Carol Platt Liebau

The IRS political saga marches on, but obviously, some really, really wish it wouldn't.

Exhibit A is this story from The New York Times, titled "IRS Scruinty Goes Beyond the Political."  It points out the not-too-surprising fact that there were groups besides  conservatives ones that received extra scrutiny from the IRS's nonprofit outfit -- to take an example prominently relied on in the linked piece, "open source" groups.

From this fact, the Times piece rushes to state (what one can only suspect are) highly welcome conclusions: 

[A] closer look at the I.R.S. operation suggests that the problem was less about ideology and more about how a process instructing reviewers to “be on the lookout” for selected terms was applied to any group that mentioned certain words in its application.

. . . 

“As soon as you say the words ‘open source,’ like other organizations that use ‘Tea Party’ or ‘Occupy,’ it gets you red-flagged,” said Luis Villa, a lawyer and a member of the board of directors of the Open Source Initiative. The I.R.S. feared that such groups were really moneymaking enterprises.

Fair enough.  But let's think about it. Making sure that "moneymaking enterprises" (i.e., for-profit groups) are not taking illegal advantage of nonprofit status is what the IRS nonprofit unit is supposed to be doing.  If the questions posed in that pursuit are unduly burdensome, that's something that can be discussed, but it's irrelevant to the scandal over the treatment of conservative groups.

The Times piece not only jumps to the conclusion -- still largely unsupported by facts -- that the IRS was simply incompetent, rather than corrupt, it also seeks to confuse related issues.  At this point, the outrage isn't about the IRS giving extra scrutiny to some groups applying for tax-exempt status.  It isn't about the use of BOLO lists, in general.  It isn't even about the inclusion of certain terms on BOLO lists. It's about the fact that, when agents did indeed "flag" ideological groups with names on the BOLO list, the IRS seems to have harassed only those with right-leaning views.

In a sense, this is the mirror image of the meme that Democrats and Obama's hand-picked IRS commissioner, Danny Werfel, tried to sell last week.    They pointed to the fact that there were BOLO lists with the terms "progressive" and "occupy" were on BOLO lists.  See? Lefty-sounding names appeared on some BOLO lists -- so all's fair, right?  Now the New York Times tries a new approach to achieving the same end: See? Other groups besides inherently political ones received extra scruinty -- so all's fair, right?

What the Times and the Democrats have in common is the objective of calling a premature end to any investigation by claiming that conservative-leaning groups were not unfairly or uniquely targeted.  But if that's the case:

Exit Questions:

Why has Russell George, the IG, adamantly insisted that his investigation suggests viewpoint discrimination?

Why did Cincinnati employees understand that only right-leaning groups were to be "kicked up" to Washington?

And the grandaddy of them all: Where are the left-leaning analogues to the conservative-leaning groups that were mistreated by the IRS?

 

Scrutiny that is intrusive and overbearing -- but evenhanded-- may be a sign of incompetence.  Scrutiny that is directed at only one side of the political spectrum hints at something much more sinister.  Nice effort by the Times -- but this investigation is far from over.


Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.