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Politico: Staffer charity picks benefit from Issa's wealth

-By John Breshnahan & Jake Sherman

October 13, 2012- A charitable group founded by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the richest members of Congress, has given tens of thousands of dollars to other organizations on behalf of his congressional staff and his own House committee, according to public records.

These donations do not appear to violate ethics or tax rules, several legal experts said, but they are the clearest example to date of Issa intermingling his vast personal riches with his congressional duties, a practice that has caused public relations and ethics problems for the controversial California Republican.

Here’s how it works: Staffers pitch Issa each holiday season, suggesting a charity worthy of a donation from the Issa Family Foundation. Issa then decides who gets a check, and the staffer is “recognized for their recommendation to the charity that receives the contribution,” said Frederick Hill, an Issa spokesman. The aides do not get a tax write-off or any other benefit, the office says.

This practice is unusual, if not completely foreign, to the thousands of other Capitol Hill staffers who work long hours for little pay. It’s a practice more in line with corporate America, where business leaders cut checks for charities at the end of the year, than with congressional norm.

In 2009 — the most recent year for which tax records are available — the Issa Family Foundation donated $2,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Vista, Calif., on behalf of Kurt Bardella, a trusted Issa aide. Bardella was publicly fired by Issa earlier this year but then rehired five months later as an Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffer.

The charity, which lists the congressman and his wife as CEO and chief financial officer, respectively, also gave $2,000 to the Westminster Historical Society on behalf of Dale Neugebauer, Issa’s chief of staff.