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My 35-year career in public education includes five years as a high school English teacher, 30 as a university administrator. I began my second life as a freelance journalist, beginning as an award-winning op-ed columnist for the former San Diego daily North County Times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fact Checking the Darrell Issa Campaign Mailer You Paid For



Fact Checking the Darrell Issa Campaign Mailer You Paid For


A few days ago I received a mailer from my Congressman titled, Getting Results for California's 49th District. Below the title a quote from The Washington Post declares "Darrell Issa one of the 'Most Effective Lawmakers' in Congress."

Then came the small print: PUBLIC DOCUMENT-OFFICIAL BUSINESS. Then, in even smaller type: This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense.

It's perfectly legal. The Congressional franking privilege allows taxpayer funding for incumbents to promote themselves by mail, so long as they do not solicit your vote or a donation to their campaigns. Issa's mailer didn't ask me for my money or my vote. But after a closer look I found reason enough to deny him both.

For starters, the Washington Post article praising Issa was not an editorial endorsement, as implied. It was simply taken from an article written by two university professors who developed a rating system for Congress Members by party. They ranked Issa among the top five Republican lawmakers in the 2013-2014 term.

The following fact checks address his mailer's claims of achievements during his current term of office, beginning in January 2015.

The mailer highlights Issa's achievements in four areas. Let's call them the Darrell Issa Mailer Claims (DIM Claims). Each fact check assigns a score for Bloviating Spin (BS), ranging from No BS to Total BS.

DIM Claim #1: Creating jobs for California

The mailer credits Issa for sponsoring the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, intended to "keep jobs in America by closing loopholes used to ship jobs overseas." He introduced the bill just last month. It's cooling its heels in the Judiciary Committee.

The text of H.R.5801 reveals the bill has nothing to do with keeping jobs from being shipped overseas. Its purpose is to close a loophole in the H–1B visa program, requiring employers to pay sufficiently high wages to ensure the protection of the workforce in the United States. A more honest name for it would be Employment Security for Silicon Valley High-Tech Employees Act.

DIM Claim #1 blames "sky high tax rates and burdensome regulations" for "sending jobs everywhere but California." Not according to this March 2015 article in the L.A.Times, "California tops other states in job growth." Writer Marc Lifsher reports, "California gained 498,000 new jobs in the 12 months ending Jan. 31, 2015, almost 30% more than Texas' total of 392,900."

Fact Check Score: Issa's right about the H-1B visa program. It needs to be fixed to protect the wages of highly educated American workers. But claiming it will keep jobs from being shipped out of California because of burdensome taxes and regulations earns this DIM Claim a score of Mostly BS.

DIM Claim #2: Holding Government Accountable

As a journalist I applaud Issa's sponsorship of H.R. 653, updating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The law will make it "easier than ever before for people to uncover what their government is doing behind closed doors," as the mailer claims. But there are three branches of government. This version of FOIA applies only to federal agencies within the executive branch.

Fact Check Score: Allowing public access to documents related to Congressional hearings would enable voters to do their own cost/benefit analyses, holding their elected representatives accountable for results. This DIM Claim gets a score of Partly BS.

DIM Claim #3: Keeping America Safe

The mailer claims Issa is "leading the fight to stop Isis in its tracks," boasting that this year alone he "supported and passed 11 bills into law that will halt terrorist radicalization and recruitment."
But of the 17 bills he's introduced since January 2015, not one addresses terrorism.

Among the bills he did sponsor were:

H.R. 136, renaming Camp Pendleton's post office;
H.R 134, designating the 200-mile coastal sea zone the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States;
H.R. 1836, Monuments Protection Act, which would keep national monuments open when Congressional wrangling over the budget shuts down government services; and
H.R. 2222, Eliminate Special Treatment for Congress Act, a misleading title for a law that would allow members of Congress unlimited tax deductions for "ordinary and necessary business expenses," removing their current limit of $3,000.

Fact Check Score: There's no record of Issa leading the fight against Isis, unless you define leadership as jumping aboard popular bills as a co-sponsor. This DIM Claim gets a rating of Total BS.

DIM Claim #4: Protecting our Veterans

Issa's mailer claims he, "Sponsored and passed legislation to reform the VA to ensure agency officials are held accountable." One of those bills, H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015, was introduced in the House in May 2015 by Florida's Rep. Jeff Miller. Issa's name is nowhere to be found among its 98 cosponsors.

Just last month Rep. Miller resurrected VA reform under a sexier name, H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016. This being an election year, Issa quickly added his name to the list of 12 co-sponsors.

Fact Check Score: To say the 49th District Congressman "sponsored and passed legislation to reform the VA" earns this DIM Claim a score of Total BS. Not even his campaign website boasts of doing that.

Missing from Issa's taxpayer funded mailer is any mention of his infamous chairing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When he stepped down in humiliation last year, after four years of failed leadership, his departure was greeted with bipartisan applause.

When Republican leaders tapped Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz to chair the committee he explained to reporters, "Darrell Issa didn't do many reports. He did big press releases."

At the committee's first meeting after gavel passing, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the top Democrat, spoke. "The last four years have been filled with acrimony, partisanship and sometimes vulgar displays. They were a stain on this committee's integrity and an embarrassment to the House of Representatives."

It's no wonder Issa's taxpayer funded mailer failed to mention his service on the oversight committee. In fact, his leadership was cited in the mailer only once, in his bogus boast that he's leading the fight to stop Isis.

After sixteen years of Darrell's Issa's Bloviating Spin in Congress, it's time for 49th District voters to look elsewhere for real leadership.