Issa, who was declared the winner Monday by several news organizations, filed a libel lawsuit against Applegate on Nov. 7, according to a new report from The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Issa claims that two political ads against him have damaged his reputation, and he named Applegate’s campaign manager, Robert Dempsey, and the campaign itself in the lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court, the U-T reported.
According to the newspaper, Issa is seeking $10 million in damages and said he’ll donate any money awarded by the court to charity.
The two commercials Issa takes exception to were aired on broadcast and cable television this fall in Orange and San Diego counties, the U-T reported. The 49th District straddles both counties.
One of the ads cited an article from The New York Times headlined “A Businessman in Congress Helps his District and Himself” that Issa has contested since its 2011 publication.
The New York Times piece is critical of Issa — one of the wealthiest members of Congress — for, among other things, not pushing aside his financial activities, or putting them into a blind trust, to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. The newspaper reported that Issa “may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.”
The other Applegate commercial named in the lawsuit was about statements Issa made regarding a bill that would benefit victims of the 9/11 attacks, the U-T report reported. According to the lawsuit, the ad used “misleading statements about Congressman Issa’s voting record, and a doctored quote to wage the dishonest charge that Congressman Issa has opposed supporting the victims, first responders, and heroes of September 11th,” the U-T report continued.
It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for candidates to sue for defamation over statements made during an election, Rick Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine and the publisher of Election Law Blog, told the U-T.
In such cases, there is a higher burden of proof and the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew the defamatory statement in question was false, or acted with reckless disregard for the truth, according to the U-T report.
Both camps declined to comment to the U-T about the case.