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. Hello

    Looks like Obama is following Nixon's lead.

    June 3, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. rob

    @ Donna,

    Even Stephenopolous was speechless after Rove cleaned his clock. At least Rove was allowerd to be on the same panel, this Plouffe will be everywhere in the liberal media spouting the nonsense without any questions.

    If you stand up to the liberal lies and their media enabelers, they cannot win because their arguements are baselessand designeds to distract us from the truth.

    June 3, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I wonder when Mr. Issa and the teapugs are going to have an oversight on how much Mrs. Obama's mother is costing taxpayers for her upkeeping in the White House while she help to raise the Obama's daughters? Perhaps time will tell.

    June 3, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. xnothinbutthetruth

    "Go get 'em Issa! Plouffe will probably call you out for wetting the bed when you were 2 years old."

    Once again.. not a very useful analogy.

    What we are talking about is a member of a committee who settled out of court for two businesses he owned burning down after he had over tripled the amount of insurance money only a month previous. That to me sounds like arson – and nearly a $500,000 swindle. That's a lot different than "wetting the bed" to me.. guess not to you.

    June 3, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Perhaps oversight hearings on how much the Obamas' kids are costing taxpayers while watching extended coverage of Sponge Box on the White Hosue TV.

    June 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. KBNJ

    So, CNN, Issa has a 'criminal record' even though he was never convicted of ANYTHING, but the Boston bombers and all the other obvious criminals 'allegedly' committed crimes?! Other than that, a surprisingly balanced article, but you know the saying 'the devil's in the details'. Can't help yourselves, can you?

    June 3, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Edmund Burke

    The slimy retorts of this cesspool of an administration and the maggots who echo them will not save the most-crooked and contemptible federal administration ever (maybe a few Dem mayors have been as bad or worse). Have you no shame?

    June 3, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. xnothinbutthetruth

    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?"

    Hey Tony..

    An argument that isn't a logical fallacy dealing with which fake scandal, first off?

    Is it a logical fallacy that you don't have to be approved for 501 (c) 4 tax exempt status? That you just simply file as that if you feel you fit in that category?

    Is it a logical fallacy that none of the "targeted" conservative groups were denied this status – yet, one liberal group was?

    Is it a logical fallacy that "Tea Party" is considered a political term and identifiable as political more readily by the public than most of the names of the left leaning groups?

    Is it a logical fallacy that there use to be far more oversight of the tax exempt office of the IRS, but it was a Republican in the house many years back that claimed the level of scrutiny was "gestapo" like and they then made massive changes to the dept., trimmed down their training and cut back the staff to the point where now there is only the one office in Cincinnati?

    I could go on.. and on... and on – This is a GOP created "scandal" – these are not "fallacies", they're facts.

    June 3, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. Thinkergal

    Eat dirt, Issa.

    June 3, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. General Tso

    @Blahblah..Do you have anything positive to contribute, or are you happy just to make noise? Your use of terms such as "Teapugs" belies your lack of civility. I am neither a republican nor democrat, so I don't have a partisan agenda to push. I simply find your posts to be consistantly negative and boorish.

    June 3, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Ricky Vee

    Plouffe is a little liberal h0mo.

    June 3, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Lando

    Watch out....Issa will insure his office for a million...hah hah

    June 3, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. truth hurts but reality bites

    I just love it when the lying Carney says "Thank you for asking that question." when reporters are grilling him. You know he's lying right there! And then the rest of his lies just come rolling out. Like poop out of the backside of a goose...

    June 3, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. Oh For Pete's Sake!

    Anyone know why I can't sign in with facebook?

    June 3, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. Charley

    Issa appears to have a criminal background. my guess is that probably gives him unique insight into criminal actions going on . You know the old say'n It takes one to know one LOL

    June 3, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. Hal

    It appears everyone in Washington is grossly overpaid.

