During Thursday’s IRS scandal hearing in the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Democrats pushed a new line of attack against the inquiry and a new line of defense for the Obama administration. Led by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democrats directly assaulted IRS Inspector General J. Russell George, charging that his investigation is politically motivated.
Specifically, Norton and Cummings assailed George for not investigating any potential targeting of progressive groups. George noted in his rebuttals that the IRS had failed to even provide any documents showing any targeting of progressive groups until very recently, and that he was “disturbed” by the agency’s slowness.
The Democrats’ new line on the scandal is risible. First, George noted that the mandate of his investigation was not to go on a fishing expedition examining all tax-exempt applications, but to address the specific concerns of Tea Party and other conservative groups that had been brought to him. Why had those concerns been brought to him?
Because no progressive groups were complaining that the IRS was subjecting them to invasive questioning and holding up their applications for tax-exempt status. None.
After the story broke, a handful of progressive groups piped up to say that they were targeted. Those claims turned out to be less than credible.
In fact, the evidence brought to light so far shows that at least 298 right-of-center and religious groups were subjected to invasive questioning, and their applications were dragged out through two election cycles. At the same time, the IRS was approving progressive groups at a furious rate. Any “targeting” of those left-of-center groups amounted to putting them on the autobahn to approval.
Thursday’s hearing dropped one serious bombshell on the Obama administration. Since May 10, when Lois Lerner floated the agency’s apology while blaming the abuse on “rogue employees” in the IRS office in Cincinnati, the origins of the abuse have moved far up the chain of command. One of those “rogue employees,” Elizabeth Hofacre, testified Thursday that she was only acting on orders from her superiors. Her direct superior was Carter Hull, a 48-year veteran of the IRS. Hull testified right next to Hofacre and said that he, too, was only acting on the orders of his superiors. In fact, he sent inquiries about the Tea Party applications up the chain to the IRS in Washington and got nothing but a run-around. Hull testified that the IRS chief counsel’s office was in control of handling the applications.
The IRS chief counsel is one of two political appointees at the agency. The other is the commissioner, who at the time of the abuse was acting commissioner Stephen Miller. In his own previous sworn testimony, Miller said that the abuse was merely “poor customer service” from that Cincinnati office.
Barack Obama appointed William Wilkins to be the IRS chief counsel in April 2009.What did this Obama appointee know about the IRS abuse, and when did he know it? And, what did he do about it when he learned of it?