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Darrell Issa Demands Retraction of NYT Story, Claims 13 Errors

Friday, August 19, 2011
posted by Bradley J. Fikes

The office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), has followed up with its complaint of errors in a recent New York Times story with another list of errors — and a demand for a retraction for the 13 claimed errors. I’m posting the entire press release below. Here’s my original blog post on the controversy.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation’s blog, which has been critical of the NYT story by Eric Lichtblau, has a new post up on one of those claimed errors, implying that Issa is improperly mixing his private business with public duties. DEI Holdings, the company Issa founded and still advises, is not a direct supplier to Toyota. Here’s the statement Heritage printed from Toyota:

“DEI Holdings is not a direct supplier of Toyota, however, it is possible that Toyota dealers procure their products,” spokeswoman Carly Schaffner said. “As independent business owners, Toyota dealers make available to their customers a variety of aftermarket products to enhance their automotive ownership experience.”

To my eye, some of the claimed errors are a matter of interpretation, (such as the statement that Issa is interested in the performance of Goldman Sachs), while some are much more worrisome (from the NYT’s perspective) with their specificity.

The latter includes the purchase price of a medical office building, which is in the realm of ascertainable facts that can be determined from public records. The NYT says Issa bought it for $10.3 million; Issa says he bought it for $16.6 million. Both can’t be right.

Below is the complete demand for retraction from Issa’s office. Instead of being forced to rely on the reporters’ word about its contents, as the MSM usually makes you do, you can read the entire document and judge its credibility for yourself.

(DISCLAIMER: This post is my opinion, and not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).

———————————————————–

WASHINGTON. D.C. – The office of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista, CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has formally requested that the New York Times issue a front-page retraction for an error-filled article entitled, “Helping His District, and Himself.”

The New York Times has so far issued one correction and is reviewing other errors cited by Rep. Issa’s office and the request for the retraction. It has promised to respond.

Below is the formal request for a retraction sent by Rep. Issa’s office yesterday to editors of The New York Times:

On behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, please accept this as a formal request for a full front page retraction, including the headline, “Helping His District, and Himself,” that ran in the Monday, August 15 edition of the New York Times.  The request for a full front page retraction is based on numerous errors that invalidate the primary assertions made in the story that is a false and sensationalized account Rep. Issa’s efforts to conduct congressional oversight of the Obama Administration and other matters.

This request is being sent after New York Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, who wrote the story, refused to share the contact information of his editors for a discussion of errors in the story as requested by Rep. Issa’s congressional office.

The central claim in the New York Times story is an allegation of self-dealing on the part of Rep. Darrell Issa, as the story describes, “with at least some of the congressman’s actions helping to make a rich man richer” and “specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses.”

The New York Times story cites three central examples it believes justifies these allegations:

  • A medical complex purchased by Rep. Issa in 2008 that the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation as it increased in value from $10.3 million to $16.6 million, “at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work” that Rep. Issa supported.
  • That he “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings on unintended acceleration due to “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota.”
  • An alleged 1900 percent profit Rep. Issa’s charitable foundation made on an investment of “less that $19,000” that was sold seven months later for $357,000 “months before the stock market crashed.”

All central examples, however, are wildly inaccurate, and the truth deserves to be told.

  • The medical complex the Times story alleges enjoyed a 60 percent appreciation since it was purchased for $10.3 million and is now valued at $16.6 million is a patently false claim.  According to the  buyer’s final settlement statement, the property in question was not purchased for $10.3 million as the New York Times reported but for $16.6 million – the exact same figure of its current tax assessment.  According to these numbers, the appreciation is not 60 percent but roughly zero.  In addition, the government sponsored road work noted in the article has not even begun and Rep. Issa’s requests for the project (which were publicly announced and made on behalf of and at the request of the City of Vista, and the San Diego Association of Governments which is the regional transportation planning authority) all came before the 2009 property purchase.
  • The allegation that Rep. Issa “went easy” on Toyota during 2010 hearings because of “his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota” is again an example of a factual error in the Times story that lends no support to the story’s central premise.  While the Times story tells readers that Rep. Issa’s former company, Directed Electronics, is a “major supplier of alarms to Toyota,” the story offers no evidence, and Directed Electronics is, in fact, not a supplier to Toyota.  The New York Times also fails to note that Rep. Issa does not have a personal financial interest in Directed Electronics.
  • The “1,900 percent” profit allegation is, again, based on reporting errors by the New York Times.   This is assertion is based on an incorrect form obtained by the Times.  According to a financial transaction record, the Issa Family Foundation’s initial investment in the AIM Small Company fund was not $19,000 but $500,000.  The asset was later sold for $375,000 resulting in a $125,000 loss – not a 1900 percent gain as was reported.
In addition, the lede line of the Times story – an attempt by the New York Times to foreshadow a corporate image of Rep. Issa’s congressional office – contains a factual inaccuracy in introducing intentionally distorted imagery. The story begins, “Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”  As this video shows, however, the office building located at 1800 Thibodo Rd. in Vista does not overlook a golf course.

