IRS Vs. Conservatives: Corruption Or Incompetence
Corruption: We're supposed to believe "low-level workers" are behind IRS abuse of conservatives. But this White House has used the IRS against political enemies before.
'I'm not good at math," said an apologetic director of the Internal Revenue Service's tax-exempt entities division on Friday, after the agency's targeting of conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election became known.
Groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were harassed. But we're assured political bias wasn't the motivation (nothing political about "tea party," right?) and that higher-ups never knew.
It's not outlandish that a few tax-collector functionaries might get riled up against those blasting big government. Pettiness and abuse are often what government bureaucrats do best. Think of your local DMV.
Then again, the Washington Post reported Friday that the IRS division head "had no plans to release the information publicly, despite the confirmed wrongdoing."
Recall a chilling memo from Nixon White House counsel John Dean in 1971 describing how "we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies." Dean emphasized that "a low visibility of the project is imperative." The Watergate break-in seemed low level, but relentless reporting found it led to the top. Within 27 months a presidency was toppled.
We know the Obama administration is capable of misusing the IRS. In 2010, an attorney for donors Charles and David Koch told the Weekly Standard of a senior Obama aide telling reporters that the Kochs "do not pay corporate income tax" through their firm. He wondered how the White House got his clients' private information from the IRS.
In March 2012, talk-radio host and Landmark Legal Foundation President Mark Levin asked the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration to probe the IRS' exempt organizations division for its "intimidating investigation tactics in the administration of applications for exempt status submitted by organizations associated with the Tea Party movement."
And then last June, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and regulatory subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, echoed Levin's call for an investigation into what they called "conservative organizations being the target of the IRS's heightened scrutiny."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday called "on the White House to conduct a transparent, governmentwide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views."
Even if the rot doesn't lead to the top, it will be yet another example of President Obama's serious management inadequacies.