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. gleadore@comcast.net

    Do you think Darryl practices looking mean, nasty and stupid in the mirror??

    June 3, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Janice Hill

    Still disgusted with all this name calling and accusations. Get on with what is important to American people. Job creation and the economy.

    June 3, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Good Grief

    My understanding is that 501(c)(4) of the tax code says you can use it to get tax breaks if you are promoting social welfare. So my question is: Does anyone think any of these groups like Karl Rove's or Moveon.org etc. are anything but for the purpose of getting people they want elected? They try to organize them so they look like they are for social welfare purposes, but everyone knows they are not. And, my understanding is that it's not just the money that is the determining factor in deciding if the organization meets the 501(c)(4) criteria. In other words, you may be spending only 49% of your money on campaigns, but all of your paperwork and speaking engagements, etc. may be for campaigning and the IRS looks at those things, too, to determine if you are meeting the 501(c)(4) criteria for having an organization whose main goal is to promote social welfare. I am not defending the IRS, but I do see why they would look at certain groups that have "tea party" or some other political name (no matter the party), if those groups are applying for 501(c)(4) status. It seems to me this all leads back to Congress – they are the ones with the power to fix the tax code and make it not only understandable, but clear that it is used for the correct purposes.

    June 3, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Mr. issa accuses President Obama and Attorney Gen Holder on withholding e-mails on Benghazi but during the 2003 Libby federal trial and the Senate Judiciary Committe hearing into the DOJ's sudden dismissal of 8 U.S. Attorneys in 2007, the Bush White House destroyed all e-mails subpoenaed. During the latter investigation, the Bush White House admitted it had destroyed over 5 million e-mails. It was also discovered that the Bush White House was using private RNC e-mail servers to do official government work from 2002 to 2007, in violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act and the 1939 Hatch Act. Just google Wikipedia and see for yourself. Let's face it, the Bush administration was the most corrupt, scandalous and unethical administration in U.S. history. Now the pot is calling the kettle black. Ludicrous!

    June 3, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Guest

    In my next life I want to be an IRS employee. Too much free stuff going around. No wonder the government employees blindly vote for the democrats. Good that their crimes are exposed now. The left is trying to distract people by saying that there are other important stuff to worry about (in other words leave our scumbag folks in IRS alone, our livelihood depends on them)

    June 3, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. Barry In Las Vegas

    Not smart to throw rocks inside a glass house or personally insult the chairman that is conducting the investigations – but this Whitehouse isn't smart.

    June 3, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. Brad

    Really? Really? the Rpub.s are shutting down Washington for this? Get back to work "Easy Money" or we will have you all fired.

    June 3, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. chris

    GOP paranoia due to the fact they believe people are acting and doing what they HAVE done and WOULD DO. now that we have a black man as POTUS for the 2nd time, they swear there is no waaaaaaaaaaay possible he got there fair and square. it's sad to see this obvious and antiquated racism when the man is doing right by americans and the country... keep on thinking you are relevant and are above approach. you've cheated in every way and have stalled the economy to spite the administration because everybody who loves america and ALL of it's citizens can't stand the GOP...

    June 3, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    @Blah Blah...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.
    But remember during the Bush years the naysayers were all told they were being treasonous if they questioned the government. We were in a war (like we still aren't) and had to support what they were doing. They said we were either with them or against them. Funny thing is, yes, we are still in a war and President Obama NEVER uses such dispicable rhetoric on the American people so those on the right can be as vocal as they want with their hate. So tell us, which President controlled our freedoms??

    June 3, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. The REAL Truth...

    What part of calling ANY WH Press Sec. a "paid liar" is acceptable. I believe Issa has overstepped his bounds and should be impeached.

    June 3, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. McRCN

    David Plouffe has 3 things to accomplish and that is it... Deflect, Deflect and Deflect. His opinion is basically meaningless.

    June 3, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Sam

    Hey, look over there!

    June 3, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. PaulCat

    Well, it's about time the Democrats learn to play Hardball. No more Mr. Nice guy. The Republicans has been doing it from day (1). You know, that meeting they had to make sure Obama get nothing done or passed while he's president. ObamaCare got past them. This is the only reason they're going to try and repeal it for the (50) time.

    June 3, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Nick

    It turns out the wife of ex-Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Susan L. Anderson, is a senior program adviser for the Washington-based group Public Campaign. According to the group's web site, it receives much of its funding from liberal groups such as the Ford Foundation, Barbra Streisand’s The Streisand Foundation and Health Care for America NOW, a coalition of labor unions supporting ACA that includes the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.

    Tie this in with the 157 trips to the White House and one can easily see the path to corruption.

    June 3, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    WOW, "Chicago Politics" seems to be the righties rallying cry for today! When you look back at the 2012 election, which Party had more to lose in allowing the Tea Party to gain even more House seats than they did – the GOP!!!! Everyone knows the Tea Party has splintered the GOP so it would seem the establishment GOP would have way more to gain by "targeting" these groups in hopes to keep the Tea Party down and allow Rove's Crossroads to do the bidding for the Repubs. What in heaven's sake would President Obama gain from doing this – it isn't as though the IRS dismantled these groups and stopped them from doing their political bidding – they were just doing their job to make sure they deserved not to pay taxes.

    June 3, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. jessup

    Good job not mentioning that David Plouffe no longer works for the Obama administration, Jake.

    June 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Joe

    Did anyone ever wonder how Harry Reid heard that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for years when he announced it on the Senate floor for no reason? Maybe the IRS talks to Harry Reid

    June 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Boomer in Mo

    Good Grief, you are right about 501(c)4s supposedly being social welfare organizations. Originally, they could not spend any money on political activity. Time to get back to the original intent of the law. And way past time to fix a broken and unfair tax code.

    June 3, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Mike

    That's funny coming from a guy who committed arson fraud.

    June 3, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. allens

    what a bunch of useless politicians. fix the problems not make more of them. people like Plouffe, issa and the like should be fiired or voted out. lets fix the country and stop this political stupidity. we are sick of it

    June 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  21. NameFrank Deery

    Issa is on the right path-and this "buck" stops at -1600 Penn Ave., not Ohio! Did Obama and Company flunk US History 101
    in The Watergate 70's? If they don't fess up Now, and with the attack on our free press,
    Watergate 2.

    I lived through it. Same scenario: insecure president delegates way too
    much responsibilty to staff to win an election-And save their overpaid jobs. The only differances are: Obama, unlike Nixon, is
    not a leader and the parties have switched.,

    This is the important tornado! Not bad weather-a local issue.

    June 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  22. wezcvdfwerfas

    What part of calling ANY WH Press Sec. a "paid liar" is acceptable. I believe Issa has overstepped his bounds and should be impeached.

    Calling someone a liar is an impeachable offense. However, actual lying (Eric Holder knew nothing of the subpoena that he personally signed) is just fine, and flat out refusing to answer questions (Lois Lerner pleads the fifth) gets you a paid vacation. Got it.

    June 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. Rick Smith

    I've seen it's Bush's fault, it's 501 (c)( 4) fault, it's Issa's fault. No it's a violation of our first and fifth constitutional rights. So yes Democrats want to cloud up the issue with character assassination, and deflection on the subject.

    June 3, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Donna

    It was SOOOO great to see Rove take Plouffe to the woodshed on the Sunday talk shows!! He didn't let him get away with ANY of his lies. They were all called out and debunked.

    June 3, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. penguin

    Yes. It must be Obama's fault. After all he let a Bush appointee run the IRS while this "scandal" developed. Solve the problem by eliminating the tax exemption.

    June 3, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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