IRS scandal damage control fails
I can’t remember ever seeing a scandal that evolved as quickly as the IRS oppression story. Even President Obama’s efforts to bury it are blowing up in real-time, within hours of the silly, cowardly “press conference” he gave yesterday, at which he didn’t take any questions.
The UK Daily Mail breaks out the sad trombones:
In a hastily called press conference in the East Room of the White House, Obama told reporters that he had asked Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to find out who was responsible for a program that targeted tea party groups and other conservative organizations for a special level of intrusive questioning after they applied for tax-exempt charitable statuses.
‘Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting director of the IRS,’ Obama said.
‘It’s important,’ he added, ‘to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.’
But in an email to IRS employees, Miller claimed he would only be leaving next month because his assignment would be over.
‘It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June,’ Miller wrote. ‘This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency.’
[...] Miller’s farewell letter cited ‘a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency.’
‘I believe the Service will benefit from having a new Acting Commissioner in place during this challenging period,’ he wrote. ‘As I wrap up my time at the IRS, I will be focused on an orderly transition.’
Either Miller was trying to save face by falsely telling his entire agency that he was scheduled to leave anyway… or he’s seriously soft-pedaling his termination by describing it as merely the “end” of his temporary assignment, which makes Obama’s tough-guy rhetoric look foolish… or Miller’s tenure as Acting Commissioner was scheduled to end in June anyway. The Most Transparent Administration in History should be able to cough up some documentation that would establish when Miller was scheduled to leave. [Update: The Daily Caller has a source who says Miller was planning to leave in June anyway.]
If Obama’s really so angry at Miller for either ignoring or covering up the scandal, why wouldn’t he be shown the door immediately? His continuation in the office for even one more day is dangerous. Who knows what data he might destroy in the weeks remaining to him? The same is true of every official involved in the scandal, all the way up the chain of command. They should all be escorted from IRS premises by armed federal law enforcement agents immediately, because every hour someone like IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner is allowed to access IRS records is an hour that vital evidence could be deleted or shredded.
But that’s probably not going to happen, because Lois Lerner personally signed off on the tax exemption paperwork for the charity run by President Obama’s half-brother, and her husband’s law firm “hosted an organizing meeting at its Atlanta office for people interested in helping with voter registration for the Obama re-election campaign,” and a partner at the firm was named U.S. Ambassador to Singapore by Obama, according to the Daily Caller.
Oh, and it looks like just about everyone in the Cincinnati office was an Obama campaign donor, and most of the officials named in the Inspector General’s report have long histories of partisan Democrat activity, according to the Washington Examiner:
The Cincinnati office where the political targeting took place is much more partisan, judging by FEC filings. More than 75 percent of the campaign contributions from that office in the past three elections went to Democrats. In 2012, every donation traceable to employees at that office went to either President Obama or liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The IRS officials whose names appear in the IG report are also Democrats with partisan histories. William Wilkins, IRS general counsel and one of the agency’s two explicitly political appointees, is a former Democratic congressional aide, lobbyist (clients included the Swiss Bankers Association), and Democratic donor.
Joseph H. Grant, who ran the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division that includes the Cincinnati office, is a former Democratic staffer on the House Ways & Means Committee.
But that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with all this “rogue low-level” activity, could it? And surely those political connections won’t mean much now that Barack Obama is quivering with righteous anger. From the Daily Mail:
The IRS, the president conceded, ‘improperly screened conservative groups.’ He referred to a report released Tuesday by the IRS’s Inspector General.
‘The misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable,’ Obama exclaimed. ‘It’s inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it.’
Yes, he was so angry about it that he claims he didn’t know anything was wrong until he read about it in a newspaper on Friday afternoon, and he didn’t say one damn word about it until he was directly asked to comment on the scandal by a reporter at a Monday joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
We know what Barack Obama’s genuine anger looks like, because he frequently rails against the same groups the IRS targeted for political audits. Odd coincidence, that. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talked about the “Obama culture of intimidation” on Twitter:
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 15, 2013
We read about other places where leaders use govt to muscle dissent & opponents.Now realize that this #POTUS making us one of those places
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 16, 2013
All you Obama dead-enders in the press, and on liberal blogs, can stop pretending the IRS scandal was no big deal. Your glorious leader just described it as “inexcusable,” so you can stop trying to excuse it. Further instructions from the high command will doubtless be forthcoming.
