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. Chris

    If it's not rape or murder, I don't care what someone did 40 years ago, it has nothing to do with current events.

    Desperate attempt by a marxist who has no ability to really attack back.

    June 3, 2013 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  2. Doodlebug2222

    This > ""Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler..."

    It is best to stick to the main road instead of taking side roads > else everyone will think you are either lost, or not sure where you are going.

    June 3, 2013 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  3. On Target

    He did his time, and I am sure his alleged record has been brought up at elections... and he did get elected,.
    Maybe he was rehabilitated, could be the first on record.....

    June 3, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  4. Susan

    We need to start using the word 'liar' a lot more often when it applies and government needs to stop classifying everything it does a 'secret'.

    June 3, 2013 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  5. carosendahl

    L-word...really? what a bunch of idiots, or should i say "I-words"

    June 3, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  6. Lizard Lance

    Darrell Issa should concentrate on important items that are good for the country rather than go on a witch hunt over IRS staffers. But he won't. No Republican will. Republicans are too intent on watching our nation fall apart while they protect big business and send our money overseas.

    June 3, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  7. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    This is the spokesman for the President? This Administration is despicable! Obama is nothing more than a shakedown artist.

    June 3, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  8. FubarObama

    The left will throw mud all day long till it sticks. Despicable !

    June 3, 2013 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  9. Freddo

    Plouffe is slinging mud over charges that were dismissed and an investigation that never produced charges?

    Demoocrats should now be hanging their heads in shame. This is an Obama henchman doing his dirty work. It's time to wake up to the dirty politics that the White House plays, and stop claiming that only the Republicans engage in it.

    And I'm an independent, disgusted by both sides.

    June 3, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  10. Dar

    This is the typical Obama play book. Make them look worse than you!
    Slimy tactics by the worst administration in history.
    With everything that is going on with this administration, it makes one wonder what else is going on that we have not discovered yet.

    June 3, 2013 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  11. Alvin Cavanaugh

    If anyone really thinks that the truth behind this scandal will ever be revealed than I feel sorry for them. The buck will be passed around until Americans get tired of hearing about it. But, sooner or later, they will pick out some poor little sucker sitting in an IRS cubicle somewhere and fire him for the sceem. Then the case will close, everybody will be happy and it will never be spoken about again. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but it seems to be the way government works in America today.

    June 3, 2013 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  12. Dave in VA

    Issa ought to sue Plouffe. What a bunch of dirtbags in the Obama administration.

    June 3, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  13. mdstevep

    Yet the business of the people is still undone. Furloughs still happening.

    June 3, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  14. James

    It is interesting to hear about Issa's past. Time ran out on those charges.

    June 3, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  15. Informed Voter

    Pot, meet Kettle.

    June 3, 2013 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  16. liberal disease

    if you want to get personal let's look into Obama's relationship with convicted felon and buddy Tony Rezco...That one runs deep, with ill gotten campaign cash and Obama's 2 million dollar house that he got for a song..
    Plouffe is going down the wrong road here, his boss is shadier that a country elm!

    June 3, 2013 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  17. Rob

    Truely sad that the Obama gang has to go back to alleged incident from 40 years ago. When looking at Obama we only have to look back a couple of days and that is for MANY crimes. It's kinda funny, instead of answering the charges facing the Chicago gang all they can do is blame others. The continue to think that because someone else broke the law it's ok for them to do it. That's not saying much for the hope and change promise. (Anyone remember that one?) Issa may have be guilty. maybe not but that is $) YEARS AGO. That doesn't excuse Obama, Holder and the rest of the cult in the White House from the crimes they've committed against America. But like most spoiled brats, their excuse is sometime else did iti

    June 3, 2013 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  18. jnpa

    Overreach Mr. Issa, overreach! Not good for GOP re-elections. Think about it.

    June 3, 2013 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  19. Mara Tam

    well, did voters know about his record earlier?

    June 3, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  20. TommytheT

    yep, blame, distract and divert attention. Anything in hopes that the current issues will go away. Nothing to see here folks but look way way way over there.

    June 3, 2013 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  21. Diogonese

    Finally, I learn where my taxes go: 1) IRS political persecutions and luxury conferences and 2) to support the circus in Washington. Just glad to know the money s not being squandered.

    June 3, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  22. Gudge

    The country is rotting from the inside out and the partisan nature that has infested Washington will ensure it will continue. Things do not look good for America. Wasn't Obama suppose to 'run things differently'?.

    June 3, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  23. Tony T

    Like rats in a corner those obama operatives will try anything!!!

    June 3, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  24. Marie MD

    Thank you Mr. Plouffe. I was wondering why NOBODY had brought up the fact that this issa fool is a car thief and was thrown out of the Army because he and his brother just couldn't stop stealing cars.
    He made his money with car alarms because they saw the opportunity to stop people like him and his brother from stealing cars!
    This issa has been breaking the law since he was a teenager and now he is in congress. What a country! You would think that he would have started the lying and stealing after being elected.

    June 3, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  25. MightyMoo

    "Asked why he brought up Issa's criminal record from 1972"

    Well the GOP kept and keeps bringing up complaints about birth certificates, transcripts, etc. The light they shine on others will be shined on them as well. If they don't like it then maybe the shouldn't be messing around with the light in the first place and just get the business of the nation done.

    Ah well.

    June 3, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
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