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Monday, August 15, 2011

A Conflict of Interest in Issa's Earmarks

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) runs his local district office down the hall from where he runs his businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the New York Times, his “dual careers” evince a “meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.” While advocating for business in Congress, he split his holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, and retained a financial interest in his automobile-alarm business. According the Times, at least some of his actions in government have made him richer.

Most notably, he secured Congressional earmarks for road widening and other public works projects that benefit the many commercial properties that he owns in his district. For example, earmarks that he arranged made possible the widening of a busy road in front of a medical plaza that he bought for $10.3 million. To be sure, his constituents applaud the easing of traffic, but what if the money would otherwise have been spent to relieve more severe congestion elsewhere? Even if no worse instances existed, that the congressman’s constituents benefitted from the street-widening does not mean that his action was ethical.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.