Slow Tuesdays at the IRS: Hey, let's audit a Republican

In response to Lois Lerner Sought Audit Involving Sen Chuck Grassley:

It’s not surprising that the outrage meter pegged on this because the target was a sitting Republican Senator who just happens to be sitting on the Finance Committee.  (I know some people think Lerner actually wanted to hit the organization extending the invitation, which would be more in line with her purview as Tax Exempt Organizations honcho, but the no-can-do reply from her subordinate specifically refers to Grassely’s tax returns, not the redacted organization.)  

But compared to what else Lerner has been involved in, it’s more like a juicy footnote, a bit of context that would be somewhat amusing, if the depths of the IRS scandal were not so sinister.  The notion of a Senator’s mail accidentally ending up on Darth Lerner’s desk would have made a terrific Abbott and Costello routine, with Bud Abbot in drag for the Lerner half of the act.

A few things that struck me about this little caper:

1. It’s remarkably how poor Lerner’s understanding of basic tax law is.  The response from her subordinate explained the extremely obvious fact that nobody can be held accountable for doing anything wrong if the proffered expenses for Mrs. Grassley to attend the event in question were correctly reported on tax forms.  It’s like the police chief wondering if a guy can get busted for shoplifting because he just took a suit off the rack, and his deputy pointing out that it’s not a crime until the guy exits the store with the merchandise after failing to pay.

2. The lazy opportunism of the conversation is enlightening in the context of the more serious offenses Lerner stands accused of. Hmm, I just got a Republican Senator’s invite to an event by mistake, let’s see if there’s anything here we could “refer for exam.”

3. One of Lerner’s emails was sent from her Blackberry… which the IRS Commissioner claimed he didn’t know she had.  Wonder how many other interesting “sent from my Blackberry” emails there are.  Anyone taking side bets on what the story will be if Congress demands to see Lerner’s smartphone?  I’ll take an outside bet on “crashed after I accidentally wore it into an MRI machine,” or maybe “accidentally dropped it into an active volcano.”

4. Boy, those Tax Exempt Organizations officials sure do have plenty of time to cut up and kick around the possibility of randomly auditing anyone who crosses their path, don’t they?  Wonder why it took years for them to ponder all those Tea Party applications, when they’ve got such a laid-back office environment.