The Note

With the latest signature totals suggesting that the pro-recall forces are well on their way to getting this on the ballot, Phase II of Team Davis's efforts to fight back would appear to be in place, what with a bit of journalistic scrutiny on Representative Issa, who has been leading the recall funding effort, despite (or is it "because of") his "complicated" background.

Lance Williams, Carla Marinucci, and Chronicle staff writers write a lead today that lands with a thud similar to that of an oppo research binder hitting a journalists desk.

"Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the driving force behind the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis, was prosecuted with his brother in San Jose in 1980 for allegedly faking the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan and selling it to a car dealer for $16,000, according to court records." LINK

"Issa, in a phone interview with The Chronicle Tuesday, blamed his brother for the car theft, which was detailed in documents on file in Santa Clara County Superior Court and which has never been made public."

"'I do not steal,' Issa said."

"In the San Jose case, Issa, who at the time was a 27-year-old U.S. Army officer, and William Issa, 29, were arrested by San Jose police on a felony auto-theft charge in February 1980."

"They were accused of a scheme in which Issa's brother allegedly sold Issa's cherry-red Mercedes 240 to Smythe European Motors in San Jose for $13,000 cash and three $1,000 traveler's checks. Within hours, Issa reported the car stolen from a lot at the Monterey airport, near his Army post at Fort Ord."

"Issa and his brother pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered them to stand trial on felony charges, saying he had a 'strong suspicion' that the men had committed the crime, according to the records."

"But in August 1980, a prosecutor dismissed the case for lack of evidence. The men later were charged with misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued, said retired police Detective Richard Christiansen, lead investigator in the case."

Apparently the CNN interview was only just part of the PR rollout this week in an attempt to fight back against the recall.

This story is rich with bathos since Representative Issa claims it was his brother's car stealing which caused him to get into the business of car alarms, where he made millions of dollars some of which he has spent on funding the recall effort against Gray Davis.

And we might have Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times on the show (although we are still checking — somebody here thinks Ron might already have some sort of cable-exclusive deal … ).

As only Brownstein can do, he straddles the 3,000 mile wide gap between the Golden State and Washington, DC as he delves into why national Democrats and Republicans are laying low in the battle to recall Governor Gray Davis. LINK

Mr. Brownstein (and California Republicans) are particularly interested in how the folks at 1600 would like to see this play out.

"The White House has held its cards so closely that activists on each side of the recall battle are convinced it is working against them. Bush has said nothing publicly about the anti-Davis effort, and administration officials say they are playing no role in the fight."

(Note Note: Will there be any itty bitty subtle references to the recall effort during this week's California campaign swing, we wonder?)

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