Thanks to an assortment of delay tactics, including a colorful episode where former Tax Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner was depicted as a one-woman electromagnetic pulse bomb who caused every hard drive she walked past to detonate like a firecracker, the investigation into IRS corruption has been running for four years now. Needless to say, the Obama-friendly media long ago dismissed it as an “old story.” That’s funny because it very nearly began – before the 2012 election! – with the deputy commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service admitting that it was very hot indeed, according to Fox News.
Fox describes the new report from House Republicans:
Then-Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller wrote in an email in June 2012, about a month before a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, that he was weighing whether to testify to “put a stake” in the “c4” issue — apparently a reference to allegations about politics playing a role in the agency’s denial of tax-exempt, 501(c)(4) status to conservative-leaning groups.
“I am beginning to wonder whether I should do [the hearing] and affirmatively use it to put a stake in politics and c4,” Miller told his chief of staff, Nikole Flax, in a June 2012 email obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Miller ultimately testified at the July 25 hearing but never revealed his knowledge of the misconduct.
“Because he did not, he did a great disservice to the American taxpayers,” the House oversight committee report states.
So Miller wanted to come clean, but for some reason, he changed his mind and began the pattern of obfuscation, slow-walking and mighty morphin’ excuses that enabled Team Obama to drag one of the biggest scandals in the history of American government out, until friendly media could pronounce it dead. Outside of Fox News and alternative media, the IRS scandal is written about as though it were an ambiguous series of murky allegations made centuries ago, with the truth a matter for historians to quibble about in their appendices.
In fact, because Miller clammed up, it would be half a year after the election before Lois Lerner, nervous about the impending drop of an Inspector General report, arranged a planted question at a media event and casually admitted to the core allegation of the scandal: her division targeted conservative groups for unequal treatment based on their political stances. Everything that happened after that long-forgotten “question” asked of Lerner during a public event was a tornado of spin and concealment. Low-level rogue employees in Cincinnati were fingered as scapegoats … but then we found out their orders were coming from Washington. The agency tried to walk back Lerner’s concession of politicized misconduct by claiming liberal groups were targeted too … but they weren’t. Left-wing keywords weren’t even added to the notorious “be on the lookout” lists until after IRS officials began worrying that their targeting was too obviously slanted against President Obama’s political opponents. Subpoenaed correspondence vanished into the ether. Revelations about connections between Lerner and other agencies, including her old colleagues at the Federal Elections Commission and people very close to the White House, were dribbled out slowly, largely ignored by a press that decided this story ended decisively when Lerner retired with full benefits.
There was even an effort to claim that politicized corruption at the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations division was organic – the nearly unconscious biases of individual officials who seriously disliked the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and were worried about the undue influence of the organizations they regulated upon American politics. Their personal political biases led them to individually, and nearly unanimously, hassle Tea Party and pro-life groups. That doesn’t explain why they all adopted the same tactics of intimidation and delay – demanding personal and donor information from conservative organizations, slow-walking their applications into a limbo that conveniently lasted until after the 2012 election – rather than swiftly and succinctly denying their tax-exempt applications.
As the new report reminds us, an awful lot of people in the Obama administration worked very hard not to get to the bottom of any of this, including investigative agencies that just happened to have been plugged into the scheme:
“Only a month after Attorney General (Eric) Holder announced the administration’s investigation, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller was unable to answer basic questions about the status,” the report states. “Even as recently as July 2014, after the IRS informed Congress that it had destroyed two years of Lerner’s e-mails, the FBI continued its refusal to provide any information about its investigation.”
In addition, the Justice Department at one point was willing to pursue criminal prosecutions against the tax-exempt groups, based on information obtained by the IRS, according to documents obtained by House GOP investigators.
And the IRS failed to provide sufficient internal oversight, the report concludes.
“Congress created administrative oversight entities within the Executive Branch to ensure the IRS carries out its mission efficiently and responsibly,” the report states. “These entities — specifically, the IRS Oversight Board and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration — exist to ensure that IRS misconduct does not occur and, if it does, to identify and address it immediately. In the case of the IRS’s targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants, these administrative oversight entities failed in their missions.”
Another take on the House Republican report from the Washington Examiner warns that the politicization of the IRS is broad and deep, inspired as much by Obamacare as it was by the Tea Party targeting program:
Events and decisions that led to the targeting of more than 200 conservative and Tea Party groups, as well as a handful of liberal applicants, received the bulk of attention in the report, but the committee’s investigators also pointed to how what they described as the IRS’s “outsized role in implementing Obamacare — a highly partisan law rammed through Congress without any meaningful bipartisan compromise — has fundamentally transformed the tax agency.”
The tax agency could add as many as 19,000 new agents to ensure the Obamacare program’s health insurance premium subsidies go only to qualified individuals.
The transformation has produced “an IRS responsive to the partisan policy objectives of the White House and an IRS leadership that coordinates with political appointees of the Obama administration.”
The inability of tax agency officials “to keep politics out of objective decisions about interpretation of the tax code damaged its primary function: an apolitical tax collector that Americans can trust to treat them fairly.
“Not only did IRS employees allow politics to seep into their work from February 2010 to May 2012, but even after agency officials learned of misconduct, the response from senior agency officials was to manage the fallout rather than quickly expose and correct the misconduct,” the House investigators said.
This underlines a point numerous critics of the tax system made after the targeting scandal broke: the level of power delegated to the IRS is inherently corrupting. They’re empowered to gather too much information about American citizens, in the course of implementing a twisted tax code that virtually begs to be used as a political instrument. Every year at tax time, we get to enjoy a little ritual of Big Government worship in which IRS officials admit that not even they can reliably interpret every provision of the tax code; even the most conscientious, hard-working, best-trained front line agents give incorrect answers to tax questions with shocking frequency. Having said that, the grim tax code god is allowed to continue its inscrutable reign without any significant effort to resolve its mysteries – world of arbitrary rule without end, amen. There isn’t time for serious reform, not when this immense government needs to harvest and consume billions of dollars every week. There evidently isn’t time for much in the way of accountability, either. Power can only fully express itself in the absence of restraint.
The targeting scandal is an exceptionally vivid illustration of how the mechanisms of Big Government are remorselessly subverted to feed its agenda, defeat its enemies, and serve the interests of those with the right connections. Another vivid demonstration will be staged when the IRS gets cracking on all of the improperly-claimed Obamacare subsidies and enforcing the mandates that have thus far been waived by imperial decree to suit President Obama’s political needs. The new House report provides further evidence that there is no way to reform this system without changing its essence; no reliable measurement of where politics ends and impartial law begins; no way to separate the cancer of corruption from the vital feeding organs of government. The tax system is what needs to be taken apart and rebuilt. The Internal Revenue Service, like every other large government agency, is but a reflection of the system it serves.
The fact that all of this information comes from a Republican report that Democrats breezily dismiss as a partisan document, while most of the media ignores it, buttresses the case. There will be more abuses like the Tea Party targeting scandal, which was last described as an “abuse” by any high-ranking Democrat on the day Barack Obama pretended to fire a temporary commissioner and vowed to get to the bottom of it.