Carol Platt Liebau

IRS General Counsel William J. Wilkins claims that he knew nothing about the IRS targeting. His claims don't pass the smell test.

It's impossible to know until later, but this may end up having been one of the most significant weeks in the course of the IRS scandal.  It's the week that everyone finally realizes there's a link -- an important link -- between the agency's targeting of conservatives and an Obama administration political appointee, William J. Wilkins.

In truth, with apologies to Peggy Noonan, it isn't that we now know that the scandal reached into the office of the general counsel.  We knew that before.  As I pointed out back on May 16, on page 36 of the IG report on the targeting, there is the following entry for August 4, 2011:

Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue [of developing new criteria for identifying which applications to send to specialists for more scrutiny]. 

The IRS has claimed that Wilkins didn't attend that meeting, issuing the following statement back on May 16:

IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins did not participate in any Aug. 4, 2011 meeting relating to tax-exempt applications.  An August 4, 2011 discussion of 501(c)(4) criteria to be used in case reviews involved staff attorneys several layers below Wilkins.  The IRS Office of Chief Counsel has approximately 1600 attorneys.  Wilkins is not involved in the 501(c)(4) application process.  He did not discuss 501(c)(4) applications with the Treasury General Counsel. Wilkins did not learn about specific groups being singled out by name until earlier this year.

Of course, for one thing, keep in mind that the IRS also claimed that the whole targeting scandal was the result of actions by a few "rogue agents" in Cincinnati.  What's more, if the statement is parsed carefully, what's interesting is what's left out. The statement claims (1) Wilkins wasn't at the August 4 meeting; and (2) he didn't learn about "specific groups" being singled out by name until early in 2013 (conveniently after the election, mind you!).

But the "specific groups" wording is vague and strange.  The outrage about targeting isn't over the "specific groups" that were targeted (e.g., the Wetumpka Tea Party vs. the St. Louis Tea Party). The scandal resides in the fact that particular categories of applicant (all right-leaning, all presumptively anti-Obama-agenda) were targeted. The statement isn't a blanket disclaimer of all knowledge.  And note that the IG entry at top talks about everyone having "the latest information" (emphasis added) on developing the criteria, implying there was previous information shared with the Chief Counsel's office.
The Chief Counsel's denials would be more plausible if his career didn't bear the hallmarks of hard-left activism. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, he offered to defend Jeremiah Wright's church pro bono  -- and there's no corresponding history of First Amendment activism for less radical churches. 
Isn't it time that someone invited Mr. Wilkins for a chat on Capitol Hill?

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.