The Conversation

CPAC Panelists See More Than a Smidgen of Corruption at the IRS

Why did the IRS targeting scandal happen? The answer according to attorney Cleta Mitchell, who represents several of the Tea Party groups whose 501(c)(4) status was delayed, says it all comes back to Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision announced in January 2010.

"That Supreme Court decision absolutely traumatized the left and continues to do that to this day," Mitchell said during a panel on the IRS scandal at CPAC Friday. It meant that the Tea Party which had formed a core of opposition to health reform and other Democratic priorities could, in theory, funnel money into future elections.

Eliana Johnson of National Review has covered the story closely including breaking news that the targeting was not limited to a small office in Cincinnati as the administration initially claimed. She said the media was initially interested in the story but over time lost interest as the White House and its allies argued that unless there was a smoking gun phone call or email, there was no scandal.

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, who moderated the panel, pointed out that there is no need for a phone call when you have a megaphone. He was referring to the long list of public statements President Obama had made denouncing Citizens United as a threat to American democracy starting in early 2010 and continuing until a couple months before the midterm elections.

Christine O'Donnell, former candidate for Senate, was personally scrutinized by the IRS. On the day she announced her candidacy an IRS employee accessed her tax records. O'Donnell did not learn what had happened until 2013 when she was told by a Treasury investigator. O'Donnell says that later the same day a tax lien was placed by the IRS against a property she no longer owned. Two weeks later the IRS retracted the lien and claimed it had been a mistake but the damage to her candidacy had already been done.

Cleta Mitchell said that in addition "at least four conservative groups had their donor information released." But the IRS will not release the names of the employees who leaked the information claiming that information is protected.

Several investigations into the IRS scandal are still ongoing, though President Obama seemed to prejudge the outcome recently when he told Bill O'Reilly there was not even a "smidgen of corruption" at the IRS. That claim is at odds with Lois Lerner's continued refusal to testify before Congress. Lerner asserted her 5th amendment right not to testify for the 2nd time during a hearing held this week.


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