June 3rd, 2013
01:52 PM ET
2 years ago

IRS investigation takes nasty turn as more hearings loom

(CNN) – The Internal Revenue Service controversy took a few sharp turns this weekend, with the Cupid Shuffle, lavish hotel expenses, and the head-turning "L-word" finding its way into the mix.

Wait, what?

In case you weren't following the latest updates on the unfolding scandal, here's what you missed over the last few days:

"And I thought doing the Star Trek video was humiliating."

Friday afternoon, CNN reported that the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration - the same watchdog that reported the IRS was wrongly targeting conservative groups - will release another report this week.

This one hits the IRS on a different front: overspending on conferences.

For those who followed the General Services Administration scandal last year - in which the agency was caught spending close to $1 million a 2010 conference in Las Vegas - this IRS story may feel like déjà vu.

The new report's findings will show that the IRS spent close to $50 million on 225 conferences between 2010 and 2012. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the issue, focusing on one 2010 conference in Anaheim, California, where the IRS spent $4 million.

CNN obtained an apparent team-building video that was shown at the end of the conference. In the piece, IRS employees are being taught the Cupid Shuffle as they prepare to present the dance as a group at the event.

Sounds simple enough - except the nearly three-minute video cost $1,600 to produce. This was shown along with a Star Trek-themed video at the same conference, with a combined cost of $50,000 for both pieces.

The IRS said Friday night the dance video "was unacceptable and an inappropriate use of government funds." (The agency already took heat earlier this year for the sci-fi video).

"And I thought doing the Star Trek video was humiliating," one woman says in the new video.

Other details emerged this weekend about the 2010 conference. Fifteen outside speakers were hired to give presentations, totaling $135,000, the oversight committee was told by TIGTA. One of the speakers, who was paid $17,000, led a session called "Leadership Through Art."

Some IRS employees stayed in presidential suites at the three hotels booked for the conference. Such suites currently cost between $1,500 and $3,500 per night.

It's hard to find defenders of perhaps the most vilified agency in government, fueling conspiracy theories and raising questions of how far it went. So Thursday's oversight hearing will surely be one to watch.

Conservative sites tie IRS controversy to liberal group

On Saturday, CNN reported on a connection drawn between the IRS's former head, Doug Shulman, and his wife's employment at a liberal group, Public Campaign.

The conservative website Breitbart posted that "the goal of Public Campaign is to target political groups like the conservative non-profits at issue in the IRS scandal," naming the campaign finance reform group where Shulman's wife, Susan Anderson, is the senior program adviser.

Public Campaign spokesman Adam Smith said the Breitbart description "is not at all accurate."
The connection has nonetheless been making big waves among conservative sites and blogs.

'We're getting to proving it,' Issa says

Fast-forward to Sunday, when House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" for an exclusive interview with Candy Crowley and got the political universe spinning.

In the sit-down, Issa said interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office, where the tax-exempt division is based, show targeting of conservative groups was a "a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters - and we're getting to proving it."

A bipartisan group of investigators from two House committees - Ways and Means, and Government Reform and Oversight - interviewed two front-line employees from the tax-exempt office last week.

The employees rejected accusations that lower-level employees in the tax-exempt division were responsible for the IRS snafu. They stated they were instructed from superiors in Washington to carry out the scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax exempt applications.

Read excerpts from the interviews here. (Note: CNN asked for but was not provided the full transcripts)

Democrats on the committee argued that Issa was mischaracterizing the interviews and expressed frustration that Issa withheld the transcripts from the minority party on the committee before he went on air, CNN's Dana Bash reported.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, called Issa's behavior "reckless" and his claims "unsubstantiated."

Cummings' spokeswoman Jennifer Hoffman said it was not "standard practice" for the majority in the committee to keep the transcripts rather than share it with the minority.

"The standard practice would have been for them to provide the transcripts to us when they got them. We have requested them, but have not gotten them," she said.

Republicans ultimately handed over the transcripts to the Democrats on the committee late Sunday night.

Oh, you went there?

During his interview on CNN, Issa took a biting jab at Jay Carney, calling the White House's top spokesman a "paid liar" for repeating the IRS line that employees in Cincinnati were responsible for the IRS mess-up.

"Their paid liar, their spokesperson, pictured behind, he's still making up things about what happens," he said, pointing to a photo of Carney on the set.

While Issa is known to be outspoken, people in Washington tend to avoid the loaded word "liar," as CNN's Jake Tapper explains.

"Issa using the "L" word – liar – is unusual in a town where pols and members of the media regularly dance around such a direct accusation, preferring words that allow for the possibility of misspeaking or misleading, but not deliberately speaking an untruth," Tapper writes.

But things got more ugly Sunday night, when former White House adviser David Plouffe hit back in a tweet.

Tapper writes that "Plouffe's reference to charges and suspicions against Issa from his past ago is also unusual in a city where such mentions are considered gauche and uncollegial."

A week of hearings

On "State of the Union," Issa also previewed his committee's upcoming grilling of the IRS over its overspending at conferences.

"The culture of the federal workforce is one where I don't think you can underestimate that if you don't keep reminding the voters - but also the federal workers - that we're watching, this will happen again," he said.

