IRS targeting guided by political leaders and media
House investigators are passing around an interim report on the IRS scandal that says agents were “‘acutely’ aware in 2010 that President Obama wanted to crack down on conservative organizations and were egged into targeting Tea Party groups by press reports mocking the emerging movement,” according to the Washington Times:
The report, by staffers for Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, quoted two Internal Revenue Service officials saying the tea party applications were singled out in the targeting program that has the agency under investigation because “they were likely to attract media attention.”
In the report, the investigators do not find evidence that IRS employees received orders from politicians to target the tea party, and agency officials deny overt bias or political motives.
But the report says the IRS was at least taking cues from political leaders and designed special policies to review tea party applications, including dispatching some of them to Washington to be vetted by headquarters.
“As prominent politicians publicly urged the IRS to take action on tax-exempt groups engaged in legal campaign intervention activities, the IRS treated tea party applications differently,” the staff report concludes. “Applications filed by tea party groups were identified and grouped due to media attention surrounding the existence of the tea party in general.”
This fits with the “Henry II” theory of the IRS scandal, in which King Barack I thundered, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome Tea Party?” The next thing you know, Thomas Becket’s application for a tax exemption is being held up in bureaucratic limbo, and the knights of Ye Olde Internal Revenue are demanding he had over his prayer books and donor lists.
As the Washington Times observes, it doesn’t sit very well with the ludicrous Democrat narrative that a couple of progressive groups kinda sorta got hassled too, so there’s no abuse-of-power scandal.
The Republican oversight report traces the growing pressure on the IRS to act, beginning with Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in his 2010 State of the Union address to calls from top members of Congress for the IRS to give special scrutiny to tea party applications.
Emails among IRS officials, and committee interviews with them, show agency employees were aware of the pressure, sending one another news reports and commenting — in sometimes derisive language — about the tea party applications.
One key question in the political debate has been how the IRS treated progressive groups and whether they received the same treatment as tea party organizations.
The committee report says the liberal groups were generally given quick approval, while some tea party applications are still awaiting approval three years after they were submitted.
The bad news about their cherished “progressive groups had trouble too” meme won’t hit obstructionist Democrats too hard, because they figure they’ve already dragged this thing out long enough to diffuse public anger and weather the storm. It would have been colossally stupid for anyone in the White House to leave written evidence of targeting orders lying around, but maybe a key figure like Tax Exempt Organizations Division head Lois Lerner will eventually crack and testify that someone gave her direct instructions. In that case, Democrats would simply deny everything and lunge to discredit her.
Maybe there didn’t have to be anything more than strong hints, media coverage, and a bit of finger-pointing from the likes of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is on record “urging the IRS to investigate political spending by Crossroads GPS, a group associated with former George W. Bush political strategist Karl Rove,” as the Washington Times recalls. In that case, the machinery of oppression is standing by for reactivation at any time. No one has been punished, only a few important figures have retired, and some of those Tea Party applications are still on ice. Media targeting systems are still hooked up to IRS artillery; the ruling class knows who its enemies are, and how to hurt them. If power can be abused effectively and without repercussions once, it will be abused again.
Now just try to imagine if the Bush White House had orchestrated a media campaign against some prominent liberal movement – say, environmentalist or civil-rights groups – and the IRS had subsequently interfered with their finances in a wildly disproportionate manner, leading to a Democrat loss in the next presidential race…