Darrell Issa's Conflicts of Interest

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New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau raised questions today on Rep. Darrell Issa’s role in Congress and his ongoing business and investment activities -- and how one role seems to help the other. One of the wealthiest members in Congress, Issa’s net worth was recently estimated as at least $220 million per the personal financial disclosure form he filed in June.

One of the potential conflicts of interest highlighted in the Times story is Issa’s financial interests in Merrill Lynch. For example, could Issa’s holdings in and dealings with Merrill Lynch have fueled his public attack of the Treasury Department when Merrill Lynch agreed to its sale to Bank of America in 2008? But it’s not just his personal bank account that could be benefitting. It turns out his financial stake in Merrill Lynch goes even further since the PAC and employees of Merrill Lynch have also been substantial backers of his political campaigns, according to our analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Merrill Lynch is one of Issa’s top campaign donors, giving $27,000 over his career. It is the only financial institution to make the top twenty, a list populated more heavily by defense contractors and telecommunications firms. In the 2008 election cycle, Merrill Lynch executives gave a total of $7900, one of the largest clusters of donations from a single company in that cycle.

For regular readers of our blog, this won’t be a surprise. We’ve covered Issa’s efforts to blame everyone but oil companies for high gas prices and his work to keep his defense contractor donors from having to disclose certain political contributions.