Though he’s not disclosed exactly how much he’s worth, North County Republican Darrell Issa is estimated by many observers to be the wealthiest member of Congress, with minimum assets of $432.25 million, according to a January report in Roll Call. “Issa lists seven high-yield bonds as being worth more than $50 million — the highest disclosure category,” notes the publication. “How much those bonds are actually worth is unknown; they could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.” But the congressman also has liabilities, including a personal loan exceeding $50 million from Merrill Lynch. “That loan could be many times more than Issa is obligated to report. His true rank on our list depends greatly on how much he actually owes to Merrill Lynch.”
Issa earned his fortune by setting up car-alarm maker Directed Electronics and now “appears to make his money through the bond market and high-end real estate.” Thriftiness also might have played a part, based on an account of a conference the mega-millionaire recently took courtesy of the Heritage Foundation.
Issa got free lodging worth $282.50 and gratis food and drink valued at $383.24 at the Salamander Lodge in Middleburg, Virginia, from January 28 through 29, according to his February 11 travel disclosure report; $53.59 in miscellaneous expenses included a folio worth $24.66, $16 in notecards,and $2 luggage tags. “This is an opportunity for me to discuss with other conservative Members of Congress and policy experts pressing policy issues,” wrote Issa. The event, called “Restoring the Shining City on the Hill,” featured receptions, dinners, an “off-site dinner,” and panel discussions; further details were not provided. “Salamander Resort & Spa features 168 luxurious rooms and suites, a luxury spa, full-service equestrian center,” and other high-end amenities, says the resort’s website. “Converse with visiting winemakers, enjoy a tasting flight and you will leave Gold Cup Wine Bar with a wealth of knowledge about Virginia wines, Middleburg wine country, and why it has earned its place among best wine regions in the US.”
Adds NBC’s Washington TV station: “Look to the Tree Top Zip Tour for five different zip lines and two suspension bridges with lengths varying from 90 to 670 feet. The 20-acre course allows guests to fly over the resort and offers beautiful views of the Virginia landscape.” According to Issa’s disclosure, the Salamander was chosen because “Heritage limited the search for a venue to locations with a three-hour perimeter driving, but more than 35 miles away from Washington, D.C. The expected size of the group further restricts Heritage’s options, as some hotels did not have adequate space.”
Democratic state senator Marty Block has reported that his November trip to Maui courtesy of ex-senator Steve Peace’s Independent Voter Project was worth $3215. It wasn’t all fun in the sun, according to Block’s disclosure; he “made a speech” and “participated in a panel.” The trip to Peace’s annual legislative blow-out, financed by a variety of special interests having business with the legislature, was the biggest gift reported by Block. In September he participated in a three-day conference run by San Diego’s chamber of commerce, where he did similar speaking duties and got a gift consisting of “conference registration” and “food” worth $495.