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Darrell “McCarthy” Issa and the Non-Profit Purge

New Orleans Darrell Issa, the emerging Chair of the House Investigations Committee was interviewed the day after the election about how he saw his “work” shaping up.  It was a little late for Halloween, but it was scarier than the worst fright movie.

Some commentators took Issa’s remarks as conciliatory, which must be the result of post-traumatic stress or an abused child syndrome, because every one of Issa’s comments was buried in speculations, inaccuracies, illegalities, and opinions masking as facts.

He started out with some comments about wanting to be a “reformer-in-chief” and swearing that he wanted to not just bring down Obama, but sully up Bush as well by naming out Freddie, Fannie, and Countrywide as targets and throwing in the BP and Gulf’s oversees at the Mineral Management Service for good measure.  This is well plowed ground, so good luck, Congressman, though given the right’s obsession with the Community Reinvestment Act and the blame game about CRA and this crises (totally unfounded), I don’t really have good feelings about his motivations there either.

Issa is vulnerable here because in his own district, California #49 with huge portions of Riverside County and northern San Diego County, he is in fact sitting on a powder keg.  Riverside is in a virtual tie for #1 in the number of homes at some stage in the foreclosure process in California involving 5% of the property holders and more than 35000 homes in the first six months of 2010.  This is some bad stuff sticking to Issa’s shoe. Folks barely hanging on wouldn’t necessarily think they have a friend in Issa, since he was ranked as perhaps the richest member of the 111th Congress with over $225 million net worth.  He might understand afterall that “all politics is local” and he has to do more than just talk about it to hold onto a base in the 49th.

Add that to the fact that his district is less than 60% Anglo and a solid 30% of his district is Hispanic though it goes without saying he’s terrible on immigration reform issues, and there are some unhappy people in the 49th.  Gore won this district when he ran for President.  Bush did better on his second shot, but McCain barely won against Obama.  If we had a real progressive movement in this country, Issa would be on a short list of targets for retirement from Congress.

Which is exactly what Issa seems to understand and which frighteningly explains his answers to the MSNBC interviewer’s final question about whether or not he still had a chip on his shoulder about ACORN given all of this rock throwing over the last two years in that direction.   His answers:

“I think it’s very important that we look at ACORN as something that occurred, it was criminal activity and it used government money and nonprofit money both to do politics. There’s certainly going to be other examples on the left and on the right where we at least have to deny them nonprofit status and government money if what they’re doing is being overtly political…”

“But I do think that the people understand that ACORN needed to go away, it went away and we’ll continue to make sure that there is no equivalent,” Issa said

So without any real investigation he’s sure that ACORN equaled “criminal activity.”  He’s equally sure that ACORN used “government money and nonprofit money” to “do politics” despite GAO and agency by agency investigations that have issued reports finding that no such thing occurred.   As I have said before, he obviously still believes in the sloppy work of his staff that ACORN was a 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit, rather than a plain vanilla nonprofit under the laws of the State of Arkansas (where ACORN was founded in 1970) with no special tax status.

Reading and listening to Issa, ACORN seems mostly an excuse, sort of a headline hiding the real subtext.  He’s coming for you, brothers and sisters, and he’s coming after your tax exempt status.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to simply stand around with hands in your pockets and let ACORN take the fall and suck the oil off the undercarriage of the bus?

And please forget the hopes and aspirations of low-and-moderate income people.  His comments that ACORN “went away and we’ll continue to make sure that there is no equivalent” speaks to an abuse of power certainly, but also a level of transparency on mission and motives that leaves little room for speculation about Issa and his agenda for witch hunting, McCarthy style investigations and hearings to come.