Issa is worth a minimum of $355 million, thanks to some well-performing bonds.
The executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Melanie Sloan, told CQ Roll Call she doesn’t think the disclosure forms are “sufficient at all.”
“The greater the wealth, the less information you have about the amounts,” Sloan said. “The richer the member of Congress, the less we know about the member’s finances.”
Sloan said CREW would like to know more about Issa’s mega-loan from Merrill Lynch.
“I wonder why he would need a $50 million loan with his wealth,” she said.
But watchdogs can do little more than wonder.
There is no rule requiring Issa to disclose how much he really owes — nor how much he is really worth.
When Issa’s office was contacted for this report, it asked to see a list of CQ Roll Call’s questions for the congressman. But after reviewing the list, which ranged from questions about the usefulness of financial disclosures to Issa’s $50 million loan, the California lawmaker’s spokeswoman declined to comment.
Issa, as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is a top government watchdog. He’s been a consistent critic of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
He has also made a name for himself railing against government waste. He has called federal salaries and pension plans “overly generous,” and he pushed to make federal workers pay an additional $82 billion in pension contributions over 10 years.
Issa’s “how I made my money” story is well-documented. At 17, he dropped out of high school and joined the Army. He served two years, went to college on the Army’s dime and returned to duty.
But before he went to college, Issa and his brother, William, were both charged with stealing a Maserati from a showroom. The charges were dropped.
After Issa got his degree, he went back to the Army from 1976 to 1980. He then joined the Army Reserve and used $7,000 in savings to buy a struggling electronics business. He turned the business around by making car alarms, attaching his own distinctive deep voice (“Please step away from the car”) to the company’s signature product, the Viper.
These days the Viper “protects and remote starts more vehicles than anyone else on the planet,” the company boasts. Issa made some money when he sold the company in 2000. And he has continued to make money in the stock market and with his real estate development company, Greene Properties.
In his latest disclosure, Issa reported real estate assets of at least $36 million.
An earlier version of this article misidentified Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.