Report: 'Culture of bias' at IRS against Tea Party

A report by the House Oversight Committee on the IRS targeting of conservative groups has accused the agency of harboring a "culture of bias" against conservatives and alleges that the abuses were far more widespread than the administration has admitted to.

The Hill:

The report, from Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), seeks to undercut the administration’s explanations for the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups, including that the conduct was centered in a Cincinnati office and that confusing regulations played a role.

While the 210-page report finds no evidence that Obama or White House officials ordered the special treatment of Tea Party groups, it says the record points to a “culture of bias against conservative organizations among certain IRS employees."

That bias, the report says, underscores that the IRS is no longer the neutral tax collector it claims to be, at a time when its employees are tasked with implementing Obama’s signature healthcare law.

“Evidence shows 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 report says.

Issa says the IRS took cues from Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave corporations and unions freer rein to spend on elections.

“The rhetoric led the IRS to hold a deeply skeptical view of the merits of applications filed by new conservative groups,” the GOP report says. 

The report also says that as many as eight senior IRS officials could have stopped the improper scrutiny — which lasted for over two years — but the agency was frozen by “bad judgment, inexperience, and bureaucratic rigidity.”

The Oversight panel has yet to conclude its probe into the IRS’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups. But Issa is handing over the Oversight gavel to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in January, and decided to circulate a report laying out where the committee’s investigation stands.

There's nothing in this report that we didn't know already, but the conclusions are shocking.  The implications of a rogue agency targeting the political opponents of Democrats are frightening.  This is something the new GOP Congress must address.

But Congress can do only so much to reform an executive department agency.  Leadership in the reform process must come from the White House.  And given this president's belief that there is not a "smidgeon of corruption" in the IRS, chances that the culture at the agency will change are slim.

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