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Record Does Not Support All of Candidate Issa's Claims

July 30, 2003|Gregg Jones | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In his transformation from car-alarm magnate to Republican congressman and, now, candidate for governor, Rep. Darrell Issa has often recalled his rags-to-riches rise in the business world. Issa's campaign Web site touts an achievement that seems to symbolize his story: "In 1994, Inc. Magazine recognized Darrell Issa as Entrepreneur of the Year."

In fact, Issa has never won the prestigious national award. The founders of Outback Steakhouse took the magazine's top "Entrepreneur of the Year" honors in 1994.

In an interview, Issa said that he actually had won a local Entrepreneur of the Year contest in San Diego -- he lives in Vista in northern San Diego County -- and that he hadn't been trying to suggest that he had received national honors. The local contests are conducted as qualifying rounds for the national award.

"I was runner-up three, four, five times, whatever it was -- at least three -- in San Diego, and then I won the San Diego award," Issa said. "Nobody would ever imply or mislead to, you know, something as simple as the Entrepreneur of the Year award."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 11, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Darrell Issa -- An article in Section A on July 30 about discrepancies in Rep. Darrell Issa's record incorrectly said the Adrian (Mich.) Daily Telegram first reported his 1973 arrest on a gun charge in Michigan. The Telegram first reported details of the arrest. The fact that Issa was arrested and fined was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

In his short political career, Issa -- so far the only declared Republican candidate for governor in the special election this fall -- has faced both small and large questions about his record in business and the military and his brushes with the law. Republican and Democratic opponents have accused him of concealing arrests as a youth and embellishing his personal story.

The Times examined Issa's statements and campaign literature over the past 13 years and compared them with military records and other public documents. The review reveals a number of claims contradicted or unsupported by records and verifiable facts.

The Times offered Issa and his campaign aides opportunities to clarify the discrepancies. In interviews and written statements, Issa and the campaign provided explanations of their position on some questions.

'Irrelevant' Questions

In an interview Saturday, Issa said that questions about his past were "irrelevant to who is Darrell Issa now and who is Darrell Issa as a governor."

Among the issues:

* Issa, who served two stints in the military, first as an enlisted man and later as an officer, has said that he was an Army computer research and development specialist. In a 1995 interview, he said that as an officer he had spent four years in the New Mexico desert perfecting electronic warfare techniques that were later used in the 1991 Gulf War.

His military records, however, list Issa's postings during that period as Ft. Riley, Kan., and Ft. Ord, Calif. Those records and Issa's 1980 Army separation form make no mention of computer training or computer specialty.

The extent of Issa's military education as an officer, according to the records, was an eight-week "motor officer" course in 1976 and a four-day "Equal Opportunity United Discussions Leaders Course" in 1978.

In the interview, Issa said he had "served at the computer facility" at Ft. Ord's Combat Development Experimentation Command in the late 1970s and that the Army had sent him to the Boston area for computer training at a commercial school. He said he couldn't recall the name of the school.

* During his campaign in 2000 for a seat in Congress, Issa said he had received the "highest possible" ratings in the U.S. Army. Military records show that he received a "fair" conduct rating while undergoing basic combat training at Ft. Knox, Ky., in November 1970. In June 1971, while serving with the 145th Ordnance Detachment in Manor, Pa., he received "unsatisfactory" conduct and efficiency ratings.

Later ratings were more positive.

Asked whether Issa stands behind the statement from 2000, Jonathan Wilcox, his campaign spokesman, said: "I would direct your attention to the whole military record, including his highest evaluation from Gen. Wesley Clark." Issa received a laudatory performance review from Clark in 1980 when he was in the Army Reserve. Clark, a lieutenant colonel at the time, was one of his commanding officers.

The review praised Issa for the quality of his work and for "an unusually high standard of professional ethics."

* During his 1998 campaign for the Senate, at a time when he was trying to link his candidacy to the legacy of former president Richard Nixon, Issa's campaign literature said he had been a member of Nixon's security detail.

Issa had previously claimed attendance at the 1971 World Series as part of Nixon's security. Records show that Nixon did not attend the 1971 World Series, said Susan Naulty, archivist at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

In recent comments to The Times, Issa has stood by his claim of having served on Nixon's security detail, but has sidestepped the World Series claim, which has not been repeated in the current campaign.

"That's from something years before, from a misquote, er, you know, interpretation, years before I even ran for office," he said in an interview earlier this summer.

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