Emails show Lois Lerner deliberately sought to evade oversight
Just for the record, let me repeat that people like former IRS Tax Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner should be in police custody, and the IRS’ computer equipment should have been seized long ago. Barack Obama’s spin that it’s all a “phony scandal” is a million years out of date. It’s not even a story about mere “malfeasance” by renegade officials. The IRS scandal is a criminal conspiracy. The lack of a proper criminal investigation makes this Administration no different than a banana-republic junta.
If all the other evidence isn’t enough to convince you, now we’ve got a new trove of emails showing Lerner deliberately seeking to avoid congressional oversight. She cautions her henchpersons to avoid saying anything provocative in emails that might be reviewed by Congress, and asks if the instant-messaging system used by the IRS creates backup archives that Congress might review. When she’s told the IM system creates no such incriminating archives, she replies, “Perfect.”
This conversation occurred just days after the IRS Inspector General report documented the targeting of conservative groups. It’s the kind of conversation Tony Soprano would have with his goombahs, not the language of high government officials with due respect for the rule of law. (It’s one of the craziest aspects of Democrat spin that they keep trying to pretend there is some question about this, and maybe progressive groups got targeted too. This whole story began with Lerner admitting that conservative groups were improperly targeted, because she knew that’s what the Inspector General’s report would say.)
From the Wall Street Journal:
The emails raised new questions for some lawmakers about Ms. Lerner, the now-retired head of the IRS tax-exempt-organizations division who has become a focus of the inquiry.She wrote the emails to an IRS information technology official and the head of her division’s audit unit.
“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emailsso we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” Ms. Lerner wrote. “Someone asked if [instant messaging] conversations were also searchableI don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?”
“[Instant] messages are not set to automatically save as the standard; however the functionality exists within the software,” the IRS official wrote back. “My general recommendation is to treat the conversation as if it could/is being saved somewhere, as it is possible for either party of the conversation to retain the information and have it turn up as part of an electronic search.”
“Perfect,” Ms. Lerner replied.
The email conversation occurred in early April 2013, just a few days after the agency’s inspector general delivered a critical report on the alleged targeting to IRS officials, GOP lawmakers noted. The inspector general’s report—which concluded that the IRS targeted the conservative groups—was made public about a month later, touching off a political furor.
Naturally, the current commissioner of the IRS, Master Sergeant Hans Georg Schultz… I’m sorry, I was thinking of the other guy who always says he knows nuthink, I mean IRS Commissioner John Koskinen… says he knows nothing about the instant messaging system, or why the existence of that system has never before been mentioned to Congress even though it was obviously covered by subpoenas, or why the IRS Tax Exemption Organizations Division didn’t bother to comply with federal record-keeping laws, or why it took so long to dig up the emails where Lerner tells all her wiseguys to dummy up in case the cops are listening. John Koskinen don’t know nothin’ bout nothin’, and that’s why he should be allowed to keep his job, in accordance with the rules of the Incompetence Defense perfected by the Obama Administration.
As serious as these high crimes are, this passage from the Wall Street Journal is drop-dead hilarious:
The IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, told the committee at a hearing Wednesday that he was unaware of the instant-messaging system. He said he understood that lawmakers’ questions about the system were “important matters.” Mr. Koskinen agreed to quickly provide more information about it.
However, after reviewing the emails he rejected GOP lawmakers’ suggestion that the exchange suggested Ms. Lerner had welcomed the information that the messages weren’t routinely saved. Mr. Koskinen and a Democratic lawmaker noted that the IRS computer official told Ms. Lerner to treat all messages as if they were being saved.
Yeah, that makes everything all right! Tony Soprano’s IT guy said, “Jeez, Tony, don’t say nothin’ incriminating in these instant messages! I don’t think they’re gettin’ saved anywhere, but you never know, okay?” Later, when the fuzz hauled Tony in for questioning, he pled the Fifth, because any answers he gave about his activities could be self-incriminating. And that means Tony can’t possibly be a crook.
It is often said that the IRS scandal threatens to shake the faith of the American people in their system of government – not just in whatever Administration happens to the running the show at the moment, but the whole enduring system – because it shows that federal power can be weaponized for nakedly political purposes. The vast powers of the IRS are the most potent weapon Americans have ever placed in the hands of their government, because the nature of our insanely complex and intrusive tax system requires us to be stripped of so many legal protections before the unblinking gaze of the tax agency. I’d argue that the IRS is a more formidable weapon than the actual weapons in the hands of federal agents and the military, because it’s more commonly deployed and reaches further. We’re getting into some pretty crazy hypothetical scenarios when we envision armed commandos storming into the offices of Tea Party and pro-life groups across the land and shooting everybody. Even if you worry that the militarization of police forces is heading in that direction, it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not going to happen tomorrow.
