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. tommysaint1

    This is what we have turned our government into?
    Puerto Rico, you still want to buy in to this country? it must be bad on the island

    June 3, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. ARdude

    I think we just need to give EVERY politician a pair of boxing gloves, put them all into the Redskins stadium, and lock the gates.

    June 3, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  3. ST

    This man Issa is a disgrace. Does he mean anyone who is appointed as Press Secretary is a total liar? Are they not appointed to do their work as anyone else?. Issa, Issa, Issa, can you please go to the mirror and look at yourself. Talk to that someone you see in the mirror if you never lied at all in your life, and whether it could be taken as an example to anyone who wants to explain something. Shame on you old man. You are heading to a bad place which you will never recover.

    June 3, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    A decade later, the House Oversight Committee is still awaiting Bush White House e-mails on the missing WMD's and missing emails from the Libby scandal. And six years later, the Oversight Committee is still awaiting missing emails from the 2007 dismissal of 8 U.S. Attorneys. GWB's presidency began in the courts and rightfully so, it should end in U.S. criminal courts for extensive acts of treason and for the most scandalous, corrupt and unethical administration in U.S. history. O' and by the way, Bush and his republican accomplices should also be sent to the Hague.

    June 3, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. Bob77021

    Same old tactics being used by Plouffe.....If you can't dispute the message, defame the messenger.

    June 3, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. TexGirl

    Sounds like Issa is getting close. The attacks and attempts at misdirection are getting fiercer. Keep at it, Mr. Issa! The American people deserve to know the truth.

    June 3, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Scott

    Appears that Richard Nixon Jr., errrr I mean Barry Hussein'w boys are starting to get desperate. 😉


    June 3, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  8. NC_Right

    Nixon had the balzz to resign

    June 3, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. James

    The precedent is the president is responsible end of story. Then he should clean house. Fire Holder, fire Lerner, fire rice.

    Bush had to dump Rumsfeld. Despite Rumsfelds tactics of being light and fast. His inability to accept his small footprint tactic failed forced bush to dump him.

    Time for obama to man up get rid of Holder lerner and rice. After that no complaints left.

    June 3, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. Republiker

    But didn't we all vote for this?

    June 3, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Jack

    Newt Gringrich tactics!

    June 3, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  12. Matt

    Typical response from this dictatorship...I mean administration. When an allegation "sticks", crucify those who are leading the charge. President Obama and his cronies need to be vacated from DC...and quickly.

    June 3, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  13. BrianMempis

    Desperation is a stinky cologne. You know Issa's succeeding when Democrats get desperate.

    June 3, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. Ray E. (Georgia)

    I plead the 5Th.

    June 3, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  15. rs

    While it is easy to decry the reduced level of communication between the Democratic and Republican parties, it is sane question why a Republican with such low standing,with such questionable moral background is given free reign, not only by his party, but by the media as well to assail the President.

    We KNOW these conspiracy theories and manufactured controversies have no validity, yet we don't call the accusers out. They have no evidence, they have no proof, and their motivations are only to create political chaos- chaos that hurts the recovery, hurts the political process and hurts us all.

    Call it what it is- treasonous crap.

    June 3, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Larry

    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."

    An excellent description of the Bengazi and IRS investigations. Meant only to distract from more important issues. When anyone challenges a Republican it's just a "nuisance complaint"

    June 3, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. RL

    Repugs don't want it known that during the Bush administration the IRS investigated the NAACP, GreenPeace and a liberal church, probably even more. More proof that repugs are HYPOCRITES!!! Issa has absolutely nothing.

    June 3, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. Kevin Miller

    Wasn't this supposed to be the most transparent and morally ethical administration ever? The problem is they are transparent. They are liars, thiefs and morally corrupt. Why does Obama never get any of the responsibility for putting this horribly corrupt administration together? Benghazi, the IRS and the harassing of reporters. Any one of these if we had a Republican President and the left would be screaming impeachment. Double standards? Absolutely and THAT is transparent.

    June 3, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. Natya

    Where are you CNN? Where are the other major networks? This country has at least 4 serious scandals that the press must stay on (IRS, AP, Benghzi, and Fast and Furious) and the only one I see on your Politics page is the IRS story. As an Independent, I want to know if these are being robustly pursued by the media. These are not passing news stories, these issues undermine the trust of the American people in their government and the media (if they choose not to cover what is important to us).

    June 3, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. ryno

    OBAMA = Son of Nixon

    June 3, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  21. Yeah Right

    Where are these jobs that the Republicans promised?

    June 3, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  22. Just a thought

    Issa and the GOP is a disgusting lot. Spending 100% of their time looking for dirt.

    June 3, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  23. Hal Atosis

    The Chicago gangsters are really getting desperate!

    I am sure they hold team meetings at the Watergate. Ironic

    June 3, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  24. Guess

    Sounds like another trustworthy gop to me

    June 3, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. mystic247

    How much does i cost each day and hour spent on investigation the IRS. Nobody likes but the IRS but it is a must in our government and our country. I see it like this,, The office was overwhelmed, with Political TEA PARTY extremists groups getting out of paying taxes stating they are more civil witch we all seen everywhere is BS. However by law they have the right, but must prove that they are more civil, which requires more investigation in each application. SO i am happy they were doing their job and protect the honesty, integrity of the right winged extremist wanting to get of of paying taxes, again not to help their community for civil actives. Then we also have an underling issue that republicans are stopping short of nothing, to tie this administration to anything something, grabbing at straws. Also it would help if the IRS had a director still being blocked by congress. Wasting all of our taxes doing so, when we could have an infrastructure bill.

    June 3, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
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