House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) receives quite a bit of attention for his unique roll on Capitol Hill. In short, he's the guy whose job it is to create political controversies for Obama White House, whether they have merit or not.
So, when House Republicans investigated Solyndra's loan guarantees, it was Issa leading the hearings. When House Republicans tried to turn "Fast and Furious" into a scandal, it was Issa yelling at Justice Department officials. And when House Republicans decided to turn last September's attacks in Benghazi into a political story, it was Issa who adopted the role of Grand Inquisitor.
But every time I see the California Republican, I think of this Ryan Lizza piece in the New Yorker from a couple of years ago, detailing Issa's rather remarkable background, and his rise to wealth and power despite several "troubles."
"Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building."
As we discussed last year, Lizza wasn't being hyperbolic. Issa really has spent a fair amount of his adult life as a suspected criminal.
Lizza's report highlighted Issa having one run-in with the law after another, including arrests and indictments. There are also many suspected crimes -- he's accused of deliberately burning down a building and threatening a former employee with a gun -- which did not lead to formal charges, but which nevertheless cast the congressman in a less-than-flattering light.
The New Yorker report also noted an incident in which Issa was in a car accident with a woman who needed to be hospitalized. He drove away before the police could arrive because, as he told the person he hit, he didn't have time to wait. Issa didn't face charges, but he was sued over the matter, and agreed to an out-of-court settlement.
And in case that weren't quite enough, the same article also noted instances in which Issa appears to have lied about his background.
The congressman, for example, claimed to receive the "highest possible" ratings during his Army career, despite the fact that at one point he "received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot." Issa also claimed to have provided security for President Nixon in 1971, which wasn't true, and said he won a national Entrepreneur of the Year award, but didn't.
As a rule, people with this kind of background do not run for Congress. If they do and manage to get elected, they're not generally tasked with leading investigations into others' suspected wrongdoing.