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. MrRickinNH

    Only paid liar here is Darrell himself... A GOP witch hunter who could care less about how much of your tax money he spends on political one-upmanship!

    June 3, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    @hender1123 – "Didn't Obama say that "I have a mandate to do things my way"?
    Like everything else the Repubs put on President Obama, it was Bush who declared at the start of his 2nd term that he had a mandate and was going to use it. Never heard Obama say this. The country's problems did not begin with the Obama Presidency so stop trying to rewrite history and pretend like the Bush years never happened!

    June 3, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Beancounter

    Issa is such a punk. Glad to see people start calling out this bad GOP behavior. What a bunch of dishonest miscreants.

    June 3, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. oracle

    Good job, CNN, burying this story in a blog under a subsection ... Wouldn't want to distract Americans from the really important stories, right? Like ticket prices at Disney, or tornado storm-chasers that were "shockingly" killed by a tornado, or news about Kanye and Kardashians' baby.

    Stay sexy, San Diego ...

    June 3, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. drod

    What's worse than a Republican attack dog? A Republican attack dog that's out of control. The Republicans will get more and more uncomfortable with him till they are forced to put him aside. He'll get a nice gig on Faux Noise and continue his rants.

    June 3, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    @Blah, blah and Anonymous.

    Damn straight. I remember emphatically, anyone questioning Bush and klan were automatically labeled traitors to the U.S. What happened to that rationale?? Also Bush and Cheney were more like dictators than any other POTUS and VP. They did whatever they wanted and NO ONE questioned them. Though they should have been questioned, tried, convicted and imprisoned for lying to the American public over WMD's that have yet to surface.

    June 3, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. IowaSenior

    Another truly disgusting and disappointing example of our government misusing our money and abuse of power to waste millions of dollars of our hard-earned tax money, yes, but Mr. D Issa's (R – CA) comments are really, really over the line. Republicans just keep affirming to me almost daily why I'm not one. Stop it and grow up, Mr. Issa.

    June 3, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Michael Moss

    Pick a scandal, any scandal ...

    June 3, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. mick

    Obama's second term was a scam assisted by the IRS. This could get huge.

    June 3, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. freedom

    Obama and his admin are cowards who can't stand the heat – and are they ever in the hot seat now. Incapable of being accountable for anything! People have testified and will continue to testify – under oath. The truth will expose all.

    June 3, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. rep

    Oh well, if Issa said it, it must be true.

    June 3, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. Norma Vessels

    All those groups that they say have been targeted, should be targeted .. should not get the tax exemptions they ask for. We all know they use that money(from who knows) to help the candidates of their choice. I suspect there is not much social service going on in these groups. I think they should pay their taxes, just like we all do, even when we make a little extra money on the side. Instead, they think the government owes them, that they shouldn't have to pay taxes. You know .. I think they're going after the wrong guys in the IRS. I think they should take all those groups to task instead. After all, the Irs is doing what the IRS is supposed to do. Look into things concerning taxes, no matter who or what group is targeted. And before you say what I know is going to be said ...the IRS targets 'anyone or any group', not just a few.

    June 3, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. Norma Vessels

    And before someone says anything more .. the IRS did go ahead and give most all the groups the tax exemption they had asked for!

    June 3, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. The REAL Truth...

    @freedom – Obama and his admin are cowards who can't stand the heat – and are they ever in the hot seat now. Incapable of being accountable for anything! People have testified and will continue to testify – under oath. The truth will expose all.
    Let's investigate the investigators. #crickets. ZZZzzzzzzzz....

    June 3, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  15. rob

    @ Pete

    If you want to know why there weren't hearings or charges against Pres Bush or anyone in his administration you should ask Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid !!!!! The Dems had total controll of both houses of congress from Jan 2007 through the middle of president obama's first term. If there was "any there there" don't you think they would have pursued it ????

    June 3, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Nothing At All

    My heroes hive always been alleged arsonists and car thieves. What a great country.

    June 3, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Tony Bartlett

    I challenge any left wing Obama supporter to put forward an argument that isn't a logical fallacy. Ok, that's asking a lot. How about one Obama supporter name one logical fallacy?

    June 3, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. cog in the wheel

    Yet another GOP-generated "scandal." I'm glad the IRS gave the tax-exempt requests a close review; I would expect similar requests from left-leaning, politically oriented groups to also get similar scrutiny. The fact is that NONE of the Tea Party requests were disallowed; this is NOT a scandal, its just more scare-tactic baloney from the do-nothing party.

    June 3, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Now Mr. Issa and the teapugs are questioning how much the IRS spent on meetings. Gee, I just wonder how much the IRS spent on meetings between 2000 and 2008 under the most scandalous, corrupt and unethical administration in U.S. history? O' my bad, the tea pugs weren't around that time to investigate the IRS cause there was no black President to investigate. Just like there there was no oversight to investigate Hitler's war crimes against humanity. See, when you're white, you can commit the worst treasons the world has ever known and get away with it, until western civilizations is on the brink of extinction. Got it.

    June 3, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  20. seattle_libtard

    Go get 'em Issa! Plouffe will probably call you out for wetting the bed when you were 2 years old. I cringe whenever I hear someone on the right say "Chicago Politics", but this administration really is practicing "chicago politics". The president is either completely incompetent or a liar.

    June 3, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. Darrell

    Nobody cares about this, when are the Republicans going to vote on something..anything for our economy. Lets see, we say say anything about the economy since it's running the best it has since Clinton was in office. We cannot say he's soft on war, Mccain is trying to have him put us into another war ( won't work). We can't get him on the drones. So lets keep hamering away at something that the american people don't care about. How about working with the President on making our nation great how about that. How about making our schools better, how about fixing our roads, bridges, our infrustructure. This will help to put more people back to work. This doesn't envolve the President, it won't so you are beating a dead horse. Holder was right in what he did, since the Republicants VOTED the bill that gave this loose way to get around paying taxes anyway.

    June 3, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. John The Electrician

    In 2010 Issa said he would have endless investigations, at least he didn't lie about that.

    June 3, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  23. Dave

    I love when Carney is stuck in a lie and starts stuttering. It's great entertainment.

    June 3, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Gene Guffey

    Norma Vessels stated that most of the groups were given their status – but – it took 27 months while liberal groups obtained theirs within a 30 day window per reports from the IRS itself. This is a double standard being played by the agencies that are controlled by the WH. The same game that Hitler played prior to taking over Germany with is Nazi;s and we all know how that turned out. Suppression of the vote anyway and everyway possible including shutting down Gibson while Martin used the same type wood because Gibson supported conservatives. No hassle is too small for this administration to destroy America.

    June 3, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. xnothinbutthetruth

    "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.
    No one did this time either. You're referring to the idea of political messaging.. which is always the case no matter what politician (everything Bush or any other admin stated was heavily scripted and gone over / revised before the statement was made.. gaffes were often made – but that was usually when someone went off script and accidentally stated the truth). You're also speaking of a situation where the FBI was speaking to government officials and telling them what we know and what we should say – not wanting to state information 1) that was sensitive 2) that was incorrect.

    As with the IRS "scandal" it's all the manner that you are portraying it – from my viewpoint in both cases I see nothing underhanded about any of it – with Benghazi I see confusion over what occurred and intelligence agencies trying to figure out what should be said and to not overstate things they weren't positive of as well as things that could be sensitive info.

    June 3, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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