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. Sniffit

    "The conservative website Breitbart "

    And everyone with a brain in their head knows that you can stop right there and ignore the remainder of the sentence. Yawn.

    June 3, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. Gail

    Only nasty now that defenders of Jay Carney calling out Issa's criminal past. Hope they throw it up again.

    June 3, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "withheld the transcripts from the minority party on the committee before he went on air"

    Of course he did. He needed his chance to get his misinformation and mischaracterizations out there first...to get ahead of everyone on it...hand the MSM the red meat and watch them broadcast and perseverate it on his behalf so that it can become the "truth" in the minds of the conservative base and confuse the debate for everyone else. He's a scumbag who's every move in these "investigations" is designed to fabricate and manufacture proof for conclusions that have already been pre-determined prior to having any evidence whatsoever. He's writing a story, a work of fiction, not looking for facts and answers.

    June 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "grilling of the IRS over its overspending at conferences"

    I can get behind that as long as it stays objective and doesn't yet again become a partisan attempt to somehow make it all about Obama and blame it all on him. That kind of overspending and irresponsible/unnecessary spending has been going on for decades and it needs to stop. Turning it into a partisan witch hunt circus cheapens the investigation and makes it less likely to result in action to address the problem...and it would be a good opportunity for bipartisan legislation that helps set some ground-rules and limitations for these conferences etc.

    June 3, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "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,"
    -----------------------------------------------–
    Ok then. No more overseas trips for members of Congress. Mr. Cantor's luxurious trip to Paris should be investigated Issa. Investigate Boehner's trip to South America. This "do as I say not as I do" republican mentality is what is wrong with Congress. IOKIYAR.

    June 3, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. pat

    I ditn do it...watn me! Dat ain't me! But, I,m sorry I did it and it won't happen again. Ha ha ha!

    June 3, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Things are going to get nastier, if Kerry signs the UN gun treaty..........which is totally wrong for America.

    June 3, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    Attention Repubs.: Mr. Issa is the wrong messenger on this one. I know he's tough as nails & really hates Dems., but his personal baggage caught up w/him. Wasn't the 1996 Repub. theme,'Character Matters".

    June 3, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    This car thief/arsonist really and truly has a pair of big ones.
    First of all, a criminal past should not even allow you to get near congress or,politics in general.
    To the person who thnks stealing $100 is to a big deal. It IS. It's called robbery!!! People, not ths guy, go to jail. Today $100. Tomorrow a car, get caught with a concealed weapon, burn down a building, get elected to congress.
    This is not about those family values that the rethugs are always breaking. This guy is a criminal plain and simple.

    June 3, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Yanni

    This man should have been prosecuted for all his crimes earlier in his life and dealt with appropriately. To bad he is free now to destroy further the little respect that people have for US congress. Totally unacceptable person for this magnitude of power.

    June 3, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    Did any of the GOP members of the Oversight Committee display a simlar level of outrage over what the Interior Department did during the Bush years? I doubt it.

    June 3, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. anonymous

    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.
    -----

    It's nice to see that the IRS was tightening its belt and cutting back while millions and millions of taxpayers were losing their jobs. It's nice to see the IRS was concerned with the trillion dollar deficits and that the money for these parties was being put on the governmenbt credit card for our children to pay.

    And then when Obama is sked to cut a measely $40 billion from the spending, of course they target anything that will cause the US taxpayers the most pain. Wake up America! You are being played for dummies by these people!!

    June 3, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. California Gary

    Right you are Dutch.......there is a "junket" culture in Washington and it is embraced by both parties. The whole system needs a good "disinfectant" treatment.

    June 3, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. Caumont

    I am happy to wait until it all trickles out because you know the Administration sure isn't going to give the green light for any transparency at the IRS or anywhere else for that matter. One ugly fact revealed daily is fine – drip, drip, drip...

    June 3, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. just sayin

    i can hardly wait to see how much all the thousands and thousands of new obamacare irs agents rack up in training and conferences! government gone hog wild, while millions can't find a job. maybe we need to fire all the irs agents and start giving their jobs to the unemployed. surely we couldn't do any worse.

    June 3, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "course they target anything that will cause the US taxpayers the most pain. "

    If you don't understand that the sequester gave the administration ZERO ability or discretion to "target" anything, then you don't belong having this conversation in the first place.

    June 3, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. Joan

    Well Mr. Issa is a man of his word. When he got this job he promised to investigate this administration on everything and he is sure doing just that. There seems to be a very disturbing pattern over the past few years. Just after the President was elected Mitch McConnell proudly said his main goal was to make this man a one term president. It was not to work for the good of the country. Instead he went about obstructing and filibustering more than any Congress in history to try and thwart any progress by the President. Is that why his constituents voted for McConnell? Then during Romney's famous 47% speech he also mentioned that he hoped for an international incident to campaign on. Shortly after that the disgusting anti-Muslim video surfaced causing protests, fires, destruction and deaths in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities around the world. BEFORE Benghazi was even an issue, Romney was criticizing the President for his handling of it. Is he psychic? Seems like too much of a coincidence. 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? Just asking. Now the President seemed to be making traction on the gun laws and immigration issues so all of a sudden there are scandals coming out of the woodwork. Are people like Rove sitting in some planning room making up plans and strategies to take the attention away from these important issues? Wouldn't put it past them because they have done it before. The "smear and fear" group is out in full force.

    June 3, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. realconfused

    I don't think anyone disagrees that an investigation is in order. Also, it seems to me that democrats should be ticked off at two things. That the Pres. has not taken ANY responsibility even though this agency is under his watch, and, he is doing NOTHING to help the American people the TRUTH on why or how this did and could happen. Remember, the Pres. Volentarily held himself out as the one who would be TRANSPARENT-or-does that mean something different now?

    June 3, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. Anderson

    When the tea party group shows up before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, make sure you send them to JAIL for receiving a 501(c)4 under false pretends.

    June 3, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. jpmichigan

    Alice Palmer of Chicago know to well how the Obama machine works. Any one who steps in is way finds out.

    June 3, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. 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.

    June 3, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. Gurgyl

    These idiots are really wasting time and money. Nothing wrong with IRS. And it's scrutiny.

    June 3, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. truth hurts but reality bites

    And the good news is that tens of thousands of new IRS agents will be combing over ALL of our healthcare tax forms to make sure we are all doing as Chairman Obama and the Democrat Party has demanded of us in the healthcare dept.

    Or will all of his supporters get a free ride, a subsidy or a complete waiver of the requirements while the non-supporters get dragged through the healthcare/IRS wringer? Yes, I'm sure this will all be on the up and up right people?! Wanna buy a bridge?!

    June 3, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. Wake up People!

    @Joan.

    Thank you for posting exactly what I have tried to post for months now but have been unable. Too many confidences....

    June 3, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. Wake up People!

    Oops that should have been too many coincidences......

    June 3, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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