March 6, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Issa’s Trade Show Visits Blur Congressional, Personal Business

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In 2010 and 2011, two of Issas staff members filed gift/travel forms with the Ethics Committee saying their travel was paid for by the association, along with a flock of other House staff and Members. But Issa did not file travel forms, and spokesman Frederick Hill said it was because he traveled as a board member of DEI on personal business.

For this years show, Issa was accompanied for part of the trip by his then-spokesman Kurt Bardella, whose $447 travel tab was paid for by the Oversight Committee, according to committee records. The committee report indicates that Bardella was at the show for official committee business.

A profile of Issa by Ryan Lizza that ran in the New Yorker in January said, Issa stood with Bardella at the booth for Directed Electronics, where he is still on the board of directors, and talked to some of his former employees.

Bardella was fired earlier this week for leaking reporters e-mails to a New York Times reporter who is working on a book.

Hill said Bardella traveled to Las Vegas specifically to participate in Issas interview with Lizza, but that was not the primary purpose of the trip for Issa. The Congressmans primary purpose was personal the meeting of the DEI board Hill added, and it wouldnt be appropriate to spend official funds when the primary purpose and majority of the trip was Issas board duties.

Hill said Issa cleared this arrangement with the Ethics Committee. We explained it to House Ethics, and this was their recommendation.

The House ethics manual says that House rules prohibit the use of private funds or in-kind support from outside sources for official activities, meaning that Issa could not use company money to fly to a Congressional event. But the manual also accepts the possibility of mixed purpose trips. In those cases, the Member or staffer must determine the primary purpose of the trip, and the source of that primary purpose must pay the airfare and all other expenses of the trip. Both Issa and Bardella appear to have met this requirement.

And if Issa is indeed traveling in his personal capacity, he is not bound by the disclosure requirements that cover official Congressional travel, nor the limits on how many days he can spend on the ground at the sponsors expense.

But the trip highlights the thin line between Issas corporate and Congressional activities. Roll Call reported earlier this week that Issa has long maintained a website that served as a portal to DEI Holdings, a second family company called Greene Properties and his Congressional office. The website carried a disclaimer that it was paid for by Issas campaign, but after Roll Calls inquiries, the Congressional and campaign links were removed from the site.

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