Darrell Issa is South County's congressman these days, and the major investor in a campaign to unseat Gov. Gray Davis. But, by his own admission, Issa comes from a background of thievery. His brother stole cars. Issa's been accused of stealing cars with his brother. And Issa built a $100 million business selling car alarms to keep people like his brother and–allegedly–himself from stealing more cars.
"When people ask me why I got into the car alarm business, I tell them the truth," Issa told the San Francisco Chronicle on June 25. "It was because my brother was a car thief."
The truth is that Issa himself is accused of stealing cars.
Until now, stories of Issa and stolen cars were limited to a period when he was just 19. In 1971, while enlisted in the Army, Issa allegedly stole a Dodge sedan from a soldier at a military base near Pittsburgh. The story emerged during Issa's 1998 campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, as told by the soldier who allegedly had his car stolen. The soldier, now retired, said he never pressed charges because he got his car back after threatening Issa. Calling the charges "reckless," Issa denied the incident ever happened.
How weird, then, that grand theft auto characterized another allegation making news in 1998. That allegation suggests that, in 1972, Issa and his brother William allegedly swiped a Maserati from a Cleveland car dealership. The brothers were indicted, but court records show the charges were later dropped. Once again, Issa denied all wrongdoing, but blamed his brother, all but calling him a career criminal.
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Now, thanks to the Chronicle, we have an even more bizarre entry in Issa's rap sheet. Dating back to 1979, when Issa was a 27-year-old Army officer in San Jose, this one alleges that Darrell and William faked the theft of a Mercedes belonging to Darrell. Court records cited by the Chronicle show that William, posing as his brother, sold the car for $16,000 shortly before Darrell Issa reported it stolen.
San Jose police arrested the brothers on felony auto-theft charges in early 1980. After they pleaded not guilty, a judge ordered them to stand trial. But by the summer of 1980, the Santa Clara County DA's office dropped the case, citing lack of evidence. Charging the men with misdemeanors was considered and then abandoned. Once again, Issa blamed his brother for any wrongdoing.
Now we have Issa masterminding one of the greatest thefts in California history: Gray Davis' job. He's gone from allegedly stealing cars to pinning the rap on his own brother to getting rich off people's fears of a rise in the car tax to stealing a branch of state government, all in the name of family values. Is that not progress?
Research assistance by Paul Brennan.