying to give a sense that this is a building in a cool area.”



Originally
here.


August 19, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

Citing 13 Erroneous Statements, Issa Demands NY Times Retract Error-Ridden Front Page Story

WASHINGTON. D.C. – The office of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista, CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has formally requested that the New York Times issue a front-page retraction for an error-filled article entitled, “Helping His District, and Himself.”

The New York Times has so far issued one correction and is reviewing other errors cited by Rep. Issa’s office and the request for the retraction. It has promised to respond.

Below is the formal request for a retraction sent by Rep. Issa’s office yesterday to editors of The New York Times:

On behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, please accept this as a formal request for a full front page retraction, including the headline, “Helping His District, and Himself,” that ran in the Monday, August 15 edition of the New York Times. The request for a full front page retraction is based on numerous errors that invalidate the primary assertions made in the story that is a false and sensationalized account Rep. Issa’s efforts to conduct congressional oversight of the Obama Administration and other matters.

This request is being sent after New York Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, who wrote the story, refused to share the contact information of his editors for a discussion of errors in the story as requested by Rep. Issa’s congressional office.

The central claim in the New York Times story is an allegation of self-dealing on the part of Rep. Darrell Issa, as the story describes, “with at least some of the congressman’s actions helping to make a rich man richer” and “specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses.”

The New York Times story cites three central examples it believes justifies these allegations:

• A medical complex purchased by Rep. Issa in 2008 that the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation as it increased in value from $10.3 million to $16.6 million, “at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work” that Rep. Issa supported.

• That he “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings on unintended acceleration due to “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota.”

• An alleged 1900 percent profit Rep. Issa’s charitable foundation made on an investment of “less that $19,000” that was sold seven months later for $357,000 “months before the stock market crashed.”

All central examples, however, are wildly inaccurate, and the truth deserves to be told.

• The medical complex the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation since it was purchased for $10.3 million and is now valued at $16.6 million is a patently false claim. According to the buyer’s final settlement statement, the property in question was not purchased for $10.3 million as the New York Times reported but for $16.6 million – the exact same figure of its current tax assessment. According to these numbers, the appreciation is not 60 percent but roughly zero. In addition, the government sponsored road work noted in the article has not even begun and Rep. Issa’s requests for the project (which were publicly announced and made on behalf of and at the request of the City of Vista, and the San Diego Association of Governments which is the regional transportation planning authority) all came before the 2009 property purchase.

• The allegation that Rep. Issa “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings because of “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota” is again an example of a factual error in the Times story that lends no support to the story’s central premise. While the Times story tells readers that Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is a “major supplier of alarms to Toyota,” the story offers no evidence, and Directed Electronics is, in fact, not a supplier to Toyota. The New York Times also fails to note that Rep. Issa does not have a personal financial interest in Directed Electronics.

• The “1,900 percent” profit allegation is, again, based on reporting errors by the New York Times. This is assertion is based on an incorrect form obtained by the Times. According to a financial transaction record, the Issa Family Foundation’s initial investment in the AIM Small Company fund was not $19,000 but $500,000. The asset was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss – not a 1900 percent gain as was reported.

In addition, the lede line of the Times story – an attempt by the New York Times to foreshadow a corporate image of Rep. Issa’s congressional office – contains a factual inaccuracy in introducing intentionally distorted imagery. The story begins, “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.” As this video shows, however, the office building located at 1800 Thibodo Rd. in Vista does not overlook a golf course.

Because of these errors, and another error the New York Times did correct that grossly exaggerated the value of some holdings held by Rep. Issa, the following lines in the New York Times original story that ran August 15 are incorrect or made on baseless assertions:

• The title, “Helping His District and Himself” implies that Rep. Issa has engaged in self-dealing. The only evidence the story offers for this assertion are factually flawed assertions.

• The lede, “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 building where Rep. Issa’s office is located does not overlook a golf course as the reporter Eric Lichtblau implies he personally observed.

• “Mr. Issa has … split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.” Rep. Issa does not own a single multi-billion business (The Times has issued a correction for this error).

• “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.” The only examples the New York Times raises of Rep. Issa’s public actions benefiting his private holdings are the erroneous examples previously noted.

• “In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.” The story erroneously reports the property’s purchase price which was, in fact, $16.6 million. It also fails to mention that at the time he sought funding for his district he did not own this property.

• “At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored roadwork.” The roadwork in question has not begun and, as noted previously, the New York Times’ assertion that the value of the medical complex has “soared” is based on false information. The Times’ statement also conflicts with the statement of a quoted source in the story, Dean Tilton the local commercial property broker, who describes this as the worst market in twenty years. The Times suggests road projects miles away from those owned by Rep. Issa benefit him. By this logic, wouldn’t the entire area be booming as a result of Rep. Issa’s earmarks?

• “But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.” The New York Times fails to provide accurate examples of “specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses.”

• “After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he 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.” The New York Times fails to note that Rep. Issa’s transactions with Merrill Lynch have been appropriately disclosed in his annual ethics filing.

• “In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.” Again, the New York Times story fails to provide factually accurate examples for this assertion.

• “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.” Rep. Issa’s former company is not a supplier to Toyota.

• “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.” This assertion is based on an incorrect document. The actual purchase price was not $19,000, but $500,000 and resulted in a $125,000 loss.

• “That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.” This assertion is based on the false 1900 percent claim.

• “Mr. Issa is keenly interested in Goldman’s performance.” This statement lacks a basis in fact as Rep. Issa does not have investments dependent on Goldman Sach’s performance.

