When she apologized to conservative and Tea Party groups for the Internal Revenue Service’s undue scrutiny and questioning of them on Friday, IRS official Lois Lerner told a very incomplete story. When the Associated Press reported on the apology, that report included Lerner’s claim that only “low-level workers” in the IRS’ Cincinnati office were responsible.
Hardly anyone believed that, and no one should have. There was another revelation awaiting its moment.
Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week. The AP obtained part of the draft report, which has been shared with congressional aides.
Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.
While this was happening, several committees in Congress were writing numerous letters IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to express concern because tea party groups were complaining of IRS harassment.
In Shulman’s responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.
The portion of the draft report reviewed by the AP does not say whether Shulman or anyone else in the Obama administration outside the IRS was informed of the targeting. It is standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff before responding to congressional inquiries, but it is unclear how much information Shulman sought.
Shulman is a Bush appointee, a fact that White House spokesman Jay Carney played for all it’s worth during Friday’s stormy press briefing. Bush also outsourced his education policy to Sen. Ted Kennedy. Bush was hardly a partisan when it came to policy and appointments.
The IRS’ targeting conservative groups fits a pattern of behavior that goes all the way up to the top of the Obama administration. According to the report that is expected out this week, among its intrusive questions, the IRS asked for for lists of groups’ donors. Why would its agents do that?
During the 2012 election, the Obama campaign itself used lists of Romney donors to target and intimidated them, as Kimberly Strassel reported at the WSJ in April 2012. The Obama campaign set up a website for the purpose of listing and targeting Romney donors, called KeepingGOPHonest.com. The site accused Romney donors of “betting against America” while naming them and their businesses. When describing their businesses, the Obama campaign website accused these donors of profiting from oil (the lifeblood of the US economy) and other perfectly legal and moral things to do.
Is there any connection between the IRS attempting to target individual donors, and the Obama campaign actually doing it? Were any Obama campaign operatives playing any role in the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups and their donors?
While the Obama campaign was singling Romney donors out in a name and shame campaign, it was knowingly accepting donations from foreign (illegal) sources. British citizen Mike McNally proved it, by donating from the UK last October.
What the American people got from Lerner on Friday was not truly an apology. It was a limited hangout intended to soften the blow of the report that will detail the abuse this week.
The IRS’ evidently systematic campaign to abuse grassroots groups and the US citizens who make up those groups is a massive concern. Past abuses were taken so seriously that they formed part of the case for impeaching President Richard Nixon. Article 2 accused Nixon of engaging “in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of legal inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed [sic] of these agencies.”
The first such agency mentioned in the Articles of Impeachment is the Internal Revenue Service, for abusing its authority for political purposes.
Obama’s IRS targeted groups that had handed him a major defeat, and stood ready to help battle against him again in 2012. Another fact worth considering is that while the IRS targeted legal citizen groups seeking to uphold the Constitution, the entire Democratic Party was also focused on tearing down voter ID laws everywhere they have been passed.