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. lottie

    gee they can dish it out but they sure can't take it. Repos should try working on jobs and the economy for awhile.

    June 3, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. bob

    Glad to know that the rest of the nation is finally starting to learn about Issa's criminal past. We've known about it for years, ever since he ran for governor, but the Republicans in his district don't give a hoot. All they know is he hates America, and they vote for him in droves.

    June 3, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Borderless

    And this is the root of Obama's problem. He surrounded himself with absolutely horrible, morally bankrupt people. Because he is so incredibly weak, those are the people that are running his administration.

    June 3, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Ken in MO

    Issa in an unethical person. He is not fit to be part of congress. He should resign. He is a disgrace to his party and to our country. With that said, the IRS incident should be thoroughly investigated by a bipartisian group...not this scumbag. He is a waste of taxpayers money.

    June 3, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. John Mudd

    Mr Issa is also leading the charge to destroy the US Postal Service. One of the last employers in America which pays a living wage stands to fall because of the Issa written 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. After the USPS is broken, its profitable operations will be divvied up between UPS and FedEx, Issa will get a big fat pocketful of "Thank You"
    from his buddies and the America public will be paying $2.50 for a stamp to mail a letter.

    June 3, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  6. Mike

    You gotta hand it to Issa. He's got no shame.

    June 3, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. Conrad Baylor

    "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, . . ."

    No need to even ask. It was a smear, plain and simple. Jay Carney IS a paid liar, and everyone knows it. That's what Plouffe can't stomach.

    June 3, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Truck

    David Plouffe can't get any lower than this. The libs will find anything & make a big lie about it,that's what they do best. Liars,all of them.............

    June 3, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  9. J

    It became personal when the administration gave notice to illegally pry into selected political foe's lives. As anyone can see this is profiling which is illegal. In addition someone way up the chain gave directions to have this done. Jail time is the least of what they need if not Impeachment for others!!!

    June 3, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Sniffit

    "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."

    And there we have it. When "left-leaning" groups raise issues and file complaints, CNN promptly caveats them by pointing out "it's just accusations, but nothing's been proven"...but when it's whackos running around saying the POTUS isn't a citizen or is a secret muslim who wants to turn 'Murika into a sharia law caliphate or that he was directly involved in some sort of grand conspiracy to target Teatroll groups applying for tax-exempt status, CNN treats it all as very serious and legitimate, despite the lack of proof and the existence of plenty of evidence to the contrary.


    June 3, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. Patrick

    How very desperate you appear today Mr. Plouffe. You, and Mr. Carney, might better serve your boss by returning your focus to present day events and holding yourself accountable to the American people for YOUR actions.

    June 3, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  12. PopSmith

    Dear White House,

    We are a stupid people. Keep denying and we will eventually help you all sweep things under the rug.

    Love, 52% of the American Voters

    June 3, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Woops

    Two can play the innuendo game. Issa should be investigated for his role in doctoring Benghazi emails.

    June 3, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. Mike Texoma

    The Republlicans are drowning in demographicsa, and since their message is basically antagonistic to women and minorities, they flail about trying anything t gain traction. But Mr. Issa ought to know it is hard to gain traction with his kind of chicken shit.

    June 3, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. DeepeThought

    1. The IRS has already admitted to illegal targeting and illegally giving information they obtained to liberal organizations.
    2. The IRS chief visited the White House 157 times during the illegal IRS targeting.
    3. The head of the IRS union meet with President Obama the day before the illegal targeting began.
    4. The wife of the IRS chief was the head of a liberal lobbying group and a Occupy Wall Street protester.
    5. President Obama publically and on television called for the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax free status.
    6. IRS agents are reporting being told that their orders to target conservatives came from Washington, DC.
    7. More than one IRS office was involved, despite the official statement from the IRS claiming the Cincinnati office only.
    8. The IRS agents are speaking and were not 'rogue agents' as their superiors portrayed them.
    9. The White House is now going in the offensive against their questioners; a clear method to detract and obfuscate.
    10. The former head of the IRS 'pleaded the fifth' instead of answering questions to the public.
    Those denying that this scandal involves the highest levels of the IRS and the Obama Administration are delusional. The White House going on the offensive is a sure sign that it is involved. Their arrogance against the American people and the laws of the USA should be punished severely!

