The IRS Scandal: “I’m Sorry!” Is Not Enough, But That’s Apparently All Our Battered Democracy Will Get

 

I’ve been holding a draft of this post for two weeks until I calmed down. You should read the first version.

The Treasury Department  agreed to  a “very substantial” settlement covering damages to hundreds of tea party groups following a class-action lawsuit over the obstructive, discriminatory IRS scrutiny they received when applying for tax-exempt status leading up to the 2012 election. According to court documents,  the IRS admitted wrongdoing and apologized for its conduct. The IRS stated,

“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”

That’s nice. Isn’t that nice?

The department did not disclose the amount of money handed out to over 400 organizations: “The [Internal Revenue Service]’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement.  “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.”

Ya think?

The scandal began in 2013, when an IRS official admitted the agency had been aggressively scrutinizing groups with names such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots.” It later emerged that some liberal groups had been targeted, too, but in less aggressive ways and although in far smaller numbers. I hate to be suspicious, but if a Democratic administration’s tax agency agency in advance of an election wanted to hobble Republican and conservative groups, picking out some progressive groups to harass would be the smart move. In “Jack Reacher,” a sniper who wants to kill one target shoots five, so it looks like a random mass shooting. Same theory.

The IRS accelerated its special treatment of conservative groups around 2010, as the election approached, and Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status surged. Some court decisions had eased the rules for tax-exempt groups to participate in politics. Something had to be done, and some obama loyalists in the IRS apparently decided to do it. Or it was all one big misunderstanding.

After the scandal broke, there was a mass exodus from the IRS’s management. Conservative groups sued. Congressional Republicans launched  years of hearings, amid allegations the Obama White House had ordered the targeting. It was a futile effort. In earlier administrations, the news media would have been asking questions. A non-political Justice Department would have investigated hard, but Obama’s Justice Department was entirely constructed to protect the President and Democratic interests. The situation screamed for a Special Counsel. This wasn’t a matter of speculation: Something was rotten in Washington, D.C. A supposedly apolitical agency of the US Government, in advance of a national election with a Democratic President in office, used its power to interfere with the rights of conservatives to organize and participate in the democratic process. If the IRS employees involved were sufficiently partisan—and they were–no explicit orders from the White House were necessary. They knew what to do.

The settlement agreement names and blames Lois  Lerner, the former executive who oversaw the IRS division responsible for handling nonprofit status applications:

“The then-Director of the EO Division, Lois Lerner, first became aware that the IRS received applications from Tea Party groups as early as April or May 2010. For the next two years, Lerner failed to adequately manage the EO Division employees who processed these applications,” the consent agreement says. “Moreover, Lerner failed to inform upper-level IRS management of the serious delays in processing applications for tax-exempt status from Tea Party and other politically sensitive groups.”

That’s funny: The Obama administration allowed Lerner  to retire with a nice, big pension. and a a $129,000 bonus. (I wonder what the bonus was for?) She  refused to testify before Congress, taking the Fifth, and her computer records were found to be mysteriously “wiped,” like with a cloth, as Hillary would say. Successive heads of the IRS obfuscated and lied before Congress as well. (Obama’s most recent appointee to the job was finally dismissed this week.)  Other IRS agents stonewalled Congress and federal investigators, hard drives vanished, and the IRS destroyed tens of thousands of pertinent e-mails despite a congressional subpoena.

Sorry!

For Obama and Democrats, it was mission accomplished. As Harry Reid told CNN’s Dana Bash regarding his part of the operation, planting the lie in public that Mitt Romney paid no taxes, “I don’t regret that at all. Romney didn’t win did he?”

No, indeed he didn’t. He probably wouldn’t have won anyway, but then, neither was George McGovern likely to win in 1972. The difference is that the Nixon administration’s effort to undermine democracy was investigated by a bipartisan effort in Congress, a Special Prosecutor, and journalists intent on getting to the bottom of a serious abuse of power.

You can read the entire sordid history of this scandal that the Obama Administration and its enablers in the media denied was a scandal here, where law professor Paul Caron, Dean of Pepperdine Law School, dutifully reported on what the news media has refused to for more than four years.

The cover-up began almost immediately, with President Obama and others first claiming that a “rogue employee” in the IRS office in Cincinnati got a little out of control. This was a lie, and yet that false narrative has continued to this day, with pundits and journalists shrugging off the plot as a “nothingburger.” It was not a nothingburger, as even a brief perusal of Caron’s material shows.

The power to tax is the power to destroy, as the saying goes; any hint that the tax collection agency is using its power to interfere with citizen advocacy during an election campaign warns of an attack on our democracy. In recent weeks we have seem the media hyper-ventilate about $100,000 worth of Russian ads on Facebook tilting the 2016 election, but the IRS using its power to stifle Republican advocacy inspired no Woodward or Bernstein to check behind the curtain. This scandal screamed for an independent counsel. The public, however, was assured that there was nothing to fear, this was just another fake conservative news break-out.

But its all right. The IRS apologized.

That’s nice.

 

11 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

11 responses to “The IRS Scandal: “I’m Sorry!” Is Not Enough, But That’s Apparently All Our Battered Democracy Will Get

  1. carlbrizzi

    So….Lois Lerner retires with a taxpayer pension and a bonus payola. And the Justice Dept. uses taxpayer dollars to silence and pay a “very substantial” settlement to the victims. Nice.

    • That’s about the size of it.

    • Groups that seek to defeat certain RINO politicians and then offer their own slate of TP candidates are in NO WAY charities that should have section 501(c) tax status. It forces all Americans to subsidize their partisan political activities by making them tax exempt. They are clearly section 527 political organizations, just like all political parties and PACS which all say on donation info CONTRIBUTIONS ARE NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE

      • I agree with that; supporting candidates is not “offering them,” however. No question: the IRS is far too lenient in permitting over-active partisan political groups to have non-profit, tax deductible status. However, it still has to apply the same standards to all, and clearly, it didn’t.

  2. Other Bill

    No prosecutions?

  3. Joe Fowler

    Many on the left seem incapable of discerning that this sort of thing helped lead to the election of Donald Trump.The abuse of power by a politicized IRS, (and DOJ, and…well, etc.) during the Obama administration just may have caused many voters to say: “Enough! Oh, and fuck you.”
    For those who wonder what kind of nutbags think there is such a thing as the deep state, this sort of activity by these sort of government employees is what they have in mind. Wow, those folks are all crazy, huh?

  4. I am too angry about this even to be sarcastic.

  5. Other Bill

    The federal government can settle a suit with the taxpayers’ money but the taxpayers don’t get to know how much and to whom? A judge, also on the federal payroll, let that go down?

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