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Issa v. Holder

Courtesy Gage Skidmore & Roger Barone / Talk Radio News, via Flickr.

All my life I would have felt for the Black man trying to maintain his dignity while being snapped at by a vicious Caucasian who happens to be the richest man in the United States Congress. But watching Attorney General Eric Holder taking verbal abuse from Rep. Darrell Issa last week, I felt neither sympathetic nor supportive. What came to mind were lines by Martin Niemoller — a German Presbyterian pastor who spent seven years in a concentration camp:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left to speak for me.

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Eric Holder almost certainly heard or read Niemoller's famous poem while attending Stuyvesant High School and Columbia University in New York City, where many people to this day can't forgive “ordinary” Germans for their passivity as the Nazis took power. Maybe at some point it will occur to Holder, “When they came for the potheads, I said ‘Go for it’.”

It was on orders from Holder's office that California's four U.S. Attorneys on October 7, 2011, announced that they were escalating the federal attack on the medical marijuana movement/industry. We infer from the timing that it was a misdirection play, an attempt to create a distraction just as Holder's role in the “Fast and Furious” fiasco was becoming a major story.

On Oct. 6, for example, NPR had run a news segment headlined “Holder Takes Heat Over ‘Fast and Furious’ Scandal “ on its website. It began “Old hands in Washington know it's never a good sign when the president of the United States has to make a statement like this one. 'I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder, in how he handles his office,' President Obama told reporters at a news conference Thursday. 'He has been very aggressive in going after gunrunning and cash transactions that are going to these transnational drug cartels’.”

“Fast and Furious” was an entrapment scheme conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It was named after a Vin Diesel movie. The script called for ATF agents to surveil gun stores in Arizona where automatic weapons were purchased by traffickers for re-sale to Mexican gangsters, and then follow the traffickers and bust the gangsters. But unlike Vin Diesel, the agents lost track of their prey and some of the weapons began turning up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico. After two guns purchased under the watchful eyes of the ATF were found near the body of a Border Patrol agent who had been fatally shot, Fast and Furious was exposed by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa as an insane botch job. (Democratic Party apologists noted that F&F was an expansion of a program begun in 2006 under the Bush Administration called “Operation Wide Receiver.”) Only about 700 of the more than 2,000 weapons sold under ATF surveillance have been recovered to date. On the House side, Rep. Issa's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform focused attention on what Attorney General Holder knew about the missing weapons and when he knew it.

The California prosecutors' Oct. 7 press conference had been organized hastily by Holder’s top aide, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, and represented a long-sought win for dominant factions in California law enforcement and the DEA. It's likely the decision to sic 'em on dispensaries and growers was intended to win their support — or at least neutralize them and keep them from piling on behind Issa — as Holder fought to save his position. We'd be able to do more than draw inferences if the Drug Policy Reform honchos Back East would provide useful intelligence instead of just whining “Barack Obama bwoke his pwomise, bwah bwah bwah.”

Holder's Nemesis (The Richest Man in Congress)

If you ever heard an ad for an alarm in which a cop-like voice warns “Please step away from the car,” you have heard the voice of Darrell Issa. In 2000 Issa used some of the huge fortune he'd made selling car alarms to secure a seat in Congress from a heavily Republican district in California's Central Valley. Here are some excerpts from his Wikipedia page:

* * *

Issa... claimed his unit provided security for President Richard Nixon, sweeping stadiums for bombs prior to games in the 1971 World Series, and that he received the highest approval ratings during his service. However, a 1998 investigation by the San Francisco Examiner found these claims were not true, since Nixon had not attended any of that year's World Series games. The investigation also discovered that Issa was actually transferred to a supply depot after he received an unsatisfactory evaluation...

A fellow soldier, Jay Bergey, claimed that Issa stole his Dodge Charger in 1971, when they were serving together. The day after he confronted Issa, the car was found abandoned on a nearby expressway. Asked about this in 2011, Issa denied it and suggested it was possible that other soldiers stole the car or that Bergey, who he claims had a drinking problem, had abandoned it himself while intoxicated.

After receiving a hardship discharge in 1972, following his father's heart attack, Issa earned his General Educational Development (GED) certificate and began taking classes at Siena Heights University, a small Catholic college in Adrian, Michigan. He continued his military service by joining in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Twice that year he was arrested. In the first incident he was indicted by a grand jury for an alleged theft of a Maserati, but prosecutors dropped the charge shortly thereafter. In the second incident, he was stopped for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and a police officer noticed a firearm in his glove compartment. Issa was charged with carrying a concealed weapon; he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of an unregistered firearm, and was sentenced to six months' probation and a small fine. Issa has said he believes the record has since been expunged...