But before Thursday's oversight hearing, IRS officials were to get a grilling Monday afternoon before a House appropriations subcommittee. Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel will make his first congressional appearance as the newly appointed head of the embattled agency. He has already started making changes by appointing a so-called risk officer in the agency to help restore 'integrity.'

And on Tuesday, several tea party and conservative groups will give their side of the story before the House Ways and Means Committee.

While the IRS is surely looking to move on from its admitted mistake, it looks like the agency will stay in the headlines for at least another week.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • Jay Carney • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    How much money, and paid time for all involved, is the republican congress going to waste investigating a $1600 video?

    But no amount of money is too much, if they can embarrass the Obama Administration in the eyes of the righties. What else do they ( the republican congress ) have to do? Repeal Obamacare again? Take another 10-day 'recess'?

    June 3, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Jeff in Virginia

    And this is why nobody uses the word "Liar" in politics... it's because most politicians on both sides of the aisle so often provably lie to people. Fox News, I'm looking at you.

    June 3, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Jeff in Virginia

    Is Darrell Issa lying? If his mouth is open, the answer is yes.

    June 3, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    This administration is GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY.

    June 3, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Bill from GA

    " The new report's findings will show that the IRS spent close to $50 million on 225 conferences between 2010 and 2012. "

    To put this info into context, CNN, maybe you could work up a line graph, showing the figures since 2000. I don't know; it may be more embarrassing to Obama, maybe not. But it certainly would be relevant (useful) info. I'm NOT holding my breath waiting.

    June 3, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair

    Sniffit

    "if Kerry signs the UN gun treaty"

    Bet you he won't...I'll even give you 1,000,000 to 1 odds. Wanna know why? Guess.
    ------
    Because he's not the one who would "sign" it.

    At any rate, it would NEVER get the 67 votes in the senate to ratify it. I'll give you the same odds...

    June 3, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    If the government is incompetent do you really think they'd tell us?

    GET REAL

    June 3, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. Switcher

    So....if it were the Streisand Foundation, or Media Matters that was targeted, how would you feel than. (yawn....me thinks not) Every American's blood should be boiling about this and the FACT that Obama is doing absolutely nothing just adds fuel to the fire!

    June 3, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  9. ghostriter

    So dude is lying and Issa will get around to proving it.......Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

    republicans have not stopped lobbing these "bombshells" without evidence to back up their statements.

    June 3, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. Awestruck

    Funny how Jay Carney is actually a Carney for Obuma's circus. Obama is the biggets liar and sham in American history. If Obuma passes some new mental health legislation, his entire voting base would be disqualified. The Communist in chief is the most ignorant, and to quote Bill Clinton "Inexperienced amateur' not qualified to be president, and 'Has no idea how the world works' Let's hope that Congress overruns the Executive branch so we can oust this amateur monkey clown. It is now time for a revolution.

    June 3, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. nate

    "Some IRS employees stayed in presidential suites at the three hotels booked for the conference. Such suites currently cost between $1,500 and $3,500 per night."

    Government travel regulations are very strict about the amount that can be spent on a hotel room, and typically the amounts are $100 – $200 per night. Sometimes a hotel will give conference organizers upgrades to suites but charge only the authorized rate. So don't assume that the person staying in an expensive suite is actually paying that rate.

    June 3, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. just sayin

    gotta love all the leftists in here when shown the lies and incompetence of the people they support, then claim it is all because of others, the republicans. yes, there must have been a republican holding a gun to holder's head and making him go after the phone records of the ap.

    and another republican was able to breah security again and hold a gun to holder's head and force him to name a reporter as a co-conspirator in a leak investigation, then go in front of congress and lie about it.

    and yet a third republican must have forced the irs to target his own supporters for irs audits and harassment.

    talk about delusional tin foil hatted insanity! sorry delusional lefties, all this mess was the result of your own incompetent messiah and his cast of clowns. suck it up and admit it, for once. it is called a self inflicted wound. and they are running out of toes to shoot off!

    June 3, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. truth hurts but reality bites

    Those that can, do.
    Those that can't, teach.
    Those that can do neither, work for the government.

    Please learn this competence tree as it is proven truer and truer with every passing day.

    June 3, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. ghostriter

    Here's what I don't get. Republican congressfolk asked that the IRS investigate the NAACP. No problem. These guys investigate tea folks and it's suddenly an issue.

    How does that work?

    June 3, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    @Joan: Excellent post!

    Also, re: "There have been attacks at dozens of embassies over the past 10 years and many US officials have been killed. Though tragic, why was this one so much worse?"

    During the Bush Administration there were 54 attacks on American diplomatic missions, resulting in 13 American deaths. The GOP and folks like Issa were silent, because they wrote it off to the "war on terror" and there are casualties during war.

    President Obama gets elected and all of a sudden, the GOP cuts funding for embassy security. Not saying they wanted the attack on Benghazi to happen, but, just like with 9/11, folks like Karl Rove creamed their jeans when Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were killed, because now they had a tragedy to exploit.

    Stone silent when Americans died on Bush's watch; 24/7 hissy fit when they die while Obama is president.

    That's the GOP these days, folks, that's the GOP ...

    June 3, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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