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. Richard Rail

    David Plouffe is up to his eyeballs in nasty business and everyone in DC knows it. Being insulted by Plouffe is a badge of honor among decent people.

    June 3, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. Tom

    Here's a question for you that should be pretty simple to answer: Did Holder lie under oath? Since it's been proven that he did, will you admit that or will you make up some excuse for him? Or you probably will bring up Scooter Libby rather than answering a very simple question that we all know the truth about.
    So...are you going to be honest and admit that he lied, or....

    June 3, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. Harold

    Being that Congress passed the law enables people to qualify for tax exempt status if they meet Congress's criteria for what that means, then maybe Congress should take the heat and decide on what questions the IRS can ask in order to enforce the laws past down to us by Congress. Congress could also just give everyone tax exempt status so that we don't have to bear this finger pointing any more.

    June 3, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. ST

    I would urge the President to stick on his guns. Issa is pulling on his side, and why should the President let those he thinks serves him well not stick to their opinion and continue to perform to whatever they are doing. Mr. Pres. if you will allow either Issa or GOP to run your platform, you will end up being discredited and hence your power which people handled you in 2012 election will diminish. We the people who elected you to lead us, do not want to see this happening.

    June 3, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Tuckersdad

    I am sooooo sick of all this.

    June 3, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. General Tso

    @sniffitt....he was calling Jay Carney a paid liar, not Plouffe. If you're going to blindly attack, at least get your facts right.

    June 3, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. PJ

    "Being insulted by Plouffe is a badge of honor among decent people"
    Plouffe didn't insult a decent person.

    June 3, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    @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!
    ROTFLMAO – the logic is pathetic. As is Issa's witch hunt. The "chairman" sure did hit a nerve.. using inappropriate language for his position and starting it by calling the Press Sec. a "liar". Well what do you expect from a suspected car thief, arsonist and Obstructionst Party leader.
    Where's the "truth" about Bush's WMD's – TEN yrs later.. where's the "truth" about the dismissal of 8 US atty's some 6 yrs ago. If the hat fits...

    June 3, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. joe c

    Darrel Issa was arrested. In the first incident he was indicted by a grand jury for an alleged theft of a Maserati, but prosecutors dropped the charge.[16] In the second incident, he was stopped for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and a police officer noticed a firearm in his glove compartment. Issa was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. He pled guilty to a charge of possession of an unregistered firearm, and was sentenced to six months' probation and a small fine.[9][16] Issa has said he believes the record has since been expunged.

    just another AIPAC owned israel first crook proud of his 8% approval rating

    June 3, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. ST

    @ CaliforniaAC
    You are quite right. CNN employed this man Tapper who is quite opposite of the opinion most of commenters are in here. He has a different view. We have ours also. How in the real sense of thinking, you can combine these different views of thinking and come up with something agreeable to both different parties. That is quite impossible.

    June 3, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Oh For Pete's Sake!

    @Tom – You're absolutely right. But they won't make up an excuse for him..........even BETTER........they'll let Holder investigate HIMSELF!!!
    Like he's going to find himself guilty!
    Obama is laughing in the faces of all decent Americans.

    June 3, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. The REAL Truth...

    @Tom – Did Holder lie under oath? Since it's been proven that he did, will you admit that or will you make up some excuse for him?
    Seriously? If Holder had lied under oath that would be perjury, and no such charges have been filed. Based on that, your your statement about being "proven" is completely false. But then you probably heard that from that "fair and balanced" media outlet – Fox. That makes it suspect to begin with.

    June 3, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Chris

    koudos to CNN for reporting the background info on this story. Mr Plouffe failed in diverting attn: from the facts for more than a microsecond.

    June 3, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Pam from Iowa

    Money talks, right Issa??

    June 3, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Oh For Pete's Sake!

    Obama is found to have acted UNCONSTITUTIONALLY by 2 Appeals courts over his recess appointments to the NLRB and how does he respond?...................He re-nominates HIS APPOINGTEE WITH AN VERY IFFY RECENT HISTORY!
    Lerner admitted doctoring Benghazi documentation and is put on paid leave and how does Obama respond.............by publicly giving her PROMOTION!
    Holder lied under oath about AP and how does Obama respond?..............letting him investigate HIMSELF!!!!
    Holder lied about Fast & Furious and how does Obama respond?.............Used executive privilege to suppress the evidence.
    Obama and his minions are LAUGHING at America. What they're doing is saying "I can do as I like and you won't stop me!
    ISSA is the only one who will get this sorted – and they know it so here come the personal attacks! So what if he has a 40 year old problem?
    Obama smoked dope; swore he had never used another name [Barry Soetoro??????], and tramples the Constitution on a daily basis – which is a crime.

