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. Anonymous

    David Plouffeis going to preach ethics with his involvement with Iran? Taking a pay check from an enemy

    June 3, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  2. Sheila

    Issa did nothing illegal ever. The Obama admin, however, most certainly has. And that's all that matters.

    June 3, 2013 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  3. Bill123

    Darrel Issa is one of the most statutorily-ignorant and corrupt people to have served in Congress in a century or so, at least.

    In his 20s, he was an accomplished car thief. He stole a Dodge Charger from a friend, who threatened to kill Issa just before the car was found by its owner, and three months later, Issa stole a Maserati from a stranger.

    As the stolen Maserati case was working its way through the courts, Issa was busted for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, where cops found an illegal gun with ammo clip and an illegal tear gas gun in his car.

    Issa is an accomplished liar, too. He claimed that he received high scores on Army entrance exams and given a job in explosives, where he said he earned high commendations, and he claimed he was in the detail that cleared the stadium for explosives for Nixon's visit to the 1971 World Series.

    Nixon didn't attend the World Series, and Issa was actually demoted with unsatisfactory reviews. His later, second military career was better, as he rose to the rank of captain and did receive good reviews.

    But while Captain Issa was getting those good reviews, he also was indicted for fraud, in a case where it appears that he and his brother tried to run an insurance scam by faking the theft of a Mercedes that his brother actually sold for $16,000.

    After telling investigators a series of conflicting stories, Issa bought his own car back from the car dealer for $17,000 and the charges were dropped.

    Five months later, Issa rammed his truck into a woman in her car and left the scene, telling her he was too busy to hang around. She hunted him down and sued him for $20,000.

    Darrell Issa acquired a car alarm company by loaning a man $60,000 - money he has no receipts for receiving - and when the man was late making a payment on the loan, Issa sued for the company.

    A few months after taking possession of his new company, Issa bought a fireproof safe, put all the company's valuable designs and papers in it, raised his fire insurance from $100,000 to $450,000 and collected when his factory burned down - THREE WEEKS AFTER TAKING OUT THE INSURANCE POLICY.

    Even though Issa claims the fire was accidental, fire investigators say it was arson. Issa says he can't remember any of that. He did build a brand spanking new factory with the $450,000, though.

    June 3, 2013 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  4. PevanB

    Obummer admin = one classless act

    June 3, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  5. Dick Smegma

    Typical Obama (Chicago) thuggery.
    Obama won early elections by smearing oppnents, even getting.a divorce unsealed.
    They must be sweating now, as well.they should.

    June 3, 2013 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  6. d

    I have a great solution. Israel and Palestine could form 1 peaceful nation. A sort of United States in the Middle East. Nation: it could be called Palesterael...or maybe Israelistine. States: Gaza, Jerusalem, West Bank, etc.. Each state would have it's own constitution and run itself, with representation in the federal government, voted in by the people, just like Texas or Rhode Island. I kind of like Israelistine better. It could exist as 1 single peaceful nation. Once the nation was formed, there would be no reason for hate or attacks, since they would exist together. Each state running itself pretty much independently whilst staying together under the leadership of the democratically voted in and run federal government.

    June 3, 2013 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  7. Mainscribe

    Where there is smoke, there is fire. Issa obviously found the smoking gun in Obama's hand. Watch the rats through Obama to the wolves in the coming months...Good job Darrell Issa.

    June 3, 2013 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  8. gobnait

    Tough words coming from the party of Ted Kennedy. who left Mary Jo Kopechne to die in his submerged car. The left lionized him yet Plouffe makes these despicable comments. There is no shame on the left; they hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    June 3, 2013 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  9. oddjob3422

    Plouffe is a thumb pointing, talking point parroting embarrassment.

    Twitter is right where he belongs.

    June 3, 2013 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  10. PCM II

    Ouch! That hurts! Things are getting interesting!

    June 3, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  11. Frank

    Is it wrong to enjoy watching swindlers, cheats, liars, corrupt businessmen, and tramplers of the constitution going back and forth at each other?

    June 3, 2013 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  12. Robyn

    Mr. Issa has always impressed me as a career criminal.
    He was just cunning enough to move to a type of racket where he could redefine his crimes as legal.
    No one has said he is stupid. Just amoral.

    June 3, 2013 04:21 am at 4:21 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Issa is not as ethical as he wants people to believe. With a past like he has, he cannot be trusted.

    June 3, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  14. Steve

    I'm still waiting for the GOP to own up for all the Lies and simply screwing the American Worker over every chance they get. With Friends like the GOP, you don't need enemies.

    June 3, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  15. MoMO

    ISSA HAS A RECORD??????????????

    SO HOW did he get his position??????????

    June 3, 2013 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Things are heating up in the White House...the staff, which has been traditionally ineffective in keeping Obama informed (or as we are told) is now up in arms because this administrations culture of corruption has been exposed.

    June 3, 2013 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  17. texasjimbob

    Plouffe should be publically plogged.

    June 3, 2013 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  18. polycarp pio

    Issa has more ethics in his little finger, than this entire administration combined. PP

    June 3, 2013 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  19. Steve

    Plough and Axelrod and the rest Obama's scumbag Chicago goons are beneath contempt.

    They're used to CNN and the rest of the state controlled lapdog media carrying their water. They did so by burying Fast & Furious, Benghazi, and the Obama enimies list scandals. They would gladly ignore the IRS and Fox News spying scandals, but the AP spying was a bridge too far. They pissed in the loyal liberal media's Wheaties on that one.

    All of a sudden the coverups aren't being ignored. This is payback time. The Messiah has fallen from his perch. This administration can't withstand scrutiny. It's Chicago corrupt and everyone knows it. The real question is how much and for how long will the MSM punish their creation? My guess is they relent in time for the midterm elections.

    June 3, 2013 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  20. Quixote

    Too manypeople ar unaware that this stooge leding his mccarthyite witch hunts was in fact a car theif and arsonist. Calling the pss secretary of the President of the United States a liar when issa is the one throwing around baseless accusations...well it is time to start putting the repubs in their place. They are wrong, they arthe ones lying.....this is aclinton rdux.....lots of smoke, lots of basless claims, all to create the dalse impression of impropriety. Issa, likenthenrepublicon party for the last thrity years, has no ethics, no ideas worth spit, wnd nothing but garbage to try to sell as caviar.

    June 3, 2013 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  21. Guest

    Oh look, yet another display of incompetence by the politicians running this place. Wanna know why this keeps happening? Because idiotic voters don't give the political parties any incentive to do better. Don't believe me? Watch the level of discourse this comment section is about to descend into.

    June 3, 2013 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  22. scootfl78

    When Republicans are a part of politics, everything is nasty. Rather than doing their actual job, they're getting onto the IRS for doing their job in trying to catch tax cheats. Hard to believe people out there still think the GOP is worth siding with.

    June 3, 2013 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  23. Learning

    This is a really good way to get this tweet lots of views while still maintaining distance from those views. Bravo CNN. Bravo.

    June 3, 2013 05:07 am at 5:07 am |
  24. Wow!

    Imagine that, the Republicans claiming people are killing their character! Typical Republican behavior, its only O.K. when they do it.

    June 3, 2013 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  25. Justin

    Now the Obama administration officials are committing ad hominem attacks in order to deflect real criticism about this scandal. Perhaps they should worry more about their integrity instead of getting emotional about this issue. With Plouffe's vindictive words, is it any wonder that the IRS scandal can take place during this administration's watch?

    June 3, 2013 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
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