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. sonny chapman

    Maybe Obama can extend an olive branch to Issa as an appeal to his sense of decency ?

    June 3, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. Sniffit

    This article is the biggest steamiest pile of IOKIYAR I've seen from CNN in a long time. It's written deliberately to obfuscate that Issa was the one who started the war of words by calling Plouffe a "paid liar" on national television and then trying to justify the insult by using out-of-context quotes, etc.

    June 3, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "Maybe Obama can extend an olive branch to Issa as an appeal to his sense of decency ?"

    Hahaha...you think Issa has a sense of decency...how cute.

    June 3, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. scooter

    Why is this news? The idea that there should be a 24 hour news cycle is absurd. The vast majority of "NEWS" here or elsewhere is just unimportant mumbo jumbo that is trumped up to make things sound interesting. So the take-away here is two sides are angry with each other. WOW that is news and worthy of my time.

    June 3, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. Anonymous

    @Chris – If it's not rape or murder, I don't care what someone did 40 years ago, it has nothing to do with current events.
    But if something nefarious was revealed in President Obama's past you would certainly care now wouldn't you??? Hypocrisy at its best!

    June 3, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  6. hender1123

    Didn't Obama say that "I have a mandate to do things my way"?

    June 3, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  7. JJ

    What war? This is a GOP insect thinking he's going to fabricate a case to implicate the President in his fantasies of grandeur. Please.

    June 3, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  8. rosethornne

    Looks like GOPers set a fox to investigate the hen house of ethical conduct.

    June 3, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. Herchato

    Come on just because a man has a company that's not making much money and triples his insurance in that company and the next month it burns means nothing. Just because fire marshals say the fire looks suspicious and the insurance company refuses to pay doesn't mean a thing. Surely we can see Rep. Issa is an honorable man like all the rest of our representatives.

    June 3, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. charlie

    Both sides are pulling the same tricks. These things need to be investigated, but to stop governing in order to accomplish that is wrong. The investigations need to proceed, but they need to take a back seat to taking care of business for a country that is hurting.

    June 3, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. HDNKR

    Funny how the obvious truth NEVER matters to the left.......A woman was just convicted for fraudulent voting for Obama but according to the left there is no fraudulent voting......The head of the IRS pleads the 5th but of course there is no crime....OMG you freaking marxist igmo's dont you see what youre condoning??

    June 3, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  12. Jerry

    Man, oh man, Obama and his "behind" kissers appear to be desperate. Deflect, deflect! Those are the copouts for this whole administration.

    Plouffe should be hanged from where it hurts the most. His head is so far up Obama's/Hold-her's butts that he must be gasping for breath.

    Can't get any more despicable than that. As I have indicated before, my once glowing Democratic party has been highjacked by a bunch of moronic idiots.

    If Mr. Obama had any respect for the position HE holds, he would demand that Plouffe apologize for his idiotic remarks.

    However, as we all know, I will refrain from holding my breath...

    June 3, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  13. aCriticalEye

    Issa is a criminal and should never have been allowed in government. DOWN WITH THE GOP IN 2014 !

    June 3, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. Marc

    people so easily get caught up in the back and forth and are totally missing the big picture here. the federal government (regardless of who started it) has been specifically targeting and inhibiting individuals solely based on their political beliefs. this is huge!! it should be top of the line news everyday until it is resolved. i don't care if you love obama to death...it's on his watch...he needs to be front and center and holding people accountable. i don't care if you love the GOP...how could this have gone on so long without proper oversight? they are all partly to blame and need to be held accountable.

    June 3, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  15. AbeFroman

    I always thought that Plouffe was too smart to do something as stupid as this. It turns out that I am wrong.

    June 3, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Anonymous

    @jboh – Issa stated that he was going to hound Obama from the day he took chairmanship. He is a partisan hack who has no interest in anything but his own hyper-inflated ego, and the wishes of his TEA/1% puppet-masters. He is an excellent example of the hateful, mean-spirited treason of the TEA potty. It's long past time to flush the TEA pot
    Yes, he did say that he would have many investigations. Doesn't matter if they are all witch hunts and money wasters but he is doing the Tea Party's bidding in trying desperately to uncover something, anything, that they can find a reason for impeachment even if it may not be the truth. This administration is no different from any other – none have been perfect and none will ever be. There will always be some questionable events that, if the party not in the WH wants to try to use to discredit the President, they can.

    June 3, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. shelby

    Issa has been persecuting the president with nasty vicious attacks for years.

    or years.

    June 3, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  18. wade

    Obama 's people coming unhinged? Mental health needed? Strange Obama will be talking about mental health today! LOL... I guess he sees his people going a bit crazy! LOl... Issa was cleared of all charges and never tried. Holder on the other hand is being tried right now. The Criminal organization of Holder and Obama selling guns to the drug cartels violating too many laws to even mention is to be laughed at when they the master criminals of America call into question some one else 40 YEAR OLD arrest that was cleared. DESPERATE is not a strong enough word.

    June 3, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Anonymous

    @Danram – How else can one explain the fact that the Director of the IRS has visited the White House well over 100 times during Obama's presidency? I love to hear you explanation of these visits, Mr. Plouffe, especially since no other IRS Director has ever seen the need to visit the White House more than a handful of times under any other president.
    Statements of conjecture like this are why this country will continue to suffer and never come together. The IRS is the Agency that will be collecting the "taxes" that people who refuse to get health insurance will pay (even though it probably won't be enforced). So, in all likelihood these meetings at the WH (most likely not with the President) were about Obamacare. Also, until it is proven how many times he was there and what the meetings were about this again is all conjecture.

    June 3, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. tiz

    Wow.... .Keep on talking Carney.... you dig yourself deeper every single day... like anybody believes a word you say...

    June 3, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  21. don in albuquerque

    Issa was a criminal, and still is a criminal. Stealing your money conducting another bogus investigation isn't he?

    June 3, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Thomas

    Darrell Issa: Pillar of Virtue !

    Issa's campaign literature said he had been a member of Nixon's security detail.

    He did not , he lied !

    June 3, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Biggest Problem

    Blaming the President of the United States for "failure to control the bureaucrats" is a politically dangerous precedent being set by Republicans. No one controls the bureaucrats, who are lifelong government workers. Bureaucrats cannot be fired, which means that no one can control them. Because any politician who has been in D.C. for any amount of time knows this, makes the Republican hostility toward the President so disingenuous, being angry for the President's failure to control the bureaucrats. Rather than having a Political investigation / circus, if the "Tea Party" believes they can prove "intent" to cause harm, they should sue the IRS in court. Certainly, the Tea Party will NOT sue, because they do NOT believe was intentional. No doubt, if they did believe it was intentional, they would sue! So, either sue or shut up - stop your whining because you failed to turn in your applications in a timely manner.

    June 3, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. SuperD


    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.

    Excellent Point Boderless, the man is not fit to lead.

    Yes, Carney is a paid Liar, and so is Obama, don't forget that, throw in Reid, Pelosi, and Holder and Hillary and you're getting a pretty full deck.

    June 3, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. CaliforniaAC

    Once again CNN has shown it is no more than a FOX puppet working to smear the administration with a FOX-HAIR BRUSH– fair and balanced now OWNS CNN.

    June 3, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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