The left's crowing that Lois Lerner's IRS targeted even-handedly all along rings hollow
Collective guilt assuaged, the left is now crowing that the IRS was even-handed all along in its targeting of tax-exempt groups for political harassment under the Obama administration. It wasn't just the Tea Party; it was plenty of leftist groups, too – so the claim goes, and it was made a few years ago without much merit. Now, with a new Treasury Department report out, I still don't buy it.
One good example of this thinking is from the Washington Post's Paul Farhi, who would have you think, hyuk hyuk, in his vaguely patronizing accusation, that the mea culpas now belong on the side of the people who didn't like what the IRS really had been caught doing:
It all seemed to add up. At least it did then.
The Internal Revenue Service, according to outraged Republicans and many media accounts at the time, targeted tea party organizations and other conservative nonprofit groups that were seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012. Critics said the tax agency had subjected the targeted groups to extra scrutiny, questioning and long delays, largely because their names suggested they would be political opponents of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.
The allegations formed one of the best-known scandals of former president Barack Obama's administration and led to months of congressional hearings, official investigations and damning news coverage.
Now, it seems, it wasn't so simple.
A report released Thursday by the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax matters indicates that the IRS also singled out nearly 150 organizations whose names suggested they were affiliated with liberal organizations. Without specifically characterizing the politics of the groups, the report said the IRS initiated reviews when applicants' names included words such as "occupy," "progressive" and "green energy" between 2004 and 2013.
Presumably, Farhi has seen the TIGTA report, which, as of now, is not up on the TIGTA website. That alone raises red flags, given the political flip it implies. All that's there now is a press release describing two previous audit reports and an unfulfilled promise to release a new one. A link to the TIGTA report Farhi cites takes you to an earlier Washington Post report announcing the upcoming report rather than the report itself.
That's what make it so easy for Farhi to suddenly revise the history of what the IRS did to Tea Party political groups as if nothing ever happened and denounce them as a bunch of paranoid gun-jumpers for being unhappy about it.
There still are a lot of unanswered questions.
For one, why did they try to cover it up so much? Why would it have been so hard for them to say it was all sides of the spectrum targeted by those rogue actors in that Cincinnati office (as they falsely originally claimed) instead of lie for years about the existence of their political persecutions? Jenny Beth Martin, a Tea Party leader, writing in The Hill, describes what they did:
Just a year ago, House conservatives began the process of impeaching [IRS Commissioner John]Koskinen, based on his decision to mislead Congress and his failure to respond properly to Congress' attempt to investigate the IRS targeting scandal.
Specifically, Koskinen lied to Congress when he declared he had produced all of disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner's emails, even though the IRS's Inspector General said backup tapes held thousands of her emails intact. He failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to Congress' ongoing investigation of the IRS targeting scandal. He allowed subpoenaed documents – including 422 tapes that may have contained as many as 24,000 Lerner emails – to be destroyed on his watch.
Yet he survived, and, contrary to what the mainstream media would have you believe, the targeting is still happening.
Again, if all members of the political spectrum were targeted, why the cover-up? Why didn't the IRS plainly say all groups were targeted?
Meanwhile, recall IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner's repulsively partisan emails, done on the company dime, revealing her heavy left-wing bias and hatred for conservatives. Was this really someone who operated at that agency fairly?
Speaking of Lerner, why would she have needed to take the Fifth in front of Congress when there was supposedly such an easy bipartisan explanation for her targeting?
And why were there 155 meetings between Lerner's tax-exempt office and the White House?
The claim that left-wing groups were also targeted has a small amount of merit, given that the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was one of the leftwing groups named, did have its origins in the anti-Obama left. It never was a friend of Obama and the many government agencies he led because its main argument is that he leaned too far to the right. But if so, it would signal that Obama's IRS targeted dissidents no matter what their orientation, not that there was no there there.
Another problem is the timeline: Occupy came on the scene later (September 2011) than the Tea Party groups (February 2009) and didn't begin to institutionalize much until years after that. It was famous for its rule-flouting, so any interest in paying taxes or avoiding the taxman came years after its initial burst onto the scene. The addition of leftist groups for IRS targeting largely came largely at that point, and after the original IRS targeting scandal broke in 2013. The leftist groups were simply added to cover the IRS's partisan tracks against the Tea Parties and the scandal that followed. There were no complaints from Occupy about the IRS targeting scandal when the Tea Party was complaining because the targeting wasn't even-handed at that point.
The invisible TIGTA report may contain new information, but I am not holding my breath. And note that TIGTA's new 2004-2013 timeline is very broad – it's easy to read data any way you want to if you extend the timeline long enough.
The reality here is that the left would have you think the IRS targeting of political dissidents was all in the Tea Party's heads, and the tax agency wouldn't dream of singling out a single political movement or political orientation. Such a claim might be believable if the IRS had shown a scintilla of willingness to state that forthrightly over the years and not cover its tracks, but it didn't. It lied, covered up, snuck around with partisan players, and destroyed evidence. Now it means to get away with it with this new whitewash. It shouldn't.