The IRS conservative targeting scandal is going from bad to worse.
Following the Friday revelations that despite all prior appeals to the contrary, the IRS did in fact apply political bias and prejudice in targeting conservative groups who had applied for exempt status (and who knows what other prejudice when targeting non-liberals entities – perhaps it is time to do an analysis of what the ratio of conservatives to liberals audited each year is?), culminating with the farcical response by an IRS official during the Friday press meeting…
In her defense, the IRS official, explained: “I’m a lawyer.”
— Zachary A. Goldfarb (@Goldfarb) May 10, 2013
The operative question to the IRS official is: What is one-quarter of 300?
— Zachary A. Goldfarb (@Goldfarb) May 10, 2013
… this may be just the beginning of a major political scandal which in addition to tangential fallout crushing the alleged “impartiality” of the Obama administration, additionally validates many of the heretofore right-wing “conspiracy theories.” And as Zero Hedge has shown time and again, it is not a conspiracy theory if it is a conspiracy fact.
What makes things worse for the IRS, the US Treasury, its then-head Tim Geithner, and of course, Barack Obama, is that according to a draft report prepared by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, expected to be released this week, and seen by AP, is that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as the spring/summer of 2011, well before the 2012 election as we announced before. What makes matters worse, is that it was not only “low-level” employees as the IRS tried to justify its prejudice on Friday, but high level personnel, among which at least one head of division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, and likely all the way to the very top, that were well aware of the witch hunt.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ”Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says. The 9-12 Project is a group started by conservative TV personality Glenn Beck.
Lerner instructed agents to change the criteria for flagging groups “immediately,” the report says.
Attempts by the IRS to contain the fallout to lower level employees will become very complicated once it becomes public knowledge, that “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.”“
So everyone knew about it.
But this is a very sticky problem because at a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who had previously stated on the record that no groups had been targeted, testified under oath as follows: “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.”
Of course, the IRS is scrambling to contain the fallout in the only way it (and JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs, and every other organization caught with its pants down) knows – the news never got to the top:
“IRS senior leadership was not aware of this level of specific details at the time of the March 2012 hearing,” the statement said. “The timeline does not contradict the commissioner’s testimony. While exempt organizations officials knew of the situation earlier, the timeline reflects that IRS senior leadership did not have this level of detail.”
Lerner’s position is three levels below the commissioner.
“The timeline supports what the IRS acknowledged on Friday that mistakes were made,” the statement continued. “There were not partisan reasons behind this.”
What makes it even worse is that it was not just some radical conservative groups that had been targeted.
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.
So, by implication those who still believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are if not enemies of the US, then certainly subject to far more scrutiny by the country’s tax collectors?
Needless to say, the fury among republicans in Congress is palpable:
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee, said the report “raises serious questions as to who at IRS, Treasury and in the administration knew about this, why this practice was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and how widespread it was.”
“This timeline reveals at least two extremely unethical actions by the IRS. One, as early as 2010, they targeted groups for political purposes. Two, they willfully and knowingly lied to Congress for years despite being aware that Congress was investigating this practice,” Boustany said.
“This is an outrageous abuse of power. Going after organizations for referencing the Bill of Rights or expressing the intent to make this country a better place is repugnant,” Boustany added. “There is no excuse for this behavior.”
The White House, which would not want to touch this issue with a three trillion foot pole has logically distanced itself as far as possible:
On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration expected the inspector general to conduct a thorough investigation, but he brushed aside calls for the White House itself to investigate.
However, one can be certain that with the ascendent GOP, smarting after a year of political debacles and strategic disasters, and feeling emboldened in the aftermath of the Benghazi scandal coverup which in itself is another slap in the face of the “most transparent administration” in history, that the scandal will not be contained to some low-level, Fabrice Tourre-wannabe. Unless of course both the right and the left were in on it. After all, Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush. His 6-year term ended in November.
Which, of course, would mean that for all the theatrics and optics, both the right and the left are, indeed, one.