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 the “uncontested” split of Katharine “Kathy” Issa and Darrell Edward Issa became final — with details cloaked in a confidential Marital Settlement Agreement.
“Disclosure or dissemination of [certain private information] would cause irreparable injury to the parties or the assets awarded thereunder,” said their court filing.
When, in late 2020, it was revealed that Margaret Hunter had sued former East County congressman Duncan D. Hunter for divorce, it made world news. The Daily Mail of Britain salaciously recalled every detail of their corruption case.
“Prosecutors suggested the congressman spent [campaign] money on extramarital affairs, blowing vast sums of money on weekend getaways and outings with at least five women — including three lobbyists, a staff member and a congressional aid,” said the UK paper.
In startling contrast, the Issa divorce received zero media notice.
Congressional divorces have been news (and tabloid fodder) for decades — from the 1980 breakup of future House Speaker Newt Gingrich and hospitalized spouse Jackie Battley to the December 2021 split of Rep. Madison Cawthorn and Cristina Cawthorn, his wife of eight months.
One reason: The separating couples often talk about it.
The Issas and Hunters stay mum. They didn’t respond to requests for comment. But court records illuminate their disparate cases. (The Hunters’ divorce is not yet final — they face off in court 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 of President Obama nemesis Issa, writer Ryan Lizza told how Darrell wooed Kathy.
“He met his second wife, Kathy Stanton, when she locked her keys inside her apartment and Issa, who lived next door, gallantly scaled a balcony and broke into her place,” Lizza wrote. (Issa’s first wife, Marcia Enyart, was a college sweetheart.)
Kathy recalled: “He was in within 30 seconds. I had to go out with him after that.”
The couple bought into a small electronics assembly company — Quantum Enterprises. A 1998 Issa campaign ad said the investment comprised “our life savings of $7,000.”
By 2011, the Center for Public Integrity figured Issa’s average net worth was $448 million, thanks in part to Directed Electronics, his car-security company known for its Viper alarm system. He later cashed out.
But with major real estate and Wall Street holdings, Issa continued to be among the richest members of Congress — House and Senate combined. His current wealth — or the range of his riches — won’t be known until he files his annual financial disclosure (this time for his 2021 tenure in the 50th District, succeeding Hunter).
He was to have filed his disclosure by May 15, but in April he sought an extension on the deadline. The new due date is Aug. 13, 2022.
Recent reports show his wealth declining, however — though different methods were used to calculate his riches.
OpenSecrets.org estimated Issa’s net worth in 2017 — the year before the divorce filing — at $326 million. In March 2018, the Los Angeles Times said Issa claimed a minimum net worth of at least $283.3 million.
Three weeks ago, moneywise.com figured Issa’s net worth at $115.8 million, adding: “He’s reported to have one liability of a margin account holding for over $50 million.”
Issa owns a 3,500-square-foot condominium in the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District of Washington with an assessed value of $2.8 million in 2019. The Issas had lived in a 2,900-square-foot Vista Shadowridge home valued, by Zillow, at $1.6 million.
Duncan Hunter Once Reported No Assets
Even with a congressional salary of $174,000, Duncan Duane Hunter — son of longtime congressman Duncan Lee Hunter — was a relative pauper.
I once reported how Hunter, in 2010, listed no reportable assets in about 20 categories, including real property, bank accounts, IRAs or 401(k)s and corporate securities — making him one of the poorest House members.
Ten years later, Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison for “his admitted role in a years-long conspiracy to knowingly and willfully steal $250,000 in campaign funds that he and his wife used to maintain their lifestyle when their family was otherwise drowning in debt,” said the Justice Department.
Hunter was later pardoned by President Trump — and thus avoided prison time.
A family court judge initially ordered Hunter to pay Margaret (now living in La Mesa) monthly child-care support of $1,743 and spousal support of $2,212. But those amounts were specified for summer 2021. It wasn’t clear if he’s still paying.
Duncan filed paperwork that indicated he worked for Vscenario of San Diego from July 1, 2020, to Jan. 7, 2022, when he became unemployed.
(In March, he told KUSI that he had been in Poland — the birthplace of Margaret — since before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion. He said he was helping with “cross-border traffic” and Ukraine aid. A former Marine artillery officer, with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, Hunter said he was working with UAPulse.org and former Polish military contacts on the “logjam” at the border. He said he’d 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 Rady Children’s Hospital medical bills, and more than $10,000 in credit card debt and legal fees. (He was paying off all bills by installments.)
But Hunter also listed being paid $1,853 monthly by the Department of Veterans Affairs for “one or more service-connected disabilities.”
Margaret Hunter, in her own income and expense declaration, said in April 2021 she had a Mastercard debt of $5,000 and owed $2,824 to Jerome’s Furniture, had $2,800 in medical expenses and a car repair of $1,555. She also owed her now former attorney $13,741.10.
Darrell Issa Dodged Deposition in Divorce Case
In February 2018, Politico reported that Rep. Mike Turner tried to depose Issa, a groomsman at Turner’s 2015 wedding to Majida Mourad. The Ohio Republican was in a divorce battle with Mourad, reportedly a longtime friend of Issa’s thanks to their shared Lebanese-American heritage.
(Mourad also was a major Republican donor, funding candidates and the GOP $150,000, including $5,750 to Issa between 2007 and 2013.)
Issa never was ordered to give a deposition, but he denied any suggestion of an inappropriate relationship with Mourad, saying in a statement: “There is no truth whatsoever to these allegations.”
Hunters Battle Over Spousal, Child Payments
The divorce of Darrell, 68, and Kathy, 76, involved no minor children. Their only son, William, is 41.
But the divorce of Margaret, 47, and Duncan, 45, involves a 15-year-old daughter. (Their other two children — a son and daughter — are now over 18.)
The Hunters — married since July 1998 — separated on Aug. 10, 2019, according to court records. They have agreed to joint legal and physical custody of daughter Sarah, though she spends the vast bulk of her time with her mother.
Seven weeks ago — on April 12 — Duncan Hunter’s attorney, Leslie Abrigo of Chula Vista, filed paperwork indicating that Margaret Hunter now makes $3,175 a month. It suggests he’s asking for a court order to reduce his child and spousal support payments.
At 9 a.m. June 23, a family resolution conference in El Cajon Superior Court is set before Judge CJ Mody, a Bombay-born jurist who earned his law degree in 2002 from the University of San Diego.
Margaret will represent herself.