The Secret Service, of which Issa was not a part, provides the president's security. Issa's explanation for his claim is that he was part of a military bomb disposal squad that provided support to the White House. He was assigned to Nixon's security on temporary duty, he says.
The assignment isn't listed in Issa's military records, but temporary duty postings aren't always reflected in personnel files, experts said.
"I was on temporary duty at Ft. McNair back in the '70s," Issa said, referring to a military installation in Washington, D.C. "That was a presidential support unit. It did various things, including it X-rayed things for the president and did travel with the president. I was a private. I got a clothing allowance to buy civilian clothes and, you know, I got temporary duty pay, and it was cool. I never said, 'look, I was Richard Nixon's buddy.' "
Issa now attributes some of these discrepancies to misunderstandings or omissions from his Army records. He blames Gov. Gray Davis for the questions about his resume, some of which were first raised by fellow Republicans in his 1998 run for the U.S. Senate.
"Gray's job is to get you to ask 30-year-old questions," he angrily told a Times reporter Saturday at a Sacramento rally, where he accused Davis of "felony behavior."
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.
"If you want to be a shill for Gray Davis' opposition questions, go ahead. We've moved on."
The Times examination of Issa's record began with the paper's request for copies of his military record from the National Personnel Records Center. Such documents are public records and are often examined as part of background reporting on candidates for political office.
Times reporters also began reviewing Issa's statements about his military and business record. Subsequently, The Times contacted Democrats who had conducted research on Issa as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1998, and they pointed to additional discrepancies in Issa's record.
Other discrepancies had been raised by Issa's former Republican rivals. Some assertions by Issa about his past have been questioned by other news organizations.
Some of Issa's statements in media interviews, campaign statements and official biographies have disappeared from his resume over the years.
During his 1998 campaign, Issa backed away from a claim of having started his car-alarm company "from scratch" after The Times reported that he had taken control of the business in a legal dispute with the original owners.
Other statements, such as the one about the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, have become part of the story that Issa offers voters as he runs for governor.
A spokeswoman for the Ernst & Young accounting firm, which now sponsors the Entrepreneur of the Year competition, said that Issa was one of several winners in the San Diego Entrepreneur of the Year contest in 1994 and was a finalist at least one previous year and possibly two.
Wilcox, Issa's campaign spokesman, said Monday that he had written the biography on the "Issa for Governor" Web site that was launched earlier this month "from previous and existing biographical information." He acknowledged that he initially thought from reading the material that Issa had won the national award.
"If there was any mistake on any bio, I wish somebody would point it out to me so we can clarify what is a small, honest error," he said.
Issa speaks often of his rise from a humble upbringing as the grandson of Lebanese immigrants in Cleveland to millionaire manufacturer of car alarms.
In his first run for office in 1998, in which he opposed Matt Fong for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, Issa's campaign literature promised that Issa's "up-from-the-bootstraps, career in the military, success in business tale will connect with Californians of every walk of life."
His congressional Web site bills the story as "Living the American Dream."
Some of the most persistent questions about that biography involve Issa's arrest record as a young man. He has been charged twice with car theft, although both cases were later dismissed. He was charged twice with carrying a concealed weapon.
On Jan. 16, 1973, Issa pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of an unregistered gun. A magistrate fined him $100, put him on probation and ordered him to pay $107 in court costs. At the time, Issa was a student at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. The arrest was first reported by the Adrian Daily Telegram on July 16.
Asked earlier this month about that arrest, Issa told a Times reporter that the gun was an "unloaded, never-fired, in-the-box, little teeny pistol" and said it wasn't his, although he declined to say whose it was.
Public records obtained by The Times show that when arrested, Issa was carrying a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol with seven bullets in its ammunition clip, as well as 44 bullets and a tear-gas gun. He was arrested after being stopped for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street.