A Side Benefit of the I.R.S. Scandal: Self-Identification By Dishonest Partisan Hacks

You know better, Gov.

You know better, Governor.

I mentioned this once already, but it bears repeating: any spinner, excuser, minimizer or defender of the I.R.S. scandal who uses the “it was a Bush appointee” talking point has insulted your intelligence or impugned his own, as well as marked himself or herself as an untrustworthy hack. I’m taking names and making lists myself now, and it’s growing by the hour.

Yesterday I added Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, whom I once believed had some integrity, and Donna Brazile. Today Richard Cohen, among others, joined the list. It really is shocking, and it’s increasingly more difficult to shock me. It is also ominous. Things we haven’t yet learned must really be ugly for such a transparently desperate excuse to be trotted out so early by people who almost certainly know what garbage it is.

Yesterday I heard Rendell literally drive Joe DiGenova, the former Attorney General, to apoplexy—Joe’s eyes were popping out of his head and I though he was going to fall over to the floor foaming at the mouth— by stating repeatedly that the I.R.S. fiasco “couldn’t be a conspiracy because a Bush appointee was in charge.” This is either unbelievably ignorant or despicably dishonest, and I suspect the latter. As I wrote in a previous post,

“What supervisor, in any organization, ever points to the person who hired one of that supervisor’s staff as sharing culpability for conduct that occurs after the hiring supervisor is no longer in charge? None…because it is ridiculous, and a violation of the principles of management responsibility. The current regime is 100% responsible for the staff it elects to retain and for the performance of the staff it oversees. Did Doug Shulman, the I.R.S. chief in charge during most of the period under scrutiny, engage in misconduct under Obama when he did not while under Bush? That’s Obama’s responsibility. Was he demonstrably corrupt and incompetent under Bush, but Obama’s Administration allowed him to stay on? That’s also Obama’s responsibility. The I.R.S. chief is supposed to be a non-partisan job, but subordinates often conform their performance to the signals they get from above, and Obama and top Democrats certainly painted Tea Party groups as menaces to the realm.”

I was too kind. This is Washington, D.C.: most appointees, managers and staff members, the true professionals,  put their jobs first and their personal political beliefs second, if they are even that high. It is a lawyer’s culture, which means that one hires out one’s talents and skills to meet the goals of whoever pays your salary—not your goals, theirs.

I worked for both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (pro-business, anti-regulation, generally Republican) and the Association of Trial Lawyers (anti-business, pro-regulation, furiously Democrat) and did a damn good job for both of them without compromising my values one whit. Neither organization cared what my personal politics were; it didn’t matter as long as I did my job. This is typical. I know a long-time executive and spokesperson for a conservative advocacy group who is as liberal as they come. I know a nationally prominent spokesperson for conservative causes who votes Democratic.  Lawyers have the distinction between their personal beliefs and the objectives of their clients written right into their ethics rules; doing your best for your client does not mean you are personally endorsing your client’s objectives or agree with them in any way. Gov. Rendell knows this, for he’s a lawyer himself. Cohen knows this (or should), because he’s been covering government since I had hair.  Anyone who claims sufficient sophistication to work in government or comment on it knows this, and if they don’t, they are utter fools, because the principle is as old as the city, indeed as old as government itself. If they say otherwise, they are lying to you.

Doug Shulman, the head of the I.R.S. in Obama’s Treasury Department when the misconduct occurred, is a lawyer (graduating from my alma mater), and like every single employee in Washington worth hiring, it can be safely presumed that his goal was to serve the objectives of his current bosses, not his previous one, and not his own. That is fact. It is also a fact that his being appointed by Bush, like his being retained by Obama, tells us nothing about his personal beliefs, because as a lawyer, it is his skills and performance that matter, not his partisan preferences.

