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. KLARGAR

    Issa is a psychopathic liar and one of the worst humans in congress, he insured his auto security company for 500% of it's value and it burnt to the ground 2 weeks later, evidence of gasoline was found in multiple areas but Issa somehow avoided direct responsibility. He thinks he is Teflon coated and has spent his life like this, the fact that he is sitting on the ethics committee is a monumental travesty of justice.

    June 3, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  2. Noah

    plouffe is a jerk...its no wonder who his boss is

    June 3, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  3. U.S. Citizen

    Can't address the issue? Detract.

    June 3, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  4. Hypocrisy - Republican Core Value

    Its great to see the Democrats finally fighting the republicans using republican tactics!

    June 3, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    I have to say that this level of rhetoric is juvenile, and most unprofessional. From both sides.

    June 3, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  6. strangerq

    ^ Issa you kidding me?

    Issa sounding mighty desperate!

    June 3, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  7. LWJR

    CNN now helping the DEMS attack ISSA. No doubt, the Whitehouse was involved in the IRS Targeting. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

    June 3, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  8. Jinx9to88

    Good I am glad to see some Dem has the balls to call out Issa. Issa should have never gone on national TV and called a person a "paid liar". Issa is just pissed that the whole Benghazi thing didnt pan out like he wanted. Issa must not have heard what he wanted to from in his "closed door meeting" with former ambassador Pickering. Without Benghazi the GOP has nothing on Hilary, whose is gonna beat any challenger the GOP can put up.

    June 3, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  9. oreo

    Yup, Government run amok, this is the most corrupt Admin in US history, total thugs.

    June 3, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  10. Tom

    I can't wait to hear how Sniffit excuses this. Even CNN is starting to tell the truth about this bully Administration.

    June 3, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  11. Chuk

    Yes I hope someone goes after that right-winger, Issa. He's out of control. There's no question he is using his office to further his own agenda which is personal vendata against Pres Obama and AG Holder. He's been known to only play to his base and nothing more.

    June 3, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  12. Just say'n

    People who testified under oath vs people who took the 5th and refused to testify under other because it may make them look guilty.

    June 3, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. Bob

    Carney has lied repeatedly about Benghazi (remember the story about the video that Carney pushed and pushed for two weeks?). He's lied about when Obama found out about the IRS targeting conservatives (anyone believe the President found out about an Inspector General's findings by watching television?). He's lied about the Fast and Furious scheme (blamed it on Bush).

    He tells rather pathetic lies.

    June 3, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Get him Plouffe!!! I've been asking on this Ticker for weeks now how is Issa even credible with his criminal background. I was censored. Mr. Issa is playing politics. Plain and simple. He's not interested in the truth. He wants to keep these phony scandals in the headlines for as long as possible so that republicans can run FALSE ads for 2014.

    June 3, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  15. Old white conservative strait male

    I guess the Progressive Liberal wing nuts only accept the Mexican legal system when it come to a conservative were you are guilty until proven guilty.

    June 3, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  16. mike

    Its ok to dig up this mans past but not the President of our states.Crazy world.

    June 3, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  17. Ed N

    If you don't like the message, kill the messenger.

    June 3, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. mfh

    Lie and deflect. That is the divider and chiefs modus operandi.

    June 3, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. drewATX

    Sounds like typical Beltway BS to me – on both sides..

    June 3, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  20. hamptonhistory

    Both sides are actually right. This is systematically meant to make Americans turn away from politics... so the power elite can make all the important decisions.

    June 3, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. Linsey Walker

    My my, looks like the leftists are feeling the heat! Time to circle the wagons.
    The lies haven't worked and the leftist media is upset for what we did to them. Time to get out the old Chicago Style politics play book and see what we can bring up from the past to deflect the conversation and criticism.

    June 3, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  22. lionhart

    Good for you Mr. Plouffe!!!

    June 3, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  23. Henry

    President Obama and his staff might as well hang on tight. This flap is not going away anytime soon. As for the IRS, what does one expect? These are Federal employees.

    June 3, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  24. Dave

    So the IRS investigates political key words to see if an organization deserves its non-profit status? If you are a political based organization you are not allowed to be a non profit. This is why, under Bush, they started investigating church's!

    Stop making up stuff and resolve issues that mean something!!!!!!!!!

    June 3, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  25. shelby

    The President never personally attacks anyone like this. He is a good man. Republicans attack him and his family endlessly. He just takes it all in. The man is a saint.

    June 3, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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