June 2nd, 2013
11:18 PM ET
9 years ago

IRS controversy turns personal, nasty

(CNN) - An unusually harsh and personal war of words erupted on Sunday, even for the current hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington, DC, with one of President Obama's top advisers bringing up the 40-year-old criminal record of the Republican congressman leading the investigation into alleged IRS abuses.

"Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler," tweeted David Plouffe, the political guru (and unofficial adviser) for President Obama, referring to the chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

"And loose ethically today," Plouffe ended his tweet, linking to a story about Issa answering questions on CNN's “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley about the controversy over IRS staffers targeting conservative groups for scrutiny, in which Issa referred to White House press secretary Jay Carney as a "paid liar."

Asked for a response to Plouffe's tweet, Issa's spokesman Frederick Hill told CNN, "Looks like the Chairman hit a nerve today. Hopefully President Obama follows Plouffe on Twitter and may finally see some information from a senior advisor about what's going on at the IRS."

According to a source close to Issa, the congressman thought Plouffe's tweet about allegations against him from 1972 and 1982 particularly below the belt, given that "Rep. Issa has never used his position to investigate President Obama for things before he took office like his land deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko."

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. Plouffe's reference to charges and suspicions against Issa from a generation and two generations ago is also unusual in a city where such mentions are considered gauche and uncollegial. (Take, as but two examples, those whose careers managed quite well despite Chappaquiddick and Iran-Contra.)

It began when Issa told Crowley that the White House was misleading the public about the extent of the IRS controversy.

(You can read the entire transcript HERE.)

"Their paid liar, their spokesperson, pictured behind, he's still making up things about what happens in calling this local rogue," Issa said, motioning towards a photograph of Carney on the screen behind Crowley. "The reason the (IRS official) Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati, it's because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting to proving it."

These claims were based, Issa said, on interviews with IRS officials conducted by his committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, though as of now no definitive account has been made public establishing that the IRS officials engaged in the targeting of conservative groups, in the Cincinnati office, were doing so at the direction of officials in Washington, D.C.

"The president's spokesperson is saying whatever is convenient at the time and the story changes," Issa told Crowley. "What we have is people coming in to transcribed interviews. They're saying under penalty of crimes that certain things are true. We have subpoenaed documents that would support that, that they say, e-mails that went back and forth. The administration is so far not providing those documents. As we get those documents, as we will get Fast and Furious documents eventually and so on, we will learn the whole truth."

Asked what "lies" Issa was referring to Carney having said, a source close to Issa said "he was most directly referring to Jay Carney's multiple statements placing blame for the IRS scandal on IRS Cincinnati office employees while pointedly omitting the fact that these employees contend their direction came from the D.C. office and have testified to Congress as such. I'm sure that Carney's previous statement about the White House's role in editing the Benghazi talkers being limited to just one technical point was in the back of his mind as well."

Plouffe, however, is clearly interested in another focus, allegations one or two generations old about Issa, not current questions about the IRS and the Obama administration.

Asked what his tweet allegations have to do with whether IRS officials in Cincinnati took direction from officials in Washington, Plouffe told CNN "the credibility and motivation of accusers are valid here."

Republicans suggest that this is part and parcel of the Obama team's modus operandi, that every time a critic begins to succeed, a presidential ally begins to attack his character and change the subject. To, say, 41-year-old charges against a House GOP chairman, ones that were eventually dropped.

Issa, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, is the former owner of a car alarm company - it's his voice that warns would-be burglars "Protected by Viper. Stand back," which you can hear HERE.

Issa once noted to a Washington Post interviewer that "For years, I used to tell everyone that I went into it because my brother was a car thief. Then they found out when I ran for office my brother did spend time in prison as a car thief, and it ruined the whole joke."

In 1972, then-19-year-old Issa too was arrested under suspicion of stealing a car, but Issa claims it was a case of mistaken identity and the charges were ultimately dropped.

In 1982, the office and factory of two companies Issa had purchased, Quantum Enterprises and Steal Stopper International, caught on fire. The insurance company's investigation found "suspicious burn patterns" and company officials noted that in the month before the fire Issa had increased his insurance from $100,000 to $462,000. As the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza noted, the "Ohio state fire marshal never determined the cause of the fire and no one was ever charged with a crime"; Issa and the insurance company settled out of court.

Asked why he brought up Issa's criminal record from 1972 (when the charges were dismissed) and an arson investigation from 21 years ago where no one was charged with a crime, Plouffe told CNN that Issa's "ethics issues are far more recent. Look at ethics complaints filed."

There have been at least three ethics complaints filed against Issa, all from left-leaning groups. Complains filed in and of themselves don't necessarily mean anything, of course. House Ethics Committee or Office of Congressional Ethics judgments are much more important, and as of now there have been none against Issa.

Issa's office says neither the committee nor OCE "has ever contacted the Congressman's office seeking any response or additional information." Issa spokesman Hill called them all "nuisance complaints."

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (485 Responses)
  1. Name

    Attack the messenger, that's all thay have.

    June 2, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  2. king

    when will the main street media start holding these right winged zealots accountable for the insinuations or lies they're slinging around like a baseball bat. come folks there got to be an ounce of integrity shown by the media. i know candy tried to ask for proof, but she need to stop this zealot right in his tracks when he start muttering insinuations or gut feelings as it was fact. what happened to the media of old, is there anyone to stand up to these rabid repub and their factless insinuations. thank you ploufe for putting this insinuating pact lying zealot in his place. where is the Anthony Wieners in this dem party. all i see is them laying down every time one of these right winged zealots start their lying rampage. we have three fake scandals and not one of them have any proof of any fact that this white house was doing anything wrong, but this media keeps allowing these repubs to push insinuations and gut feelings to the American people as if it were facts, and the worst thing about this is that these gullible people are actually believing this garbage.

