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. waitaminute

    Deflect, debunk, and lie THE LIBERAL CREED........... You Libs will rot in the H311 of your beliefs

    June 3, 2013 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  2. IpseCogita

    "even for the current hyper-partisan atmosphere"?

    My first real awareness of politics what Nixon's resignation and in those almost 40 years I don't recall a time any less hyper-partisan than now. Things were this Partisan under Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and Ford.

    June 3, 2013 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  3. granny4life

    Why, Why, Why can't washington politicians just investigate something and #1 be honest #2 stay on task # 3 stop blaming each other.......Just the facts, see what happened, how it happened and why it happened with out the name calling. This is not the big deal that Republicans are making it out to be. There are much worse things happening around this counrty. If the Tea Party were not trying to get out of paying taxes on campaign contributions and not try to flood the IRS with all these exempt companies this probably would not have happened.

    June 3, 2013 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  4. waitaminute

    Make up what ever you want CNN. ISSA is doing his job and we stand behind him.

    June 3, 2013 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  5. Wasted Clown

    Ape Foil Fuss (anagram of the letters "Issa" and "Plouffe")

    June 3, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  6. granny4life

    Mr. Dole is correct that this party needs to close down and bring them selves back when they can agree on there platforms I am ashamed of them as I am sure lots of folks are. Why can't they expend this much energy running this country like we voted them into office to do. They are down right embarrassing, they talk about not being able to trust Obama, what the heck are they doing, I am so sick of all this name calling and back stabbing and they all say trust us and vote for us. NO Way you have lost my votes.

    June 3, 2013 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  7. Thomas

    Voted NO on $40B for green public schools. (May 2009)
    Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
    Voted NO on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures. (Mar 2009)
    Voted NO on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
    Voted NO on $60B stimulus package for jobs, infrastructure, & energy. (Sep 2008)
    Voted YES on terminating funding for National Public Radio. (Mar 2011)
    Voted NO on increasing minimum wage to $7.25. (Jan 2007)
    Voted NO on restricting no-bid defense contracts. (Mar 2007)
    Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)
    Voted YES on limited prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. (Nov 2003)
    Voted NO on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D. (Jan 2007)
    Voted YES on prohibiting suing gunmakers & sellers for gun misuse. (Apr 2003)
    Voted YES on keeping Cuba travel ban until political prisoners released. (Jul 2001)
    Voted NO on $9.7B for Amtrak improvements and operation thru 2013. (Jun 2008)
    Voted YES on speeding up approval of forest thinning projects. (Nov 2003)
    Voted YES on opening Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. (May 2011)
    Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)
    Voted NO on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. (Jun 2009)
    Voted NO on tax credits for renewable electricity, with PAYGO offsets. (Sep 2008)
    Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (May 2008)
    Voted YES on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)
    Voted YES on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)

    In the runup to the 2010 election, it was clear that Republicans were positioned to retake the majority in the House of Representatives and that Darrell Issa was in line to become chair of the Oversight Committee. Issa's upcoming power certainly didn't go unnoticed in lobbyist circles, and Issa saw an influx of new donors in the leadup to election day.
    Throughout 2007, DynCorp was found to be grossly mismanaging its contracts in Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that DynCorp "appeared to act almost independently of its contracting officers at the Department of State at times" and billing millions to the U.S. for unauthorized projects.

    And we know that Issa is deeply opposed to disclosing the lobbyists that he meets with.

    June 3, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  8. Nodack

    I am getting sick of politics. There has to be a better way of getting things done than the BS we've got going on now. We are all supposed to be on the same team remember? Neither side is impressing me. Attacking the other side 24/7 means you aren't doing anything productive and only care about elections. If your only plan is to make the other side look worse than you then you already lost my vote.

    June 3, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  9. GOPSux

    A Repuke who is a criminal? No way! They're good Christians........you betcha!

    June 3, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  10. Eric

    They all deserve each other. None of these guys have the moral authority to question anyone else. Everyone's cupboard is full of skeletons stinking to high heaven and waiting to tumble out.

