Meet the richest member of Congress: California’s Issa earned it as car alarm mogul
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is the richest member of Congress, topping an annual ranking with an estimated minimum net worth of $254.7 million — nearly $150 million more than the second-richest lawmaker.
Issa made most of his fortune in the 1990s while leading Directed Electronics Inc., a Vista-based manufacturer of vehicle antitheft devices that he created. His is the voice of the Viper car alarm system, which warns, “Please step away from the car.”
He’s perhaps best known to Californians for bankrolling the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, and also emerged on the national stage as he challenged the Obama administration from his role as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
This is the third straight year Issa earned the top position on the annual Roll Call ranking of lawmakers by minimum net worth. The Los Angeles Times is using the data and for the first time has published a deep dive listing every asset and liability disclosed by the 55 members of the state’s congressional delegation.
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As much as 95% of Issa’s wealth is in investments, including several high-yield bond accounts potentially worth more than $50 million each and seven high-yield bond funds worth between $25 million and $50 million.
Lawmakers are allowed to use broad ranges to classify assets and liabilities on the annual personal financial disclosure reports. The ranges start at between $1 and $1,000 and top out at $50 million or more, giving an imprecise figure.
That means Issa’s net worth could be much larger than estimated. The $254.7-million figure, calculated by subtracting the minimum value of liabilities from the minimum value of assets disclosed for calendar year 2014, is down from last year’s $357 million. That could be attributed more to how data is reported on the forms than to any actual financial loss.
The form appears to double count his biggest liability, a potentially more than $50-million personal loan. Issa appears to have paid off what he owed Merrill Lynch in September 2014, the same day he borrowed the same amount from UBS.
Issa’s office did not respond to an interview request.
Lawmakers are not required to disclose property owned unless it is earning income, and they also do not need to list their $174,000 annual salaries, putting each and every one of them above the average Californian.
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