After leaving the military, Issa and his second wife, Kathy Stanton, moved back to the Cleveland area, pooled their savings, sold their cars and borrowed $50,000 from his family to invest in Quantum Enterprises, an electronics manufacturer run by a friend from Cleveland Heights that assembled bug zappers, CB radio parts and other consumer products for other companies. One of those clients, car alarm manufacturer Steal Stopper, would become the path to Issa's fortune. It was struggling badly, and he took control of it by foreclosing a $60,000 loan he had made to it when its founder, Joey Adkins, missed a payment. Adkins remained as an employee. Issa soon turned Steal Stopper around, to the point that it was supplying Ford with thousands of car alarms and negotiating a similar deal with Toyota...

Car theft rose in the United States during the 1980s, and with it the demand for security devices. Rolls Royce, BMW and General Motors joined Ford and Toyota as customers. In 1985 Issa sold the company to a California-based maker of home alarms, and moved to the San Diego suburb of Vista, where he has lived ever since, to work for it. Shortly afterward he left to start Directed Electronics, Inc. (DEI).

He recorded the “Please step away from the car” warning for DEI's signature product, the Viper car alarm. Sales grew from a million dollars its first year to $14 million by 1989. DEI diversified, and eventually became one of the largest makers of aftermarket electronic automotive accessories in the US. As of 2004, Directed Electronics was North America's largest aftermarket automotive electronics manufacturer…

From his involvement in consumer-electronics trade organizations, he began to get politically active. He went to Washington to lobby Congress and became one of California's largest individual campaign contributors to Republican candidates. In 1996 he backed the successful campaign to pass Proposition 209, a ballot initiative which prohibited public institutions in California from considering race, sex, or ethnicity. He was instrumental in persuading the national Republican Party to hold its 1996 convention in San Diego…

Issa's first campaign for elected office came in 1998, when he sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate to run against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He backed the campaign with $10 million of his personal wealth, but lost the primary election to California State Treasurer Matt Fong. Fong's campaign raised $3 million from contributions and complained that Issa's wealth made for an uneven playing field (Issa had only $400,000 in contributions)…

Issa came to national prominence in 2003 when he contributed over $1.6 million to help fund a signature-gathering drive for the petition to recall Gray Davis. At the time he made the contribution, it was widely believed that Issa intended to place himself on the ballot to replace Davis. However, following the entrance of fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger into the race, two days before the filing deadline, Issa announced that he would not run. Issa later said that his mission had been accomplished since Davis was recalled and he wanted to continue representing his district in Congress and work towards Middle East peace…

He signed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” of the Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes all tax increases…

He has endorsed Mitt Romney's candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election…

In February 2011, the Watchdog Institute, an independent nonprofit reporting center based at San Diego State University, published an investigation alleging that as leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa built a team that included staff members with close connections to industries that could benefit from his investigations…

In April 2008, the Daily News reported that Issa questioned federal expenditures made after 9/11. He was criticized for making comments that the federal government “'just threw' buckets of cash at New York for an attack 'that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it'“ and asking “why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration…”

In September 2011, the liberal group American Family Voices filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Issa, alleging he had repeatedly used his public office for personal financial gain. Issa's office rejected the allegations.

* * *

That old political adage about your enemy's enemy being your friend is not true. They can both be your enemies.


  1. Caryn Goddard June 27, 2012

    Much of what Issa did correct, including the no-pledge and the most welcome Davis Recall even though he was replaced by a RINO idiot.
    But even if Issa was the Devil Incarnate he’s totally right to go after Eric ‘My People’ Holder who has played the Black card ever since he became AG.
    In fact, Holder as Asst AG under White Trash Willie was the guy who aided and abetted Clinton’s last minute pardons crime wave.
    The Fast and Furious operation was a botched FedGov crime from the beginning and Holder be fired, tried and incarcerated.
    Spare us that poor black man crap !
    Issa should have been much tougher on him.

  2. WineGuy July 2, 2012

    Eric Holder may be one friend of BO that brings him down…question remains did BO know the details of F&F? Did he direct Holder to rough up the pot moguls in Ca? If yes to both he is toast…Not a good idea to appoint one of your best buddies to AG, you get to witness him go down and or you go down witht him in this case the latter…

  3. Kurt July 8, 2012

    I thought this was the post racial president? It seems like there in not a day that race is not injected into the conversation. Someone died “Brian Terry” yet it is a political witch hunt. Now you accuse “Rich Whitey” of going after a black man? I thought we were a nation of laws and checks and balances. Now MLK Jr. said we should judge people from the character not the color of their skin. Well I judge Eric Holder and his boss by their character, that seems to be lacking.

    And what about the Medical Marijuana that when he was running said it was a state issue. But now it is a Federal issue.

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