July 24, 2018 may seem routine for Rep. Darrell Issa. During his last year in office in the 49th District, he tweeted congratulations to a new VA secretary. He voted four times in the House.
But 2,700 miles away, in a Vista courthouse, the nine-term Republican was engaged in a more fateful action: filing for divorce from his wife of 38 years. His petition cited “irreconcilable differences.”
It wasn’t until March 2021 that Katharine “Kathy” Issa and Darrell Edward Issa’s “uncontested” split became final — with details hidden in a confidential marital settlement agreement.
“Disclosure or dissemination of [certain private information] would cause irreparable harm to the parties or to the property awarded hereunder,” their court filing said.
When, in late 2020, it was revealed that Margaret Hunter had sued former East County Congressman Duncan D. Hunter for divorce, it made global headlines. Britain’s Daily Mail salaciously recalled every detail of their corruption case.
“Prosecutors have suggested that the congressman spent [campaign] money in extramarital affairs, spending huge sums of money on weekend getaways and outings with at least five women – including three lobbyists, a staffer and a congressional aide,” said the British newspaper.
In stark contrast, Issa’s divorce received no media notice.
Congressional divorces have been in the news (and tabloid fodder) for decades — from the 1980 breakup of future House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his hospitalized wife Jackie Battley to the December 2021 split from Rep. Madison. Cawthorn and Cristina Cawthorn, his wife of eight months.
One reason: couples who separate often talk about it.
The Issas and the Hunters remain silent. They did not respond to requests for comment. But court records shed light on their disparate cases. (The Hunters’ divorce is not yet final – they face off in court on June 23, with financial support issues still unresolved.)
Here’s what we know.
Kathy Issa’s money helped launch Fortune
In a 2011 New Yorker profile on President Obama’s nemesis Issa, writer Ryan Lizza recounted how Darrell courted Kathy.
“He met his second wife, Kathy Stanton, when she locked her keys in her apartment and Issa, who lived next door, gallantly scaled a balcony and broke into her home,” Lizza wrote. (Issa’s first wife, Marcia Enyart, was a college sweetheart.)
Kathy recalls: “He was within 30 seconds. I had to go out with him after that.
The couple bought a small electronics assembly company – Quantum Enterprises. A 1998 Issa campaign ad stated that the investment included “our savings of $7,000”.
In 2011, the Center for Public Integrity estimated Issa’s average net worth to be $448 million, thanks in part to Directed Electronics, his car security company known for its Viper alarm system. He then cashed out.
But with significant real estate and Wall Street holdings, Issa continued to be among the wealthiest members of Congress — House and Senate combined. His current wealth — or the extent of his wealth — won’t be known until he files his annual financial return (this time for his 2021 term in the 50th District, succeeding Hunter).
He was due to file his disclosure by May 15, but in April he requested an extension of the deadline. The new deadline is August 13, 2022.
Recent reports, however, show his wealth declining – although different methods have been used to calculate his wealth.
OpenSecrets.org estimated Issa’s net worth in 2017 – the year before the divorce was filed – at $326 million. In March 2018, the Los Angeles Times stated that Issa had claimed a minimum net worth of at least $283.3 million.
Three weeks ago, moneywise.com estimated Issa’s net worth at $115.8 million, adding, “He is said to have liabilities from a margin account holding over $50 million.”
Issa owns a 3,500 square foot condominium in Washington’s historic Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood with an estimated 2019 value of $2.8 million. The Issas had lived in a 2,900 square foot Vista Shadowridge home appraised, per Zillow, at $1.6 million. .
Duncan Hunter has never reported any assets
Even with a congressional salary of $174,000, Duncan Duane Hunter — son of longtime Congressman Duncan Lee Hunter — was relatively poor.
I once reported how Hunter, in 2010, listed no reportable assets in about 20 categories, including real estate, bank accounts, IRAs or 401(k), and corporate securities, which makes him one of the poorest members of the House.
Ten years later, Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison for “his admitted role in a years-long conspiracy to knowingly and deliberately steal $250,000 of campaign funds that he and his wife used to maintain their way of life. while their family otherwise drowned in debt,” the Justice Department said.
Hunter was later pardoned by President Trump – and thus avoided jail time.
A family court judge initially ordered Hunter to pay Margaret (who now lives in La Mesa) monthly child support of $1,743 and spousal support of $2,212. But those amounts were specified for the summer of 2021. It was unclear if he was still paying.
Duncan filed documents showing that he worked for Vscenario of San Diego from July 1, 2020 until January 7, 2022, when he became unemployed.
(In March, he told KUSI that he had been in Poland – Margaret’s birthplace – since before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion. He said he was helping with “cross-border traffic” and helping A former Navy artillery officer, with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, Hunter said he’s been working with UAPulse.org and former Polish military contacts on the border “blockade.” He said he would stay “as long as it takes”.
Back in Alpine, where the six-term GOP congressman was living with his parents, Hunter listed a series of debts — $425,000 to the IRS, $19,000 in medical bills from Rady Children’s Hospital and more than 10 $000 in credit card debt and legal fees. (He paid all bills in installments.)
But Hunter also said he was paid $1,853 per month by the Department of Veterans Affairs for “one or more service-related disabilities.”
Margaret Hunter, in her own income and expense statement, said in April 2021 that she had Mastercard debt of $5,000 and owed $2,824 to Jerome’s Furniture, had $2,800 in medical bills and a car repair of $1,555. She also owed her former attorney $13,741.10.
Darrell Issa dodged deposition in divorce case
In February 2018, Politico reported that Rep. Mike Turner attempted to depose Issa, a groomsman at Turner’s 2015 wedding to Majida Mourad. The Ohio Republican was in a divorce battle with Mourad, who is believed to be a longtime friend of Issa thanks to their shared Lebanese-American heritage.
(Mourad was also a major Republican donor, funding candidates and the GOP to the tune of $150,000, including $5,750 to Issa between 2007 and 2013.)
Issa was never ordered to give a statement, but he denied any suggestion of an inappropriate relationship with Mourad, saying in a statement: “There is no truth to these allegations.”
Hunters fight over spousal and child payments
The divorce of Darrell, 68, and Kathy, 76, did not involve any minor children. Their only son, William, is 41 years old.
But the divorce of Margaret, 47, and Duncan, 45, involves a 15-year-old daughter. (Their two other children — a son and a daughter — are now over 18.)
The Hunters – married since July 1998 – separated on August 10, 2019, according to court records. They have agreed to joint legal and physical custody of their daughter Sarah, although she spends most of her time with her mother.
Seven weeks ago – April 12 – Duncan Hunter’s attorney, Leslie Abrigo of Chula Vista, filed paperwork showing that Margaret Hunter now earns $3,175 a month. This suggests he is seeking a court order to reduce his child and spousal support payments.
On June 23 at 9 a.m., a family resolution conference in El Cajon Superior Court was held before Judge CJ Mody, a Bombay-born jurist who graduated from law school in 2002 at the University of San Diego.
Margaret will represent herself.