    June 2, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  3. roro

    Issa is throwing anything and everything against the wall just hoping that something will stick. The Repuglicans have been doing that for 5 years. He's mean, nasty, and a disgrace to the Congress.

    June 2, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  4. Leroy

    There is not a day that goes by that some congressman lies...no wonder they have a flunking 14.8% approval rating with the voters!

    June 2, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  5. Susan See

    Issa has gotten around his past, unlike other people. If you have criminal charges, even if not convicted, you are not normally allowed anywhere near a government post for the rest of your life. With computers those charges come up just like they were yesterday. Of course it's all very unfair and one reason felons usually go back to prison. They can't even get a job as a dog-catcher. No, this country never forgives anything, even stealing $100 when you were 18.

    June 2, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  6. American

    Political corruption is at the highest level seen under the Obama Administration since Nixon and the mainstream liberal media is covering it up for him.

    June 3, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  7. Steve- Illinois

    Plouffe- Desperate men take desperate measures.

    June 3, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  8. SPW

    I'm tired of giving these fools my money every year

    They help immigrants more than they help citizens and that is just pathetic, we help third world countries while our infrastructure crumbles, our schools haven't had proper funding in decades

    June 3, 2013 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  9. Michael Lee

    Darrel Issa steals cars...and sets things on fire....why should i believe him?

    June 3, 2013 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  10. Robin Jones

    When the President is backed into a corner, he doesn't want to get his hands dirty, so he sends out his professional slime-slinger David Plouffe in attempt to distract attention from the real issues.

    June 3, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  11. textee

    "Issa's criminal record"?

    Memo to America-hating, utterly feminized leftists like David Plouffe:

    Issa has no "criminal record", you pea-brained, America-hating fool.

    June 3, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  12. N Muir

    1982 was 21 years ago?!

    June 3, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  13. mark122

    If you don't know the country of origin of Issa family just ask and you will know what these people are good at. From Europe , Asia to Africa they will tell you be afraid of Labanese.

    June 3, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  14. Seahorse7

    This is fun. I love to watch how the Obama begins to implode after crumbling the last few years. Good stuff. Good bye Obama, king of lies. We won't miss you.

    June 3, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  15. Ican Heare

    Well, at least CNN is covering this more. I'm getting tired of FOX news. Missed ya CNN!

    June 3, 2013 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  16. Ron Burgandy

    Well that escalated quickly..

    June 3, 2013 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  17. Thomas

    Why didn't Darrell Issa start a kitty comity hearing when Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi coned America into war over alleged WMDs?

    Issa voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.

    U.S. Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki – You guessed it, Issa is a FOOL

    Darrell Issa (R-CA) made a fool of himself on “Meet the Press” Sunday as he tried to defend his Benghazi conspiracy. David Gregory (R-TV) pushed back hard, even bringing up the GOP’s defunding of security.

    Issa Blames His Brother for Past Brushes with the Law Which is a lot of chutzpah for as shameless a pol as Darrell Issa.

    As for Wilkes, the defense contrator who was convicted of 13 felonies for bribing Cunningham, he was also a big supporter of Issa's. In 2002, Wilkes' firm ADSC Inc., contributed $10,000 to Issa, and in 2004 Wilkes' firm contributed $5,000 to Issa.

    Issa / Cruz 2014
    Dick Nixon / Joe" McCarthy

    June 3, 2013 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  18. Blinded by the republican lie

    This needed to be brought up...An eye for an eye...

    June 3, 2013 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  19. Jakob Jackson

    What does the phrase "left-leaning groups" mean near the end of this article? Is this phrasing trying to dismiss the accusations because they came from groups that are opposed to Issa? In other words, any group that opposes Issa is suspect because they oppose Issa?

    June 3, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  20. SpenderH

    Plouffe comes across as very, very desperate to change the focus here.

    June 3, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  21. jon

    We here in California can guarantee you that Issa IS a crook.

    June 3, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  22. scarf

    If Issa has what he claims, then he should get moving on impeachment proceedings. If he doesn't, then he should stop his investigation, as he will have lost all credibility.

    June 3, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  23. Belseth

    Would some one please point out there is zero proof or even vague evidence that the White House knew anything about the IRS mess. This is PURE Republican fantasizing that is reported as news. The Republicans have had Obama under an electron microscope for four and a half years and they still can't find anything on him. I say if they can't find any dirt on Obama by the end of his term the Republicans need to declare him a saint. Before they declare him the worst President ever they need to find something he did wrong! Bush Jr was so bad they refuse to use his name and Regan had runaway inflation and Iran/Contra and he was declared a Republican saint. By their own standards Obama is one of our best Presidents ever and yet they are desperate to have him remembered as the worst. Tell me how this ISN'T racist?????

    June 3, 2013 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  24. Jim Phillips

    This is the same patern over and over again. The democrats attack the person everytime in order to create focus away from the real issue. Playing as if anyone with halfa brain can't see through the rheteric. The ethics committee should be looking heavily at the the lavish spending the IRS has done in the last year. Heads should roll and the list should be long of the IRS executives in need of termination. You can't lallow one cell of this cancer to survive ... they all should be eradicated !!

    June 3, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  25. vidal808

    I am sorry but not sorry for the fact that we have been reminded of this moron Republican Chairman's miserable past. He should be crawling under a rock and stay there, not leading an investigation! A disgrace to this country and the Congress.....!

    June 3, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
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