    June 3, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Pete

    Again I'm asking republicans only of your gang with Issa leading the pack in hearings,committes,witch hunts against anything moving with democrates and just how much in tax payer monies is Issa actually spending millions,billions now,please tell me how honest you excar thief,fraud and liar really is...And republicans if your reps in Issa and republicans were as enthusiastic about creating jobs,infastructure bills with dems as filibustering,obstructing our country might in a better state of affairs economicly and quess what Issa wouldn't be as big as a threat spreading his supposid conspiracy theories to start fires everywhere would he!!And where was Issa and collegues when we had an Bushs Iraq war started with lies ,wall street ,Americas economy crashing,hundreds of thousands of citizens monthly unemployed and your puppet master in Cheney got no bid contracts for Halliburton bringing in billions a year in military logistics covering everything from food to fuel and all while being VP as well,tell me because the suspense of you answering intelligently,truthfully is really killing me that's all!!Issa was under Bushs desk with Condi Rice wasn't he all that time I bet!!

    June 3, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. rs

    I wonder if Mr. Issa has ever heard of Senator Joe McCarthy? They just seem so alike....

    June 3, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. leah

    Darrell Issa would bankrupt this country's tax base if he could by grandstanding on the your's and my tax dollars from here to eternity.

    June 3, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. Tom

    I think it's pretty sad that people just mindlessly support President Obama. It is laughable that they are calling these "fake scandals". Yeah, using the IRS to target political opposition is really a fake scandal (you all seem to forget that Pres Obama said that he would punish his enemies – he literally said that so why would someone not think this was done per the direction of the White House? Not to mention that members of Congress asked them to target TEA Party organizations – these are FACTS)
    Try to stop living in this fantasy world where you think that Obama actually cares about you. Stop being so partisan. I can freely admit that Bush wasn't perfect...far from it. I can acknowledge that he made mistakes.
    How can you not be concerned by these allegations? How can it not bother you that Holder lied under oath? Stop being democrats first and try to put AMERICA's nterest first for a change.

    June 3, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. Tom

    I know you feel that Congress can just magically put a bill together and create jobs but they can't. That is not their role. Perhaps if you didn't have so much belief in the government and rely on them so much then your perspective would change and you would realize that they can't do that.

    June 3, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Tom

    You are so concerned about a few months at the end of Bush's presidency where we lost massive jobs yet you seem to have to problem with the FACT that there are LESS people working today, FIVE years in to Obama's presidency, then when he was inaugurated in January of 2009. Why is that?

    June 3, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. archer

    This is getting crazier and crazier. Obama is now sending out his attack dogs to kill anyone asking legitimate questions about his administration. This is the stuff of science fiction. Does anyone really believe there aren't legitimate questions to be asked about the IRS, about the lies around Benghazi (first the administration was saying we don't have the answers because we need to investigate and now they are dismissing questions because this is "all in the past"), about secret subpoenas. Who are these people??

    June 3, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  24. Dave

    As reported elsewhere:
    'The former IRS commissioner who ran the agency when it was singling out conservative groups is married to a senior adviser for a prominent left-leaning political organization focused largely on campaign finance reform.

    Ex-Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who faced a tough round of questioning by Congress last month on the IRS scandal, has denied knowing that the agency targeted Tea Party groups between 2010 and 2012. But he faced new questions following a report that he visited the White House, or the adjacent executive office buildings, at least 157 times during the Obama administration.

    Amid the scrutiny, it turns out his wife, Susan L. Anderson, is a senior program adviser for the Washington-based group Public Campaign.

    The group bills itself as nonpartisan, and states it is working with “a broad range of organizations” to reform campaign-finance rules.

    However, the group receives much of its funding from such liberal groups as the Ford Foundation, Barbra Streisand’s The Streisand Foundation and Health Care for America NOW, a coalition of labor unions supporting ObamaCare that includes the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, according to the Public Campaign website."

    June 3, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. truth is good

    Posters are trying to make this a Dem or Repub scandle. Some say the media is not doing enough. That they are slanted too. All three are in the same club. Its all the same club.

    June 3, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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