I think this is a pretty astonishing development myself, and of course so would the assembled ranks of the mainstream media, if Elijah Cummings were a Republican. The clown who has worked night and day to turn this investigation into a circus turns out to be part of the scandal? Everyone in America would know everything there was to know about Elijah Cummings by Friday, and he’d be the target of a brutal “Saturday Night Live” skit.
Cummings needs to be off the committee (and really, should be removed from Congress) until some questions are definitively answered, with supporting documentation:
1. Was confidential tax information disclosed to his staffers by the IRS? That’s a question the House Ways and Means Committee has already asked about Lois Lerner in their criminal referral. Leaks to liberal groups have been a big problem at the politicized IRS. The game changes if any of those leaks involved taxpayer information protected by 26 U.S.C. section 6103. Fines and jail time await those who violate this law. At the moment, we have nothing but the utterly meaningless word of Elijah Cummings that no such illegal disclosure took place.
2. Why did Elijah Cummings conceal his inquiries with the IRS? He keeps ranting about how everyone knows he was a public critic of Catherine Engelbrecht’s True the Vote, but that doesn’t explain why he wasn’t forthcoming about his collusion with Lois Lerner. The American people needed to know about that on Day One of the hearings.
3. Why did the IRS officials who worked with Cummings’ staff, including Lerner and her subordinate Holly Paz (both of whom have enjoyed “administrative leave” because of their actions) conceal Cummings’ inquiry from the rest of the House Oversight Committee? It was obviously highly relevant to the investigation. If nothing improper took place, it should have been disclosed and discussed immediately.
The Democrats are once again trying to stonewall investigations by screaming that all these questions about the IRS amount to a McCarthy witch hunt, which is pretty rich considering that the documented facts of the case clearly point to a witch hunt by the politicized IRS against conservative organizations. It’s amazing to talk to a low-information voter (or deliberately dishonest liberal) who tries to deny this targeting took place, perhaps by waving one of the meaningless be-on-the-lookout lists that included a left-wing organization or two… prepared long after the worst of the witch hunt had already taken place, and leading to no actual harassment of the type Tea Party and pro-life groups received. There is so much the media has kept quiet about this scandal, so many debunked Democrat talking points that are still entertained as valid arguments.
Lost in all this static is that the IRS – specifically, Lois Lerner herself – began this whole saga by admitting they had done something wrong. The level of inappropriate conduct is a topic of urgent interest, but this all started with the agency admitting political targeting had taken place. The only real questions revolve around who ordered it, and we know for a documented fact that the original spin about “rogue low-level agents in Cincinnati” was a deliberate lie. We also need to know why IRS policies were designed and implemented in such a way that conservative organizations were kept on hold forever, rather than receiving the swift approval or denials granted to others.
Cut away all the political posturing, consider sworn testimony and documentation, and the broad outlines of what happened are perfectly clear: Top Democrats, including Elijah Cummings, fingered conservative groups they hated – Tea Party, pro-life, vote-fraud watchdogs – as good subjects for IRS scrutiny. A very compliant official culture at the IRS was happy to oblige them, motivated in part by the Left’s caterwauling over the Citizens United decision. No one thought to direct any of this scrutiny at liberal groups, ever. Eventually they realized how bad this looked, and expanded their BOLO lists to put a couple of liberal organizations on the radar screen, but over ninety percent of the enhanced scrutiny went to conservative organizations, the few liberal groups that received enhanced reviews were selected for very obvious non-political reasons (i.e. ACORN groups masquerading as entirely new organizations) and none of the liberal groups got the heavy-pressure, slow-walk treatment.
We’ve got testimony from IRS officials that they knew exactly what they were doing, specifically regarded the Tea Party as a problem, and took their lead from Democrat politicians and left-wing organizations. As the Wall Street Journal said of yesterday’s House Ways and Means letter, “The most troubling new evidence are documents showing that Mrs. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax exempt status.”
The coordination is obvious, and so are the results. It’s up to investigators to decide if any of this was illegal, but it sure stinks to high heaven, and there’s no reason to believe that stench has dissipated over the past year.