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. Siesta Beach

    Issa loves to hear the sound of his voice. To bad he did not get caught for all the criminal acts he has perpetrated during his life. Hopefully this criminal will become the face of the Republican party.....very appropriate.

    June 3, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  2. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    IRS controversy turns personal, nasty

    Classic Saul Alinsky
    ATTACK The Messenger when you have NO response to the FACTS

    June 3, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  3. Kevin

    As far as I know, Issa's criminal record is more serious than stated here. Besides the multiple arrests on Grand Theft Auto, as far as I know, he was convicted at least once, of a firearms violation in 1972 in Michigan. Not all the car theft arrests were related to his brother; the first allegation of car theft was for allegedly stealing his Army roommate's car (never prosecuted, but he left the Army shortly after that incident, two years early).

    A criminal record is for life. We wouldn't allow somebody with a gun violation to teach in hiigh school – but he expects that for a Congressman, a criminal record somehow shouldn't count.

    June 3, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  4. david shoup

    This is all baloney. An attempt to destroy the Administration's mid-term hopes, fueled by the media. Politics at it's worst

    June 3, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  5. Siesta Beach

    The IRS should audit Issa for the past 45 years and maybe they will find out how much he paid the people who burned down his property that he illegally received money for.

    June 3, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  6. Siesta Beach

    Issa and Cheney would make wonderful cell mates if their crimes were ever unveiled.

    June 3, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  7. CG

    Who will want to pay taxes when you have to deal with a dishonest tax revenue system?

    June 3, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  8. D45

    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......I can agree with this. Seems like every time something comes up Obama finds something to change the way things are going...at least he tries to. If Obama would ever come clean on a few things then maybe he would be believable....I thought he might make a difference when he first go elected.....but since then forget it. As for Holder, and Lerner they both are hiding something and eventually the truth will come out....when it does then a few folks might have to leave D.C.

    June 3, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  9. I AM Not YOU

    Politics ain't for the thin skinned. Years ago there was a movement to kick all the politicians out of Washington, I think the time has come again.

    June 3, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  10. Clint

    Wow just like in AWE. Someone who is loosely connected to the president brings up a alledged incident from 40 years ago when someone was 19. That is scraping the bottom of the Jar for the last bit of Peanut butter. Right now, I don't believe the President was involved with the extra scruitiny on the right wing tea party groups. I want to believe that it was the work of over zealous people at the IRS Cleveland office. It would set my mind at ease if a couple of things occured. Such as Democrats get a leash on people like Plouffe and more important the President gives a speech where he says "I am crazy mad about this issue. I want Lerner to come clean and possibly face charges."
    Reason is this, while I don't think the congressional races would have turned out differently in 2011. This incident puts the idea of a taint on those elections and only strong action, as well as leadership can remove the taint. Sadly, Obama is gonna just blah, blah, change the subject. Thanks Mr. President, you let me down again.

    June 3, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  11. EndersLocke

    What a bunch of kids. These are our elected officials calling each other names.

    June 3, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  12. CTed

    So the ethics charges against Issa were from "left leaning groups" as if that makes them false or questionable. But the fact that the GOP controlled ethics committee hasn't investigated them or sanctioned Issa is not mentioned or labelled as the "Far right" ethics committee..... interesting.

    So then are the investigations by Issa against the administration are all by "Far Right" groups... namely congress correct?

    June 3, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  13. Faras Khan

    " war of words..", "...investigation...", "..senate hearing...", all a bunch of words in the end the taxpayer continues to fund a corrupt and graft ridden government. The fact is that nothing ever happens to the culprits and at the end of the day the the very politicians who call for these so called investigations allot even more monies to agencies that then fund conmpanies that then pay the politicians.....

    It is a sespool!

    June 3, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  14. George Dixon

    To repeat what ones knows is not true is to lie.

    To do so as a paid spokesman is a "paid liar".

    That the left would file complaints against someone discovering the lie a well as the person behind it is no surprise.

    That person is investigating abuses which stem from Liberal ideology. They are caught and scared.

    June 3, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  15. sc

    Why is not anyone posting here? Scared? Look if you got to raise this much caine and hoot like issa does, there is nothing there. This is a case of trying to mass manufacture facts.

    June 3, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  16. Xavier

    Issa is hardly an individual that can or should be trusted... the whole story of is past seems very suspicious to say the least. What's even more shocking is that republicans would appoint this guy to a position of power.

    June 3, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  17. dick

    The Democrats will do anything to cover up this crime and any other crime as their voters believe anything they say. The one I laugh about is when they say that exposing this will hurt their chances of being re electing or wining the next one. The only way they can do that is major cover ups of huge mistakes and a uninformed and
    entitlement slave vote.

    June 3, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  18. Anonymous

    This coming from the Political Party that attacked the war record of Decorated Vietnam Veteran to defame his Character. The Republican's are reaping what they have sown

    June 3, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  19. Paul

    So now we have agent in the IRS saying they were told by their bosses to target these groups what 'lies' will this admin now pass out to explain this lasted info?

    June 3, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  20. Rick McDaniel

    Plouffe is an example of the worst of the worst........the Dem socialist who wants to be a part of a social dictatorship in America, and destroy our freedoms and principles.

    June 3, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  21. Toltec1

    Why oh why does Mr. Issa have to be in charge? I know it's a seniority thing, but for me, his chairmanship eliminates any credibility to the "findings". I try my best to forgive and allow someone to change and grow, but I just don't see this in Mr. Issa. Perhaps I'm biased. I did vote for President Obama. I'm approaching 60 years and I've been around for 10 presidents (I think). In my view, this barrage of investigations are designed to tarnish our President and promote careers, rather than to accumulate credible and relevant information. From my observations over the years, that's the way D.C. operates and always has. I fear our government has passed the point of healing years ago too. Hope I'm wrong. Peace

    June 3, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  22. JZ

    Little children lash out when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I am just sad watching the downward spiral of the white house on what seems to be a slow and fatal path to an not pleasant end. The lashing out and making it personal is like schoolyard bullies and just seems to validate that something is not what it should be.

    June 3, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  23. Timz

    The Chicago way is alive and kicking in the White House

    June 3, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  24. John

    Becoming a legislator is nothing more than graduation from blue-collar to white-collar crime. Indeed, Issa is still nothing more than a common thief and law enforcement doesn't simply haul you in on charges of car theft unless there is supporting evidence. Sorry to add that "mistaken identity" in car theft is as close to the premise of impossible as you can get because car thieves rarely if ever will try to steal a car at a time when witnesses would be present in order for mistaken identity to be of issue. Issa looks nothing like his brother at all. The police simply didn't have enough evidence to bring him to trial. As for the jewish lightning which struck two businesses he purchased, it only confirms his predilection for criminal activity.

    June 3, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  25. Gurgyl

    What is wrong with GOP idiots? They do not want to check on their taxes? Nasty idiots. IRS did great job.

    June 3, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
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