    June 3, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. John

    One look at Issa's face is all I need to know about his honesty.....unkind, not compassionate, not empathetic and extremely rude...............

    June 3, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "@sniffitt....he was calling Jay Carney a paid liar, not Plouffe. If you're going to blindly attack, at least get your facts right."

    First, I wasn't "blindly" attacking. Second, it's a simple typo/mistake. It changes nothing about the argument I made. Further, you have still failed to counter that argument. Issa started this and CNN reported it like Plouffe did...and then 100 some odd Teatrolls flew off the handle calling Plouffe's comments "thuggery" while ignoring the fact that it was in response to blatantly nasty insults and attacks from Issa. IOKIYAR

    June 3, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Pete

    @Tom,answer this question bud,you and all republican posters here..Where were the hearings,committes looking into Bushs lies creating wars or wire tapping,easedropping against the SCOTUS consults and AG Gonzales..Or Bushs hiring of 50,000 IRS agents to bust unions nationwide,remember that,I do!!What about the numerous deaths over 60 embassy employees attributed to terrorists hitting embassies worldwide,nothing said there from Issa,collegues right...What about Bushs giving no bid contracts to Cheneys Halliburton in Iraq and he ran it as CEO till reps came in to admonish Cheney for conflict of interest,remember that one,I do again!!Here's a laugher bud how much has your hero the car thief in Issa spent of taxpayers monies on committes,hearings,political witch hunts since pres.Obamas inaugeration vilifying,demonizing only democrates when all they themselves have done is filibuster,obstruct thus getting the name Party of NO!!Tom if your supposid sanctumonious ones in republicans were as enthusiastic about creating jobs,infastructure bills as they do in filibustering,obstructing those same bills you as well as all posters here know we would be a much more economicly stable,healthier,happier nation but till midterms we'll just have to put up with your the party of NO and Issas antics won't we!!

    June 3, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. California Gary

    Issa going after someone for perceived criminal activity is like the former Idaho senator (you know.....Mr. Wide Stance) going after someone for perverted activities.

    June 3, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. MaryM

    I live in Darrell Issa's district. I can guarantee he will be gone next election. Californians are sick and tired of Issa Lies and McCarthyism.

    June 3, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Did Holder lie under oath? Since it's been proven that he did, will you admit that or will you make up some excuse for him?"

    And yet, it hasn't been proven that he did. You just take it as a given via circular logic. The fact is that it hasn't been proven. Holder's statement was that he hadn't been involved in "prosecution" of a member of the press for "disclosure" of national security information. He hadn't and hasn't. Naming Rosen a "co-conspirator" in an Affidavit is not prosecution of Rosen. Signing off on the search warrant based on that Affidavit is not "prosecution." Rosen was named a "co-conspirator" for the potential that he solicited and received the national security information, not "disclosing" it. Lastly, Rosen has never, not in any way, shape or form, been "prosecuted" for "disclosing" the information, let alone for soliciting and receiving it. Perjury is a very specific charge and requires looking at exactly what was said and what was intended...not just a cursory gloss-over that disregards the specifics and pretends that an affidavit and prosecution are the same thing simply because it's convenient and you lack the nuance to distinguish the two.

    June 3, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. General Tso

    @sniffitt. I was not countering an argument. I was simply pointing out your error. You have a habit of belittling anyone who has the temerity to disagree with your (leftist) view, which is a shame because ocassionally you make valid points which are wasted because of yoiur snideness.

    June 3, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. Alan

    Issa continues to waste this countries time and the tax payers money with his Nixonian Tactics. Being from the state of california as this turd of a congressman is, I'm licking my voters chops for Nov 2014 when we can free the country of his wasteful, non focused on what's important to the taxpayers, tactics.

    June 3, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. rs

    Typical Obama (Chicago) thuggery.
    Obama won early elections by smearing oppnents, even getting.a divorce unsealed.
    They must be sweating now, as well.they should.
    Romney got a divorce? Oh, wait you mean Bush got a divorce? Oh, wait- you have no clue do you!

    June 3, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Marie MD

    Thinly difference between the car thief/illegal gun owner is that he doesn't sound as crazy as the flake frm MN but he is just,if not more, dangerous.
    @Thomas, opof course he voted against suing gun manufacturers and sellers. He was caught in possession of an illegal gun himself and, I believe if I remember correctly, using the gun to intimidate somebody.
    Didn't he also have some ethics problems not too long ago? Ihe sure knows how to keep things quiet when he has to and is probably used to slithering out of trouble since he and his brother were stealing cars.

    June 3, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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