    June 3, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  11. Ken

    Leave it to Liberals to do anything they can to avoid the truth. They've been caught acting dishonestly, abusing the powers of government. And instead of answering questions honestly, they lash out at anyone they can to try and smear them to make them look bad instead. How pathetic it is that that have to drag up a 40 year old incident. Why if a 40 year old incident like that is important, then lets bring up Obama's admission in his own writings that he spent his junior and senior years in high school in a pot induced haze, and the writings of his friends that say this pot use continued into his college years. And you can see the damage it caused to his brain based on the type of people he selects for positions around him (all dishonest, caring more about themselves than this nation).

    June 3, 2013 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  12. Chris

    Before I start: I am a democrat.

    hahahahahahah, hahahahaha, hahahaha. God, really, is Washington really THIS pathetic? They are like little kids pointing their finger at each other and screaming "he did it". Get over it, all of you -.-

    June 3, 2013 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  13. Cam

    "Mr. Grand Theft Auto"... ha! Glad the gloves are off and they're finally exposing this Republican creep for what he really is.

    June 3, 2013 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  14. dc

    Typical Democratic tactics. When a Democrat faaaarts in an elevator, His firs response is "Damnnnn...... Who Faaaaaarted?"

    June 3, 2013 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  15. whcover

    The past is over, this is real time,something obama knows nothing about. He never knows about anything that goes on in his administration, nor will stand up like a man and take responsibilty for. He is the dirtiest president to hold office. I believe I have never seen the U.S. ever betrayed, and taken advantage of more than what he has done in 5 yrs. He let Americans die he has no knowledge of scandals, blames everyone but himself, cant create jobs, tries to screw us with his health care, which is going to blow up before it even starts because of one thing, he has no idea how to run a country, govern, or be a man and admit he's nothing but a polition that's just filling his pockets with our money. History will remember him for one thing, the worst president to disgrace our great country.

    June 3, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  16. t3chn0ph0b3

    Somehow it's all fine and dandy for the GOP to sling mud over how Obama was fed dog as a toddler, but it all of a sudden becomes an unholy firestorm when someone brings up the grand inquisitor's lengthy felony rap sheet. Riiiiiight. That makes sense. Not.

    June 3, 2013 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  17. Kimo

    You have got to feel sorry for Jay Carney. How on earth can he come out and spin these stories without laughing is commendable; a true summa cum laude grad of the Baghdad Bob school of deceptive public relations.

    June 3, 2013 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  18. Know Your Subject

    As a former campaign manager and until recently the Senior Advisor to the President, Plouffe may know a lot more about the origin of the IRS targeting than the President.

    June 3, 2013 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  19. CSM

    Issa cares more about manufacturing a scandal than DOING HIS JOB AND WORKING TO CREATE JOBS!

    June 3, 2013 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  20. Chas

    Here we go again, shoot the messenger! I don't approve of Issa calling Carney a liar because the harsh rhetoric is always a bad idea in the long run. And to bring up allegations 40 + years old when the charges were dropped shows how far these guys will go to try and smear anyone opposing them. The msm has apparently lost all shame now, they simply want their friend$ in power.

    June 3, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  21. Dustin

    This is really just a cornered dog lashing out in fear. Every day a new piece of information is made public and the lies that the Obama administration have been spinning become thinner. They don't know what to do they tried playing dead then they tried playing weak and unwitting and now they are roaring. This is a first for them fast and furious Benghazi all they needed to do is stall. With Holder on the line for perjury and one of the most invasive press violations in the history of our nation. And the White House having a hard time distancing themselves from the events that turned our shield(government) into a sword to beat its own people down. I am shocked that they havent tried more reprehensible things yet I remember seeing a liberal group running ads trying to convince people Romney was a rapist. But as the noose gets tighter I am sure they will start pulling every dirty trick in the book to save themselves.

    June 3, 2013 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  22. rogerg

    Finally! Brutal honesty from both sides. Hallelujah!

    June 3, 2013 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  23. seeker123

    Libs digging up dirt from 1972. They must be desperate.

    June 3, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  24. Pushover

    Plouffe is not answering the charges Issa is making. Proof positive. If you are caught in a corner, try to redirect. There is a lot of smoke here . And people should be worried. This is the agency that will be making sure you are buying health insurance in 7 months.

    June 3, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  25. Bribarian

    obama and his minions are crashing hard.

    June 3, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
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