    June 3, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. ladyjag

    The Republicans have lost their minds. But I guess you have to have one to lose it. The Republican Party is the Party of Hate, and they really want women to have issues Health Care whatever, but we can always fire them. The Majority of them should be fired, lets hope the people in their State knows and fires them and we get ones in . But I think we need to bring up term limits.

    June 3, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. Dan5404

    Issa just spouts Tea Party/GOP rhetoric and pretends they are facts until he and his partisan right-wing Spanish Inquisitionists can attack, manipulate, interrupt, feign anger and re-interpret statements to use as pseudo proof of foregone conclusions decided well before hearings.

    June 3, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. cnnife

    Can someone educate me? GOPs have not talked about jobs and the economy in weeks!

    June 3, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Rick McDaniel wrote:

    Plouffe is an example of the worst of the worst........the Dem socialist who wants to be a part of a social dictatorship in America, and destroy our freedoms and principles.
    Before you get all of your faux indignation all huffed up, let me remind you that Issa fired the first low blow. And, there is a difference when such remarks come from elected officials compared to talking heads.

    June 3, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  20. Caumont

    Issa was never convicted of either crime but the CNN lapdogs drag this out of another one of the administrations paid liars. We all know they are lying and Carney is a joke. Carney is like the infamous Baghdad Bob but with the support of the compliant American press spreading distortions and outright lies daily. If nothing is done on this IRS scandal there will be consequences politically so Obama might as well man up for once and instruct his people to be truthful but we all know that is not the Chicago way.

    June 3, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    You shouldn't throw stones when you live in a glass house Issa.

    June 3, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. Fair is Fair


    I have a great solution. Israel and Palestine could form 1 peaceful nation. A sort of United States in the Middle East. Nation: it could be called Palesterael...or maybe Israelistine. States: Gaza, Jerusalem, West Bank, etc.. Each state would have it's own constitution and run itself, with representation in the federal government, voted in by the people, just like Texas or Rhode Island. I kind of like Israelistine better. It could exist as 1 single peaceful nation. Once the nation was formed, there would be no reason for hate or attacks, since they would exist together. Each state running itself pretty much independently whilst staying together under the leadership of the democratically voted in and run federal government.
    How did that work out for the countries that formed the former Yougoslavia? Oh yeah... Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbian genocide. What a great idea!!!! Kudos!!!!

    June 3, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. ThinkAgain

    Groups like American Crossroads (Karl Rove's group) and Media Research Center (propaganda arm of Mark Levin, the rightwing shock jock) are 501(c)(4) "social welfare organizations" and enjoy tax exempt status. After Citizens United, all the teatroll groups were trying to get on the same gravy train, even though the only reason they exist is to funnel money to candidates who support their agenda.

    Why aren't the righties upset about this?

    In the 2012 election cycle (through November 26, 2013), here are the biggest donors to American Crossroads:
    Harold Simmons, Contran Corp. ($20.5 million)
    Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corp. ($11.5 million)
    Miriam Adelson, Adelson Drug Clinic ($11.5 million)
    Bob Perry, Perry Homes ($8.5 million)
    Robert Rowling, TRT Holdings, Inc. ($3.5 million)
    Weaver Holdings, Inc. ($3.4 million)

    The IRS' action were clumsy, but they made sense, given how anti-tax and anti-government all these teatroll groups are.

    June 3, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  24. Rudy NYC


    What does the chairman's record from the 70's have to do with what is going on today. That is a bit of a stretch to sling some mud.
    It's just as important as Barack Obama's college transcripts.

    June 3, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Marcuscassius

    Issa is the Bachman. The nutsies runnin wild.

    Tinfoil hats and sacred old white guys. Man, the Republican party has lost it!

    June 3, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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