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October 23, 2010 / J. Shaw

Obama's Nemesis: Meet Rep. Darrell Issa

 Anyone who’s spent much time near parked cars has likely heard Rep. Darrell Issa’s stern voice: “Protected by Viper. Stand back.” After next month’s election, Americans may be hearing a lot more from the millionaire congressman and car alarm inventor.

Already President Barack Obama’s chief antagonist in Congress, Issa, R-Calif., would take over the main House investigating committee and control its probes of the White House and the federal bureaucracy if Republicans win back the House.

One liberal Democrat, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, predicts that Issa (pronounced EYE’-suh) will use subpoena power as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to conduct a “witch hunt in an effort to bring down the Obama administration.”

Issa already is the bearer of daily anti-Obama sound bites on cable TV. Over a 10-day period in July, for example, his schedule showed 14 written statements and 11 television appearances.

The 56-year-old San Diego-area congressman is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. His annual financial report shows holdings worth a minimum of $161 million. He’s probably worth more since only ranges of assets are listed.

He’s also generous with his money. He asks staff members to identify their charities so he can contribute, and he raises money for military families at Camp Pendleton in his district and the local Boys and Girls Clubs.

Much of his wealth comes from inventing the Viper car security systems, which have sold more than 35 million units. When someone nears a Viper-equipped car or truck, it’s still Issa’s voice that warns them away before sounding six changing siren tones.

Issa is a computer expert with a hankering to fix breakdowns. His congressional staff won’t tell him about technical troubles for fear he’ll get too involved and blow through scheduled meetings.

His criticisms of Obama focus, in part, on the affordable mortgage program, financial bailout policies, preservation of White House records, correspondence with lobbyists and the president’s political appointees to a stimulus panel.A sign in his office, presented by his staff, says, “The corruption stops here.”

Issa’s in the habit of wielding whatever political power he can muster. In 2003, already in Congress, he spent nearly $2 million of his money on the successful recall of Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis. He vaulted over eight Republicans to become his party’s senior member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“I still have a tendency to say, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?'” Issa said in an interview. “Do you seize opportunities when they come? Yes.”

It’s hard to imagine the tall, immaculately groomed conservative with his expensive suits, driving a hand-painted, Volkswagen bus-truck combo as a young man. Yet, there it is, with its peace signs as the background on Issa’s office computer.



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