But the IRS scandal did happen. It will happen again, because so far, they’ve gotten away with it. And the next time it happens, they’ll have mountains of personal and medical data to play with on top of financial information, thanks to ObamaCare. There haven’t been any serious repercussions for anyone involved, despite President Obama briefly pretending to fire the acting IRS commissioner when he thought some phony action was necessary to get him through a tough news cycle.
The cute little games played by Democrats to protect the Obama Administration will only further erode the confidence of Americans in their system of government. This latest batch of Lerner emails pushes us further toward the conclusion that there is no effective oversight of these agencies, and the political operatives who run them. They can get away with anything, as long as they’re careful not to create and store anything that would decisively sink them. They can even get away with openly discussing techniques to avoid accountability, and the worst consequence will be some feisty congressional hearings at which Democrats – the Party of Government – step forward to protect their loyal servants. With a little help from the partisan media, there is no Democrat scandal that cannot be dragged out until it dies of old age. That’s one of the reasons it’s incredibly dangerous to transform the media into the only effective oversight system in a multi-trillion-dollar centralized State.
Damage control doesn’t even require fall guys, or gals, any more. Lois Lerner retired with full benefits. The possibility that a few loyal soldiers might face penalties, professional disgrace, or even jail time is not at all sufficient to restrain abuse of power by a massive central government, but at least it’s something, and we don’t even have that any more.
A few weeks ago, author Mark Steyn, who is embroiled in a defamation suit with global-warming guru Michael Mann, gave this explanation for why he would not set up a legal defense fund to collect contributions from supporters:
The National Organization for Marriage, which was founded to protect the pre-revisionist definition of marriage, is, in its various arms, both a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4. As such, its tax returns are publicly available, but not its donor lists. Nevertheless, it is obliged to report its donors on Schedule B to the Internal Revenue Service. Someone at the IRS leaked the donor lists to a man called Matthew Meisel, a gay activist in Boston. Meisel in turn passed it on to the gay group Human Rights Campaign (whose president was a national co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign), and HRC in turn published the list of donors, which was subsequently re-published by The Huffington Post.
There’s no secret about why they’d do such a thing. As we know, if you disagree with progressive orthodoxy, you have no right to host a cable-TV home-decor show or give a commencement address at an American university or be a beauty-queen contestant. But that’s not enough for these groups. If you’re not a public figure, if you’re just a Californian who puts up a yard sign or a bumper sticker on Proposition Eight, your car will be keyed and your house defaced. And likewise, if you slip a check in the mail for a modest sum, it is necessary that you also be made an example of. Brandon Eich, Richard Raddon and Scott Eckern all lost prominent positions as chief executives because of their donations. But Marjorie Christoffersen, a 67-year-old Mormon who works in the El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeles, was forced to quit because she wrote a $100 check in support of Proposition Eight.
So, when it comes to the leaking of donor lists, we’re not dealing with anything “theoretically” or “potentially” “troubling”. These guys act on this information, and act hard, and they are willing to destroy your life for a hundred bucks.
After years of wrangling, there finally were some consequences for the IRS handing over confidential donor information from the National Organization for Marriage to its political enemies: a $50,000 fine, paid by taxpayers. And that’s after the IRS admitted criminal guilt. No individual suffered in any way. The corrupt Justice Department did not leap forward to investigate the crime and prosecute the perpetrators. No fall guys or gals.
Steyn said he would not subject his readers to the possibility of such abuse, preferring to raise his funds by selling copies of books and souvenirs through his web site instead. Every political dissident in this country needs to play by those rules now. It would be irrational to reach any other conclusion. You can still speak and write individually, for the most part, but if you organize, you must assume any information you provide to this corrupt government will be used against you. In other words, you need to regard the federal government exactly the same way Lois Lerner and her cronies regarded congressional oversight committees.
Crime almost always involves some cost/benefit analysis – from robbery, to violating the U.S. border, to high government officials taking bribes or abusing their powers. The potential rewards are balanced against the risk of detection and prosecution. The rewards for what Lois Lerner did were vast – it is quite possible she helped turn the 2012 election, as the entire U.S. media would be loudly explaining to you every single day, if this was a story about Republican operatives using the IRS against left-wing groups. The risk of detection and prosecution is essentially zero. The next Lois Lerner will shred hard drives, conveniently fail to print hardcopies, and take the Fifth. The next Tax Exempt Organizations bureaucracy will drag its feet for years and dribble out subpoenaed documents to frustrated congressional overseers, while Party hacks scream that the whole thing is a phony scandal. The next John Koskinen will claim he doesn’t know anything about anything. Therefore, it will happen again.