Rep. Darrell Issa’s work on the Oversight Committee is getting personal. Literally.
In mid-February, videos posted by the California Republican’s staff on the YouTube page of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee contained a production credit for “DEI Productions” instead of the “Oversight Productions” moniker his office had used on other committee videos.
It may be a simple case of cross-posting videos, but the personal branding extends deeply into Issa’s personal history and wealth.
DEI stands for Darrell Edward Issa, but the DEI brand is also closely tied to Issa’s corporate affairs, close enough to raise the eyebrows of Congressional ethics watchdogs.
Issa maintains dei.com, which has served as a portal to two of his family companies and his Congressional campaign website. The site had a disclaimer at the bottom saying it was paid for by Issa’s campaign, but after Roll Call inquired about the site Tuesday, that language was removed and the link to the campaign site appeared to have been removed.
The header on the site reads “ISSA – US Congressman,” but it was originally the corporate address for the car alarm company Issa ran before he came to Congress, Directed Electronics Inc.
For watchdogs, the concern is whether Issa has clearly separated his campaign and corporate entities. In general, candidates cannot use their corporate resources to support their campaigns.
“When you go on a site and it says, ‘Here are my corporate accounts and here is my Congressional account,’ there should be a Chinese wall there,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center. Dei.com made it appear “that the corporate entities and the campaign entity are just subsidiaries of each other.”
McGehee also pointed out that the link to the campaign website said “US Congressman Darrell Issa’s Site,” which could lead a visitor to believe it was the official Congressional website rather than the campaign site. Late Tuesday, the campaign site link was removed.
Issa’s office said the dei.com address is “a personal asset” that the Congressman retained when he sold Directed Electronics. That sale made Issa wealthy. Last year, Roll Call ranked Issa as the richest Member of the House, with a minimum net worth of $160 million.
Dei.com was apparently converted briefly into a campaign website when Issa decided to run for office in 1999. An image of the site retained by the Internet Archive features a “Darrell Issa, U.S. Congress” logo and a statement about his decision to run. The site also had a disclaimer saying it was “Paid for by Darrell Issa for U.S. Congress.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.