If Shulman knew about the targeting of conservative groups by his subordinates and allowed it to go on, it is because he received the message, explicit or implied, that this was what his client wanted, which makes his client, the Obama Administration, responsible. If he did so because he had his own agenda or was incompetent, it is still the Obama administration’s responsibility for retaining a poor employee, giving him too much responsibility, or not supervising him effectively. Who his prior clients may have been, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, are completely irrelevant, and everybody who works in this city or writes about it understands this.

Don’t let any of your friends accept or perpetrate this ignorant or intentionally misleading talking point. You have an obligation to educate them, because civic ignorance feeds bad government and bolsters untrustworthy leaders. And do not, ever, ever, trust a pundit, talking head, columnist, party spokesperson or elected official who dares to make this assertion. But do send me their names.

That list will come in handy.

________________________________

Sources: CNN, Washington PostNY Daily News

Graphic: Examiner

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

21 thoughts on “A Side Benefit of the I.R.S. Scandal: Self-Identification By Dishonest Partisan Hacks

  1. More and more, your sanctimonious rants are a source of amusement than information. You have sophistry down to a lawyer’s argument, not the “ethics” of the premise or cause but whether the logic has plausible believability. You develop your points tangentially to encompass your prejudices, entrenched ideology and some dubious ethical points. It is quite entertaining. I do agree that the Doug Shulman talking point is ignorant as is the hyperbole of conspiratorial involvement of Obama’s WH.

    • So, in other words, you agree with what I wrote, but just wanted to be gratuitously insulting about it. Noted. Jerk.
      1) That was no rant.
      2) “You have sophistry down to a lawyer’s argument, not the “ethics” of the premise or cause but whether the logic has plausible believability. You develop your points tangentially to encompass your prejudices, entrenched ideology and some dubious ethical points.” If you actually have anything to back up these general cheap shots, you have an obligation to state them. I cited rules of legal ethics, and the basic principles of professionalism and management—if there’s “prejudices, entrenched ideology and some dubious ethical points” in there, by all means enlighten us.
      3) Since I didn’t suggest that there is (or isn’t) a conspiracy—and DeGenova is right, it is ridiculous to state one way or the other as an assertion—I don’t know whose hyperbole you are referring to. The White House has now changed its story about who knew what several times. That raises legitimate questions, for any fair-minded observer, which means “not you.”
      4) You’ve commented six times here and essentially made the same insulting assertions each time. During the campaign your orientation was that the spectacularly deceitful and dishonest Obama campaign slurs on Romney were just fine, and anyone who called the campaign on them was “pontificating” and “sanctimonious,” while you apparently felt all critiques on deceitful Romney tactics were Ok, because they comport with your own biases. This is the pot calling the sugar black, and the only reason I haven’t banned you for being a gratuitously insulting ass as my guest is that you are a hit and run artist, and vanish for weeks at a time. The next non-substantive attack from you, whether it’s today or a year from now, gets spammed…or you can show some respect and engage in honest discourse. Your choice.

      • Jerk? When your answer starts with an ad hominem, you’ve surrendered the argument. Point noted. Thank you for exposing yourself.

        • The exposure is all yours, Doc. Jerk is a completely warranted diagnosis of your conduct here, and was not used to rebut your assertions, which might have had merit (but don’t) no matter how jerkishly you expressed them.. That’s not what “ad hominem” means. You have a nice pompous style, but your actual knowledge is all pretense. Marking you as a jerk (and don’t forget ass!) is no more ad hominem than calling me “sanctimonious” or accusing me of engaging in sophistry, except that I have proof, and you’re just being nasty, which is how jerks often behave.

          This is your last insulting comment that will appear here, unless you resort to a fake identity, which would not surprise me—I hope it was good for you. Bye!

  2. “Yesterday I heard Rendell literally drive Joe DiGenova, the former Attorney General, to apoplexy—Joe’s eyes were popping out of his head and I though he was going to fall over to the floor foaming at the mouth.”

    I always liked watching Joe DiGenova during the Clinton years on Chris Matthews’ show. Does Joe still bring an unlit cigar with him? (And then there was Ted Olsen’s beautiful and charming wife who was killed on the plane those idiots flew into the Pentagon. Barbara?)