I appreciate your attention to these thirteen errors contained in the August 15 story and look forward to hearing your response to our request for a front-page retraction of the story due to the inaccuracies that fully undermine the premise of the article.

Thank you,

Frederick Hill

Director of Communications


Finished, file.

The UK Guardian on US politics


Originally here.


US voters are not mad.  Our stereotype of them is patronising and wrong


We shouldn’t get carried away by media coverage of the Tea Party.  Many Americans are put off by the Christian right

Martin Kettle
guardian.co.uk

Thursday 18 August 2011 22.00 BST

        America is a country of mad people governed by buffoons.  That’s the way a lot of Europeans are content to see it, no matter how much they love the US in other ways.  A country of mad people because they are so religious, violent, overweight and in denial about things that look obvious from here but which the flag-wavers over there refuse to get.  Governed by buffoons because, for the past half-century, from Lyndon Johnson to George W Bush, no US president was truly respected in much of this continent.  Not even Reagan on the right or Clinton on the left.  All of them, in various ways, were laughable.

        That changed in 2008.  With one mighty bound, the nation of mad people became a nation of visionaries, electing not a buffoon but an incredibly cool, incredibly smart, incredibly articulate leader who was so progressive and sensitive that, guess what, he might almost have been one of us.  Except that, inconveniently, he wasn’t.  But that didn’t matter.  We gave him the Nobel peace prize when he’d only been in office for five minutes and drooled whenever he looked in our direction.

        Now, with 15 months to go before the next US presidential election, a spectre is haunting Europe.  The spectre is the possibility Barack Obama might not be re-elected.  In fact it’s more than that.  It’s the sense, among a lot of Europeans and a lot of progressives – US ones too – that Obama wasn’t as great as he seemed and that, as a result, he has allowed the mad people to get their act together again and prepare to elect another buffoon next November.  Prejudices confirmed.  Comfort zone resumed.

        That’s the not-so-subtle subtext of a lot of the European reporting on US politics this summer.  It’s what underpins the still-not-quite-played-out European fascination with Sarah Palin, a politician who made a giant contribution to the Republican defeat in 2008 and who, if her party were foolish enough to nominate her again, would repeat the gift, even more generously, in 2012.  And it’s what gives so much of the discussion of the Tea Party such a hefty dose of transatlantic schadenfreude.  The message to Europe from Iowa at the weekend scarcely needed spelling out.  It permeated every report from the cornfields: they’re so awful – and they’re going to win!

        Sorry to spoil the party, but almost everything about this stereotypical view of the US is both patronising and, perhaps worse, wrong.  Let’s put some serious caveats out there.  Let’s admit that the Republican right is often very dynamic and effective, admit that Obama has often failed to leverage his power as effectively as he could have, admit that Americans have become increasingly sceptical of big government and worried about deficits, and admit that, in the light of the midterm elections and with the economy sliding, only a fool would dismiss the possibility of a Republican win in 2012.  Look at the polls.  Seven out of 10 Americans are currently unhappy with Obama’s handling of the economy.  His job approval ratings have just slumped to 40%.  It has to improve if he is to win.

        But let’s also look at a few stubborn realities that stand in the way of the self-fulfilling Republican prophesy.  Let’s start with the fact the Ames straw poll, last week’s Iowa fundraising event, is no guide to anything except itself.  It’s a stunt for conservative Republicans.  And it has duly conferred its blessing on one of their number, Michele Bachmann.  But that’s like Labour holding Barnsley.

        Take note, too, of the limitations of the Tea Party.  It’s easy to get carried away – as Tea Party fans themselves certainly do – with the belief that they are a new force breaking the mould of American politics.  But the public is becoming increasingly negative towards the Tea Party, while a new analysis published in the New York Times this week suggests the campaign is largely made up of the same old white, Christian, conservative Republican voters who did the business for Newt Gingrich in 1994 and for Bush a decade later.  “The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government,” conclude political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam, “but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God into government.”

        This matters because, out there in the real US, real voters are not so much enthused as turned off by the overmingling of religion and politics.  Yet that’s what Bachmann, who holds prayer sessions on the campaign trail, offers.  And it’s also what Texas governor Rick Perry, the latest Republican contender to be written up in grand guignol terms, offers too.  Perry may pull in supporters on the campaign trail but when he holds large prayer rallies, when he calls the head of the Federal Reserve treasonous and threatens him with a “pretty ugly” reception in Texas, and describes Obama as “the greatest threat to our country”, both of which he did this week, he cuts himself off from many more voters than he speaks for.

        Beware, too, of mistaking the voices of midterm US voters with those who vote in presidential years.  You get a different kind of American at the ballot box in presidential years – more young voters, more black ones, often more female, certainly more liberal and more independent.  You also get many more of them – one in every three Americans who voted in 2008 sat out the midterms two years later.  None of this means that they will all be voting for Obama in November 2012, but if they do, the outcome will look much less Republican than it did nine months ago, when there were much higher numbers of angry white guys.

        In the end, a presidential contest is about a choice between two candidates and their messages.  With Republican candidates attacking each other and paying court to the party’s core conservative vote, the chance that they may nominate someone unelectable would obviously help Obama.  But much will also depend on his ability to re-energise the coalition, and particularly the independents, that swept him to victory on such a relatively high – by US standards – turnout in 2008.  In a recession, with high unemployment and a crippling deficit, and after suffering a capricious but humiliating economic downgrade on his watch, that will not be easy.  There are lots of sensible people in the US as well as mad ones. But Obama still has to win their votes.