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."

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soundoff (485 Responses)
  1. The REAL Truth...

    It would appear that the Fox news bobble-head parrots are here in force this morning. One simply cannot educate those who have such moronic dislike for the current administration. It's the Obstructionist Party mantra... dumb down the red state masses and feed them so many lies and innuendo that they believe it to be true. Yawn...

    June 3, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. yuri

    Dems seem to be running a side show, when attacked. GOP goes overboard, when a scandal breaks out, involving federal agencies, and in the bargain, GOP tries to somehow link the scandal to the WH, w/o much proof. Name callings fly around like blind bats and Washington finally becomes both dysfunctional and non-functional. Thus a mishap brings out the "worst" from both the parties.

    June 3, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I can tell from these right wing comments up here that you all listen to the same garbage. "Where there's smoke, there's fire" or "the Chicago way." Oh give me a break. Which idiotic Fox commentator made that one up?

    June 3, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. bob

    What's a little grand theft auto between friends?

    June 3, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    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.
    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    June 3, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Chrisails

    Issa struck a nerve. All the Dems have left is to get personal even if there was nothing there. Funny how the proclaimed Whitehouse transparancy becomes the Greatest cover-up President in history. This guy makes Nixon look like a Saint. Hey Dems remember "What happens when the call comes in the middle of the night?" Nobody home!
    It is all catching up and it isn't going to go away. Mr. Bush ends up as a class act next to th Chicago Thug.

    June 3, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Why do conservatives think it's OK to profile minorities, but not OK to profile teatroll groups? Suspicion of a crime is suspicion of a crime – right?

    June 3, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  8. Donkey Party

    Blah, blah, blah Benghazi, IRS, AP, Chicago politics... You right-wingers are so damn brainwashed and gullible, pathetic doesn't begin to describe you.

    June 3, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. Steve

    It pretty simple. When there is a Repub Prez then the Dems get their turn to try and show how bad they are. Right now BO and them Dems are the target. It's just a dodgeball game both sides play and interestingly both sides seem to let the power of their positions create havoc on themselves. Is this truly the definition of insanity, yet both sides really think that they are immune to their misjudgments.

    So, just close your traps Dem/Progressives, it's not your turn.

    June 3, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Red Noche

    We all know obama's the liar, carney just swears to it!

    June 3, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  11. quid est veritas

    funny too that some of the same people who have been posting "there is no proof that a crime was committed at the irs" are now casting aspersions on a a guy who had charges either dropped or dismissed against him decades ago.

    June 3, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. John

    One of the advantages of being very old is looking at a person's face and listening to what they are saying. Then, you realize this person is just full of it. So, you go back to whatever you're doing; thinking this Issa fellow too shall pass.

    June 3, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. Jim

    I assume everyone remembers Obama on tape after the last election in his own words saying "we're going to punish our enemies and reward our friends" right?

    June 3, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Anonymous

    The White House personally attacking a strong critic with 40 year-old, dropped allegations! If this doesn't scare the heck out of you, and each citizen in this country .. we're all in trouble. This is Nixon, J Edgar Hoover, McCarthy and more!

    June 3, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. GI Joe

    IRS is 99% civil servants - republican, democrat, independent.

    The appointed ones have been let go. Issa has a "gut feeling". Well, so do I. I have a "gut feeling" that the repubs will do anything they can to destroy this country.

    June 3, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Deathstalker74

    I love the following excuses: 1) The investigations into the scandals cost too much, 2) It's Bush's fault, 3) The Republicans are overreaching, 4) We need to focus on fixing today's problems. All these token talking points from the Progressives serve only to distract from the fact that this Administration is absolutely corrupt at the core. If they didn't commit these crimes in the first place, they wouldn't be in this position. You reap what you sow. Regardless, these investigations are only going to get larger as whistleblowers in the IRS come forth with information linking the targeting to Washington (which is happening right now), as more Benghazi whistleblowers come forth and as the first 48 hours of emails are released. Holder will probably be forced out over the AP / FOX journalist investigations. Not a good time to be part of the Progressive movement that claimed to support the most "transparent" government in the history of the US.

    June 3, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. Anonymous

    The White House personally attacking a strong critic with 40 year old, dropped allegations! This should scare every citizen...if it doesn't, this is the first sign that we are all in real trouble... is Nixon, J Edgar Hoover, McCarthy re-born.

    June 3, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Anonymous

    I applaud Plouffe – it's time for the Dems to take the gloves off and give the Repubs/Tea Partiers a taste of their own medicine. Dems are always too soft – they should have impeached Bush but gave him a pass. Time to fight fire with fire. This whold IRS thing is purely political and is just something for the Repubs to hide behind so they don't have to govern or do anything positive for the people.

    June 3, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. Davis Foulger

    Odd bias to your article.

    Issa calls the White House secretary a paid liar and uses out of context quotes to try to tie the White House to the IRS slandal (its more slander than scandel), and you focus on a tweet that responds to that nonsense with a recap of known truths.

    When are you guys going to start calling Issa what he is: a traitor who continues to leak classified documents, putting active U.S. operations, operatives, and informants at risk.

    By that standard the tweet was fairly mild.]\

    June 3, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. George T Hibs

    Sound like some members of Congress are getting closer to the truth in the IRS scandal, seems almost like they struck a sensitive nerve, no Obama does not want his hands dirty so he will have an unofficial spokes person do the mud slinging for him. When the only thing you have is to try and make someone else look bad, it is a tactic of last resort, desperation
    and revenge.

    June 3, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. Sniffit

    "seems almost like they struck a sensitive nerve"

    Give that Issa called him a "paid liar" on national televisions, yeah, Plouffe acting like a nerve was struck makes perfect sense. Your attempt to use this to rationalize your conspiracy fantasies, on the other hand, is laughable tangential broken logic.

    June 3, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. Joan

    Ouch! Issa calls Carney a "paid liar" on national television and the Democrats are supposed to take that lying down? Not any more. The Republicans need to be called out when they exaggerate, distort and cherry pick information. If the press won't do it, then the Dems must do it themselves. This whole IRS scandal has been blown out of proportion just like the Tea Party controlled the health care debate a few summers ago with rants, disruptions at town hall meetings and untrue allegations like Palin's "death panels". The media lapped it up. Now the IRS had to handle thousands of new applications for tax exemptions following Citizens United and they are being targeted for doing their job and trying to establish if these "questionable" groups actually were charitable organizations. I bet some Tea Party groups are quaking in their boots because they are afraid their applications may be looked at again and some false info may show up. The GOP may wish they had not opened up this Pandora's Box.

    June 3, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Deathstalker74

    I'm glad that Issa called Carney a "paid liar". It's about time someone in Washington is honest. Let's face it, Carney has repeatedly lied. He lied about the Benghazi talking points and he's been lying repeatedly about the IRS scandal. Why not call it like it is?

    June 3, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Dave

    Funny how the dems are already claiming information on Benghazi is "old", but try to use 40 year old data now. When the left get desperate they turn to personal attacks ( of old and irrelevant to the issues items), or race card. So sad to see.

    June 3, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. lissa7

    Here's the thing – people bringing up George Bush are revealing, once again, the hypocrisy of the Left. When 9/11 happened, every single second of Bush's whereabouts and his actions were hyper-analyzed and demanded by media and the public. After 9/11/2012, Obama had just as much to answer to – but has not, as yet, revealed where he was in those hours. So bringing up Bush's record is actually quite amusing, especially after the paid liar (i.e. Jay Carney) stated that Benghazi was "a long time ago".

    June 3, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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