    Anyway, thanks for the vivid imagery. The humor is welcome and effectively hi-lights the preposterousness of the things these DC morons spout.

    This is a serious question: Is there any sort of ethical regime applicable to political consultants? Surely they mindlessly say whatever has been determined to be in the best interest of their clients. Are they ethically obligated to do so? And aren’t TV journalists ethically obligated to do something other than bring on two opposing political consultants and allow them to spout their respective talking points before going to a commercial? And how can CNN allow Donna Brazile to write stories that are not always captioned as opinion pieces when she’s a paid Democratic operative?

  3. A view from Oz…
    1) There is no head of the IRS. There’s only an acting head. While Obama is in office, there won’t be one, the Senate GOP minority refuses to either propose one, or allow any other nominee to be confirmed.

    2) The problem wasn’t investigating apparently political “charity” groups – it was only investigating those on one side of politics. That’s selective enforcement, unjust by definition. Corrupt. I can’t emphasise sufficiently how very bad no good awful that is.

    3) Worse, this isn’t a conspiracy: no orders need be given. The bureaucrats know what the politicians want, and do it without asking as part of the culture.

    4) If you look at the bottom line though… NONE of the groups had their status revoked. I’m darn sure a lot should have, the rules are too slack. There should have been more left-wing groups investigated too.

    The only thing I can say in defence of this is that if a “charity” group has the name of a political party in its name, I’d investigate too.

    Be it the “Democratic Committee for Progress” or the “Tea Party Patriots for a Patriotic America”.

    • My understanding is that the groups in question were applying for 501(C)4 status, as opposed to 501(C)3. The difference being that 501(c)4 groups are allowed to participate in politics, provided they are not solely created for a political purpose.

      • You are correct. “Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4) provides for the exemption of two very different types of organizations with their own distinct qualification requirements. They are:

        1. Social welfare organizations: Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, and
        2. Local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of designated person(s) in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.

        Not surprisingly, social welfare solutions often bleed into partisan political areas.

    • Zoebrain:
      Live up to your name and get a brain! That is, learn your facts. Anyone commenting on this issue should at least find out what the difference between a (c)(3) and (c)4) is.

    • There is no head of the IRS. There’s only an acting head. While Obama is in office, there won’t be one, the Senate GOP minority refuses to either propose one, or allow any other nominee to be confirmed.

      a) That isn’t actually how the process works and b) right before the one who just announced he was stepping down (a whole 2 weeks early, as he was already leaving in June) was a full-on Commissioner.

      The problem wasn’t investigating apparently political “charity” groups – it was only investigating those on one side of politics. That’s selective enforcement, unjust by definition. Corrupt. I can’t emphasise sufficiently how very bad no good awful that is.

      Okay there…

      Worse, this isn’t a conspiracy: no orders need be given. The bureaucrats know what the politicians want, and do it without asking as part of the culture.

      It would have to be, actually, because no low-level peon is going to risk jail for this sort of thing without orders. Those orders have to come from somewhere, and it is foolish to assume they came from anywhere but the top, especially since there was so much contact between the acting Commissioner and the White House.

      If you look at the bottom line though… NONE of the groups had their status revoked. I’m darn sure a lot should have, the rules are too slack. There should have been more left-wing groups investigated too.

      It it hard to have revoked something you never had – these were initial applications. The “none had it denied” is a dodge, btw, that ignores that the process shouldn’t take TWO FUCKING YEARS. That is a de facto denial. The only difference is that a DENIAL can be appealed, while “we need more obtrusive and illegal questions answered” cannot be appealed.

      The only thing I can say in defence of this is that if a “charity” group has the name of a political party in its name, I’d investigate too.

      So explain how True the Vote STILL hasn’t been accepted, despite applying in mid 2010, and the head even got her personal returns audited as well as her business. And the some enviro groups showed up to audit EPA crap.

      That is just a little more than “extra-scrutiny”.

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