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. John

    If the Democrats think that 41-year-old charges are relevant, I guess that would make Hillary's actions and inactions vis-a-vie Benghazi VERY relevant, wouldn't you say?

    June 3, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  2. TheTraveler

    Funny thing, Issa can call someone else a "paid liar", or toss unfounded allegations around like they were"facts", and it's all good. But when someone turns the spotlight on HIM, it's not so good.

    June 3, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. krj9

    We will never get things done in Washington as long as we have the witch hunter running amok. Same thing happened with Clinton. Republicans are not interested in getting the jobs done. All they care about is power. Dirty Nasty politics as usual. Isa and his ilk make me sick. How about doing something for the people like you promised

    June 3, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  4. Jim

    A stupid comment by David Plouffe, but Plouffe is a private citizen so he has the luxury of being an idiot. Issa's gone McCarthy-rabid and made a mess of the whole investigation. Compared to Issa, the IRS looks bias-free.

    June 3, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  5. Mack

    Yep the fox investigating the break-in at the hen house.

    June 3, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  6. Al

    If the IRS wants this to go away, all they have to do is say who ordered this act and who carried it out, knowing full well that it's discrimination. Just drop the names and this can all start going away. It's that easy, but the reason that none of the names are being dropped is that all that have been questioned have a part in this harassment, in this abuse of power and they have no heart to stand up, or sit there, and actually tell the truth to the actual question being asked.

    June 3, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. are122

    Funny one of President Obama's top advisers didn't bring up Obama's terrorist pal Bill Ayers.

    June 3, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  8. what's up

    Time to start putting some of these people in jail!

    June 3, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  9. SomeWhere

    A week ago I didn't care... but I sure do want to see who done what. The DC Lawyer, was he taking orders from Someone or was he going rogue?

    June 3, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  10. Steve

    I don't trust anyone around money anymore. IRS congressmen senators, bankers, wall street, mayors...it's all to easy to swing it into your pocket if you have beforehand knowledge or who cares anyway because it's not their money anyway its ours.

    They are all dirty in my book. Ever wonder why corporate America and the Gov are such close friends? So we can give the gas/oil industry $41 billion in taxpayer subsides and yet pay $3.85 a gallon at the pump. Ever wonder why it's illegal to buy the same exact pills at a Canadian pharmacy? Because it's 50% cheaper over there. Ever wonder why you pay "uninsured motorist" coverage while you have collision coverage....

    The list can go on and on but sadly us Americans won't make a change until we truly totter on the brink of bankruptcy. I know all this is not story related but we as Americans have to quit looking at individual pieces of the pie and look at it as a whole...were doomed unless we make permanent lasting changes in our gov and the people that handle our money.

    Think your safe? Google predatory lending and these so called reverse mortgages.

    Don't trust anyone around money.

    June 3, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  11. kv

    Politicians- they just want to be voted back into power- lack morality – never trust their lies!

    June 3, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  12. NC_Right

    Puke liar.. you chose which one is?..the choice is oobvious

    June 3, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  13. On Streetwise

    No one can spin talking points, news conferences and leak like the Tea/GOP and Sen. Issa can hold his own with the best.
    Here is just another to bring down President Obama... and nothing will stop the nasty partisan tone coming from the right. We need about a half dozen less like Issa, McConnell, and Senator Lindsey Olin Graham to turn the tide toward a "More Perfect Union"

    June 3, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  14. Ancient Texan

    Plouffe is bringing up non crimes out of desperation; The investigation is bringing up too much evidence that the IRS plan came from the highest reaches OF THE Obama ADMINISTRATION.

    June 3, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  15. Karl

    I stand by my lo.g standing opinion. Obama is the most corrupt person to ever be president along with his entire administration and should be removed from office

    June 3, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  16. Durundal

    Oh my god, the rhetoric needs to get knocked down a few levels or they both need to be put in time out until they can show the offices they hold a modicum of respect.

    June 3, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  17. Pete

    Issa doesn't want executive ones digging up his dirty past in California or Issa might be running home with his bigotted,partisan Hungarian tail between his legs..And let me ask posters out there a question I bet nobody ever brings up,just how much in tax payers dollars is Issa spending in committes,legal fees and such to go after everybody on Capital Hill ..I bet its more than the IRS supposidly spent and you delushiona hypocrites the supposid sanctumonious ones never thought about it either did yah!!Just remember its been republicans since before Pres.Clinton vilifying,demonizing everyone democrate and then when the shoes are on the other foot republicans can't seem to see anything wrong because they know as well they're the ones that helped start ,approve many of their own reps debacles with Bushs wars with lies and others that cost thousands of lives and crashed our economy at American tax payers,others expense..Quit being in denile because you republican posters who voted not once but twice for that imbecile from Texas that created these messes are responsible as well and you ignorently know it!!

    June 3, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  18. Person

    It's also personal to those who were unfairly treated by their government just because their political views. No matter who you are, Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, Green Party, or other, you should be very concerned. Especially when you combine that with media investigations and intimidation and an election time cover-up. If this is the "Chicago Way" or a page of the Alinsky playbook then I don't like it one bit. Americans deserve better.

    June 3, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  19. Bob

    Issa is a piece of garbage the cat puked up on the floor.

    June 3, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  20. Dan

    All of this ant-Obama rhetoric, from the begining, is a conspiracy by Joe Biden. He wants to become president and this is the only way. The republicans have played right into his hands and did his dirty work.

    June 3, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  21. Helen Troy

    Plouffe owes the congressmen an apology... Then he can be unofficially fired from his unofficial adviser role...

    June 3, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  22. Ben

    A government agency that has as much power as the IRS is used in a political way that would have made Nixon ashamed and CNN has the gaul to make it appear as if this is some kind of cat fight and not the truly scary situation it is. Democrat, Republican, Independent...all should be terrified of what happened here...

    June 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  23. Too funny!

    Plouffe an expert on "ethics?" Yeah, right!

    June 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    "An unusually harsh and personal war of words erupted on Sunday, even for the current hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington, DC"

    Yeah, well. This is what happens when one political party spends hundreds of thousands of man hours (and millions of tax payer dollars) on political witch-hunts directed against the other party. So, yes, the atmosphere stinks ... both in Washington and outside of Washington. As well as in cable and conservative news, which have for the past 5 years made a lucrative profit off the stink.

    This type of reporting is not my cup of tea. Sorry CNN. Once your organization starting qouting Limbaugh, Breitbart.com, Drudge, and FOX News, you lost me.

    If I had wanted to read the endless spin and fact free reporting, I'd have headed on over to their websites to begin with.

    June 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  25. Namefrank

    They are all liars

    June 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
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