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. Mike

    Keep punching back at this criminal running the investigation for the GOP. Then maybe the GOP will finally focus on jobs, the economy, keeping student loan rates down, etc. All the things that will improve our lives and not this made up scandal bull crap.

    June 3, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. B

    classic liberal playbook. when caught in a lie, use personal attacks to lash out. it's more child like and reads like a children's playbook.

    June 3, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  3. Assur

    We voted for these people. They are supposed to be the most fitting individuals for this job. It doesn't matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, this seems more like kindergarten mudslinging. You got voted into office, do your jobs. or don't have them another term.

    June 3, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. Rob

    Typical liberal thug tactics from this administration. Chicago politics. Is ANYONE out there surprised?

    June 3, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. DJ in Texas

    Whie I'm not i favor of the tactic Plouffe used, Issa started this by calling someone a "paid liar". Again, his words show that only ONE truth exists in his mind. No matter what people say "under oath", undless they say President Obama himself directed the IRS, nothing else matters to him. An ivestigation is definitely warranted, but because of the political rhetoric, the real trhuth will never be known becuase Issa won't accept it unless it is Obama who directed it.

    Again, while highly unethical, NOTHING was illegal as to what the IRS did. NO GROUP , whether conservative or liberal actualy qualifies for the tax exempt status. ALL of them need to be looked at and removed. NONE of them promote "social welfare", but are purely political.

    June 3, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Mike

    Rome is burning (DC) and all these elected types can think of doing is in-fighting. Oh, that's right, they also like to take vacations like the Memorial Day (we get one day) recess until June 3rd. Did anybody miss them?

    June 3, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. Concerned Educator, Mississippi

    Way to go, David Plouffe! Issa has done nothing but waste time and tax dollars trying to pin this president to a scandal, when there isn't one. If he and others spend this much time and energy working in a bipartisan way trying to solve the issues and problems of the nation, things would be much better. I'm a Republican by the way.

    June 3, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  8. jpmichigan

    The Obama way , documented in CHICAGO political arena, if you can't beat them honestly than use what ever means possible to dis credit them, ask Ms. Alice Palmer. Trust, transparency is not in the vocabulary of this administration. Special prosecutor is needed to investigate IRS, DOJ and Benghazi scandals.

    June 3, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. cyborg_destruct

    It's what I've been saying for 20 years. It's no longer We The People...

    It is now We to Government for the Government By the Government.

    We have ;lost the battle and I'm not sure we could even get the Government back for the liars, cheaters, and plain evil people that can put on a smiling face and b/s all of us.

    June 3, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. Richard Taufman

    Darrell Issa is the only liar and crook in this story. Issa was burned down his auto security business in Cleveland, OH; he was arrested for auto theft and carrying a concealed gun. In plain language, Issa is a crook which is typical of the Republicans of this congress. When are the people of this country goin to learn, the Republicans are crooks and liars.

    June 3, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  11. Finrod

    Typical White House ploy. "Look at stuff from 40 years ago and ignore what we've been doing for the last four years!" It looks like people will need to be frogmarched out of the West Wing in cuffs before this administration takes its job seriously.

    June 3, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. Guess

    Of course its frustrating, the biggest liar in the gop, calling everyone else a liar, we need to push for investigations on bush, then issa, rick scott, rick snyder, scott walker, i could litterally go on all day.

    June 3, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. leah

    Darrell Issa has been watching too many Mannix reruns on his VCR.

    June 3, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  14. Kellogg

    As it should. The amount of waste in our government has got to come to a halt. Where better to start? While were at it, let's take a good hard look at political junkets to every corner of the earth. With today's access to electronic communications, there's little need for people like McCain, to fly off to investigate the possibility of involvement in another foreign conflict. He's spent enough in his endeavor to shrink the population through violence.

    June 3, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Guess

    Why is a guy with 20+ 6ears of criminal history investigating anyone? this is one sad gop, buying cnn, and any other news outlet with story for hires, paying to have your story run

    June 3, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. Gman

    "Smoke & Mirrors" journalism. It's not about the scandal, it's about two people throwing insults around.

    June 3, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  17. sonny chapman

    Is Darrel Issa the best that the California 49th Distinct can offer ? Is he the best that the Repub. House can offer as a Committee Chairman ? I know he REALLY hates Dems., but his past, now coming out in his present behavior, lowers the whole U.S. Govt.

    June 3, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Curious Fellow

    This cause of action is prooof that the Democrats are running scared. Trying to change the direction, This will bring up requests that the Presidents records be made available to the public. WHAT IS HE HIDING?
    Eventually those records will come out and then We the People will see all the lies made to us.

    June 3, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. Michael

    It is scary to me that the government is targerting groups and giving special scruitney, just because of differing viewpoints. That is not right, it is unethical, it is un-American and it is discrimitatory.

    I am full support of this investigation and if this was going on with a Republican president, I would still be in full support of this investigation. This is a slippery slope that if history says we let the govenment get away with this, then history will find that our freedoms are in jeapordy.

    The White House, Congress, IRS and all involved need to be completely honest and not trying to deceive or deflect in any way. They owe the truth to us, the American people!

    June 3, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. Guess

    Nuisance, yeah, trying to hold the go responsible is a nusiance, but trying to blame dems, an outright obligation to the people to get the truth. the real truth is the gops biggest enemy

    June 3, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  21. Allen Bruce

    Issa is wrong to call Carney a paid liar, that would mean Carney joined the HOP.

    June 3, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. Taroya

    It is always the guilty that scream.
    Issa is a car thief. He successfully pulled off an insurance scam.
    Can't expect anything better from a repub of his ilk.
    As for the IRS: if the number of applicants doubles after CU, it is guaranteed that the majority of them are political, and are lying in order to get the advantage.
    It is the job of the IRS to investigate that, just like they investigate 'known' mobsters.

    June 3, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. Guess

    This party makes me sick to my stomach, really does, sssoooo tired of this nonstop campaigning on my tax dollars

    June 3, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Doug Lynn

    Typical Liberal/Progressive comments. These people are like foolish children on the playground talking to a parent or a coach. They might as well have said: Yeah, I cheated, lied and abused my power today, but 40 years ago you were suspected of crime, so leave me alone.

    June 3, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. James Foley

    Plouffe's tweet was a shot in regards to Jay Carney being called a liar rather than an attempt to waylay people from the IRS scandal. Essentially, they're giving tit for tat. If Issa would besmirch Carney's integrity, then it's a free for all all around. No quarter asked, and none will be given. Clearly Issa needs to draw his conclusions AFTER the investigation, not before. If he cant' get a handle on that then tell him to recall the Duke LaCrosse players and one Prosecutor Mike Nifong. Hopefully he's got enough gray matter in there to make a connection and dial it down enough to at least APPEAR to be reasonable, for his constituents sake.

    June 3, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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