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. rs

    The left will throw mud all day long till it sticks. Despicable !
    Given all of the fact-free Republican manufactured 'controversies"- that's funny!

    June 3, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. rs

    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.
    Yeah, unlike the criminal who is running the House investigations in the GOP's made-up controversies. Now the GOP is crinimal AND delusional.

    June 3, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. RomneyWho

    All is fair in the murky waters of politics where the sharks play dirty pool while eating their young, and if, we the people, think it's all about us, I got a bridge to nowhere to sell you. Sit back a watch the clash of the weasels. My money is on "Team Obama" He is an enigma among the antiquated republican party. 🙁

    June 3, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. Janice Hill

    I'm disgusted with the GOP and people like Issa 's using every means possible to distract the American people from the real issues (job creation and the economy, social security ). There are too many other important issues to name here. Stop with the constant name calling and accusations. We will remember when its time to vote.

    June 3, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. Marie MD

    @BIll123 (thank you for this guy's past history. It's very sketchy to say the least) and the people in the car thief's district. How in the world did the Army not throw him in jail or out on his behind and how did he ever pass any vetting to become a member of congress!!
    This is the "man" we have judging others? WOW!!!

    June 3, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  6. Duke

    WOW we all need to back off, calm down and try to get some sense of civility. This is getting WAY out of hand on Both sides of the isle. It doesn't matter who said what first, EVERYBODY needs to grow up and behave themselves. Honestly, right now I am waiting for someone to be an ADULT, and at the present moment it appears to be wishful thinking!

    June 3, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. xnothinbutthetruth

    "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 "

    lol.... really? No, he didn't have as much to answer to - foreign embassies have been attacked many times in many different administrations. They are in hostile environments. 9/11 on the other hand was here at home – and over 3,000 people died - when two (actually 3) buildings collapsed to dust in the middle of broad daylight – in our biggest city. I'd say it's just a TOUCH different..

    It's these kind of of analogies by the Right that make you look ridiculous. No, the fact that political groups were "targeted" to not receive tax exempt status that political groups DON'T GET is not the same as watergate.

    Oh and by the way... for the two burned down building that Issa had over tripled the insurance money on a month before... he settled out of court. Everyone on earth knows what that means.

    June 3, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Namedave

    Kill the messenger, when you have no fact based argument to counter the truth.

    June 3, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. rs

    So, do we now consider car theft as one of the Republican "family values"? Or, is this yet another case where the law simply doesn't apply to the GOP?

    June 3, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  10. HeyHey

    OFCCP IS TERRORIZING CORPORATE AMERICA especially any company expressing reservation related to administration policies

    June 3, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  11. Havildar

    What if any is the real fuss about the IRS asking the tax dodging Tea Party Folks to provide more data? Tea Party Folks are not a charity except for they own pocket books.
    My Question for the "gut less media " is How many of the Tea Party applicants were turned down???? So far the answer has been Zero.
    So why the political fuss from the clueless folks?

    June 3, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    This man Issa insures his auto security company for 500% of its value and it burns down two weeks later and now he's on the ethics committee? How bout JAIL?

    June 3, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Lenny Pincus

    Issa has called for hearings as to why real Americans are ignoring him.

    June 3, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Tom

    @Sniffit and Pete,
    Classic deflection and continuance of your blind backing of the administration no matter what. He knew about the investigaion into Rosen because he signed off on it yet then testified that he didn't know anything about the investigation. That's a lie.
    And I am no fan of the republicans. I voted for Ron Paul. I am honest enough to know that republicans and democrats in congress don't care about anything except for getting re-elected and getting money/power.
    You two, on the other hand, are so blinded by Obama that you are clouded in your judgement. You actually think he is a good man when it is demonstrated time and again that he is a thug.
    He attacks anyone who attacks him (reward our friends and punish our enemies probably means nothing to you because you think he's a good guy but shows how he really feels – then this IRS issue comes up and you don't recognize what's going on). Meanwhile, our freedoms are attacked and dwindling by the day but you don't care. Your team is in office so you better protect them! You foolish men, it's sad.

    June 3, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Tom

    Nice way to deflect from the question by pointing out something totally irrelevent to the conversation. But I get it, you're desperate and need to deflect as much as possible. Emperor? Clothes? Seems like they have parted ways...

    June 3, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. Bill

    Issa is a totally corrupt scumbag, but then again, I guess that makes him a perfect fit for a GOP leadership role.

    June 3, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Ulysses-AZ

    The fact that the White House is turning nasty is an indication of how damaging the IRS scandal could potentially be. Attack the messenger... it's the Chicago way.

    June 3, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. wezcvdfwerfas

    Oh and by the way... for the two burned down building that Issa had over tripled the insurance money on a month before... he settled out of court. Everyone on earth knows what that means.

    Lois Lerner plead the fifth. Everyone on earth knows what that means.

    June 3, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. JayAre

    "foreign embassies have been attacked many times in many different administrations. They are in hostile environments."

    This is true but then again no one tried to hide what really happened and who was responsible it.

    June 3, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Boo

    Love it!! The conservatives can dish it out but they can't take it. CRY ME A RIVER!!!!!

    June 3, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. Matt Matusik

    Talk about the Pot calling the Kettle Black...Ploufee and his media allies such as CNN, will do all they can to cover for the Obama administration..wonder why our country is in such dire straits? Media fails to do their job, and when that happens, there is no reason for the 1st Amendment, and we become no better than Iran or Syria...

    June 3, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. Lenny Pincus

    Issa has called for hearings as to why normal Americans turn the channel as soon as they see his face.

    June 3, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. VT_Citizen

    Any Republican that claims they wouldn't have called out a Democrat who had a similar record is a liar. But then again that is somewhat a redundant statement.

    June 3, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Lenny Pincus

    Karl Rove said with a straight face that Tea Party organizations faced unparalleled scrutiny from the IRS, like having to fill out a "second questionaire." No wonder Americans are ignoring these folks in droves.

    June 3, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. bombastus

    Gee….I got one right. A while back I predicted that if Issa continues so aggressively and keeps attracting press attention like this, his rather colorful and legally questionable past will come up to bite him in the you-know-what. Now here it is. Good old DC mud slinging. Gonna be a long hot summer.

    June 3, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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