Because of these errors, and another error the New York Times did correct that grossly exaggerated the value of some holdings held by Rep. Issa, the following lines in the New York Times original story that ran August 15 are incorrect or made on baseless assertions:

  • The title, “Helping His District and Himself” implies that Rep. Issa has engaged in self-dealing.  The only evidence the story offers for this assertion are factually flawed assertions.
  • The lede, “Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”  The building where Rep. Issa’s office is located does not overlook a golf course as the reporter Eric Lichtblau implies he personally observed.
  • “Mr. Issa has … split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses.”  Rep. Issa does not own a single multi-billion business (The Times has issued a correction for this error).
  • “As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.”  The only examples the New York Times raises of Rep. Issa’s public actions benefiting his private holdings are the erroneous examples previously noted.
  • “In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.”  The story erroneously reports the property’s purchase price which was, in fact, $16.6 million.  It also fails to mention that at the time he sought funding for his district he did not own this property.
  • “At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored roadwork.”  The roadwork in question has not begun and, as noted previously, the New York Times’ assertion that the value of the medical complex has “soared” is based on false information.  The Times’ statement also conflicts with the statement of a quoted source in the story, Dean Tilton the local commercial property broker, who describes this as the worst market in twenty years.  The Times suggests road projects miles away from those owned by Rep. Issa benefit him.  By this logic, wouldn’t the entire area be booming as a result of Rep. Issa’s earmarks?
  • “But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.”  The New York Times fails to provide accurate examples of “specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses.”
  • “After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more.”  The New York Times fails to note that Rep. Issa’s transactions with Merrill Lynch have been appropriately disclosed in his annual ethics filing.
  • “In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.” Again, the New York Times story fails to provide factually accurate examples for this assertion.
  • “Then, Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls.”  Rep. Issa’s former company is not a supplier to Toyota.
  • “In one 2008 sale, months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less than $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months, the foundation reported to the Internal Revenue Service.”  This assertion is based on an incorrect document.  The actual purchase price was not $19,000, but $500,000 and resulted in a $125,000 loss.
  • “That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.”  This assertion is based on the false 1900 percent claim.
  • “Mr. Issa is keenly interested in Goldman’s performance.”  This statement lacks a basis in fact as Rep. Issa does not have investments dependent on Goldman Sach’s performance.

I appreciate your attention to these thirteen errors contained in the August 15 story and look forward to hearing your response to our request for a front-page retraction of the story due to the inaccuracies that fully undermine the premise of the article.

Thank you,

Frederick Hill
Director of Communications

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3 Responses to “Darrell Issa Demands Retraction of NYT Story, Claims 13 Errors”

  1. Jim Sills says:

    Brad:

    This is “reporter” Eric Lichtblau’s SECOND major print assault on Rep. Issa and his family. The first was published a few weeks before the 1998 California US Senate primary, a masterpiece of innuendo which left readers with false impressions by the technique of OMISSION.

    That attack was published in the LA Times. It is reasonable to believe “reporter” Lichtblau has a personal negative agenda toward a Congressman whose career he tried, but failed, to block 13 years ago.

  2. Erik says:

    Not holding my breath. It was a REALLY shoddy story to begin with.

  3. John says:

    Anybody who enjoys the antics of U.S. politicians really ought to read the interview which William L. Riordon conducted with George Washington Plunkett, a boss of Tammany Hall around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Plunkett has some great advice for politicians. The interview is available on the following website:

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/plunkett-george/tammany-hall/index.html

    The first chapter is a classic of U.S. politics. It is entitled “Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft.”

    Darrell Issa clearly engages in Plunkett’s notion of honest graft. I think that Issa is simply following a tradition of U.S. poltics.

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