June 2nd, 2013
11:18 PM ET
7 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. John

    Mistaken identity? More like insufficient evidence to prosecute. And as for the jewish lightning which struck two businesses he purchased, it only confirms this_idiot's predilection for criminal activity.

    June 3, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  2. Richard Long

    Plouffe has drawn criticism for his paid speaking engagements abroad while on hiatus from advising Obama. In early 2009, Plouffe spoke in Baku, Azerbaijan for $50,000. The event's sponsor had ties to the authoritarian government in the country. Following complaints from human rights groups, Plouffe donated his speaking fees to the National Democratic Institute.[19][20]

    In December 2010, Plouffe received $100,000 for two speeches in Nigeria from an affiliate of the South African telecommunications company MTN Group. At the time, MTN had been doing business with the government of Iran since 2005. Recently, MTN has come under increased scrutiny by the U.S. for allegations that the Iranian government has used the MTN network in the country to track and monitor dissidents. MTN has been listed on the "Iran Business Registry" of prominent watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran since 2009.[21]

    White House spokesman Eric Schultz explained that Plouffe only spoke to the group about digital communications and cellular technology, and declined to meet with the company's leadership. Schultz also said the criticism of Plouffe's speeches before he joined the White House was was "misplaced."

    June 3, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  3. Switters

    Darrell Issa searches for his Gregory Hicks.......

    June 3, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  4. truthteller

    Issa, where there is smoke, there is fire, we all know you committed arson. 2 fires the month after you quadruple your fire benefit?

    June 3, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  5. Toltec1

    Is it even possible to get the real truth in Washington? I voted for Ross Perot, twice! Still, I liked President Clinton and was totally disgusted by the impeachment. What a waste of money and resources. I've been around for 10 presidents. The partisanship, these investigations, are in my view becoming more and more ridicules. The truth being the last objective. I try to be a forgiving guy and I'm willing to give folks a second and third chance. That's just the way I am, but having Mr. Issa in charge removes all credibility from these proceedings. I just can't bring myself to trust him or his motives. I agree, the other side is just as bad. The truth is important, but what truth, whose truth? AYE-YI-YI!!! Peace

    June 3, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  6. rs1201

    I guess the White House is getting desperate. Let's bring up obama's drug dealing and usage when he was in college. That should make for an interesting discussion! The democrats better be careful and keep in mind the old saying ..people in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones...

    June 3, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. Tigas

    Plouffe has drawn criticism for his paid speaking engagements abroad while on hiatus from advising Obama. In early 2009, Plouffe spoke in Baku, Azerbaijan for $50,000. The event's sponsor had ties to the authoritarian government in the country.

    In December 2010, Plouffe received $100,000 for two speeches in Nigeria from an affiliate of the South African telecommunications company MTN Group. At the time, MTN had been doing business with the government of Iran since 2005. Recently, MTN has come under increased scrutiny by the U.S. for allegations that the Iranian government has used the MTN network in the country to track and monitor dissidents. MTN has been listed on the "Iran Business Registry" of prominent watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran since 2009

    June 3, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  8. MJ1959

    Grab a box of popcorn, sit back and watch as the Dems now implode. Great stuff.

    June 3, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  9. DocHollywood

    What a hoot! A politician calling someone a liar! Typical Issa and his investigations. He always starts an investigation with where he wants it to end up, and then works backwards to make it true, where most investigators start with the beginning finding out the facts as they come and let it end up where the truth is. Issa has always been one of the sleasiest politicians that ever came out of California.

    June 3, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  10. abnguy

    That is the only way to distract from the scandals. Let's not look at the substance but at the fluff, a misdirection. The Administration is floundering literally and morally.

    June 3, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  11. Leafar the Lost

    This IRS controversy is just one more sign of the End Times...

    June 3, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  12. Jon

    Ad hominem attacks generally mean you've hit a nerve.

    June 3, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  13. Daniel

    This paid representative of the united states is investigating the IRS and publicly makes the following comment:

    "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."

    Is it just me, or should someone who is running an investigation hold off on any conclusory statements until the investigation has been completed? Furthermore, if he is in-fact part of the investigation, shouldn't he recuse himself since he obviously has made up his mind and in all likelihood is simply looking for the facts that will fit his allegations best?

    June 3, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  14. Name VA865

    issa is a nasty HATEFUL BEING, he's just looking for applause, we all SEE him for what he is...

    June 3, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  15. Mac

    Issa is as dirty as they come.

    June 3, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  16. Scott

    Uh-oh, maybe the lapdog media is about to nip Obama's hand after all.

    June 3, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  17. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    I did NOTHING WRONG so I am taking the 5th

    I am going on PAID VACATION now

    It's ONLY working TAX Payers $$$
    You know the ones who still have a job in the economy

    June 3, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  18. Michelle

    What does the chairman's record from the 70's have to do with what is going on today. That is a bit of a stretch to sling some mud.

    June 3, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  19. MyGoodness

    Why don't they stop with the name calling and stick to the facts. Carney is a paid lie teller.

    June 3, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  20. W.

    In the contemporary American culture, there is no commodity with a greater value than the enterprise of hatred. We no longer embrace compassion or tolerance in our society but find vitriol and animosity as the most appropriate venue to exhaust our darkest emotions. American values are passing away and I can say with considerably aplomb that I am as well. I would rather not be remembered at all than to be remembered badly, and there are copious examples of those who wish the latter upon themselves.

    June 3, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  21. Bill Thomas

    Mr. Topper,

    I find it almost impossible to believe you don't know the difference between someone having a "criminal record" and someone being arrested, but not prosecuted? Just when I was beginning to think CNN was trying to fairly and evenly reporting the news.

    June 3, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  22. bigdicmcgee

    par for the course..... misdirection and blame someone else.... standard Obama operation.... seems the media is not buying into it the way they normally do....

    June 3, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  23. aspblom

    The administration is getting down and dirty

    June 3, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  24. TONY

    How can a suspected criminal conduct any investigation?

    June 3, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  25. jboh

    Issa stated that he was going to hound Obama from the day he took chairmanship. He is a partisan hack who has no interest in anything but his own hyper-inflated ego, and the wishes of his TEA/1% puppet-masters. He is an excellent example of the hateful, mean-spirited treason of the TEA potty. It's long past time to flush the TEA pot.

    June 3, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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