One of the last people you’d expect to lose patience with Obama is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, but he sounded rather exasperated last night, as transcribed by Politico:
“What part of the presidency does Obama like? He doesn’t like dealing with other politicians — that means his own cabinet, that means members of the congress, either party. He doesn’t particularly like the press…. He likes to write the speeches, likes to rewrite what Favreau and the others wrote for the first draft,” Matthews said.
“So what part does he like? He likes going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in Ohio or somewhere,” Matthews continued. “But what part does he like? He doesn’t like lobbying for the bills he cares about. He doesn’t like selling to the press. He doesn’t like giving orders or giving somebody the power to give orders. He doesn’t seem to like being an executive.”
On Tuesday’s program, Matthews similarly called Obama “a ship with the engine off.”
The IRS efforts at damage control fell apart Wednesday night, as early mutterings about two “rogue low-level agents,” who had already been “disciplined” in some unspecified way, were superseded by an announcement from Fox 19 in Cincinnati that at least four employees from that storied IRS office were involved… and they don’t sound like “rogues” at all.
Despite the claim of just two employees being involved, FOX19 has exclusively learned from two separate sources that there could be at least four Cincinnati employees involved.
Those four employees, whose names we have chosen to withhold until they have been officially confirmed, have each worked in the IRS Exempt Organizations Department.
This is the same department that has admitted publicly to sending letters to Tea Party and other conservative organizations.
FOX19 has also confirmed those four Cincinnati employees made large requests of information from:
- The Richmond, Virginia Tea Party in January of 2012.
- The Ohio Liberty Council in January of 2012..
- Dan Backer, a lawyer based in Washington D.C. who helped six small conservative groups apply for 501c4 status in February of 2012.
- The Liberty Township Tea Party in March of 2012.
One of FOX19′s two sources went on say that these four IRS workers claim “they simply did what their bosses ordered.” FOX19 reported on Tuesday that the report by the Office of Inspector General states that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting Tea Party groups as early as 2011.
CNBC reports that House hearings will get underway as early as this Friday. “My question isn’t about who is going to have to resign,” growled House Speaker John Boehner. “My question is, who is going to jail over this scandal.”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on May 22, according to an aide for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Republican committee.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Neil Wolin; former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman; Lois Lerner, chief of the IRS tax exempt unit; and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George are being asked to testify.
The Justice Department began a criminal investigation Tuesday, while a number of congressional Republicans called for the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.
On Friday, a separate House committee will hold the first hearing on the matter since it erupted last week. George and Miller will testify there.
For the benefit of anyone who still doubts the aggressively partisan nature of this IRS effort at crushing the First Amendment, Chris Moody at Yahoo News has a fun little story about a proudly “free-market, free-enterprise, full-spectrum conservative” group called Media Trackers, run by former Republican National Committee staffer Drew Ryun, who came up with a clever way to get past the Democrat apparatchiks at the Tax Exempt Organizations unit:
Eight months passed without word from the agency about the group’s application, Ryun said. In February 2012, Ryun’s attorney contacted the IRS to ask if it needed more information to secure its nonprofit status as a 501(c)3 organization. According to Ryun, the IRS told him that the application was being processed by the agency’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio—the same one currently facing scrutiny for targeting conservative groups—and to check back in two months.
As directed, Ryun followed up with the IRS in April 2012, and was told that Media Trackers’ application was still under review.
When September 2012 arrived with still no word from the IRS, Ryun determined that Media Trackers would likely never obtain standalone nonprofit status, and he tried a new approach: He applied for permanent nonprofit status for a separate group called Greenhouse Solutions, a pre-existing organization that was reaching the end of its determination period.
The IRS approved Greenhouse Solutions’ request for permanent nonprofit status in three weeks.
Speaker Boehner is absolutely right. People need to spend a good chunk of the rest of their lives in jail for this. And not just “low-level” fall guys. But those low-level guys might have some interesting things to say, once it’s plea-bargain time. That’s how organized criminal gangs are usually dismantled.
Update: The New York Times notes that once congressional Republicans responded to complaints from oppressed Tea Party groups and began scrutinizing the IRS, a big pile of conservative applications were suddenly approved. Shazam! It’s like everyone suddenly became Barack Obama’s half-brother!