IRS: More than a "Smidgen" of Corruption

Carol Platt Liebau

4/10/2014 10:15:00 AM - Carol Platt Liebau

Remember when the President insisted that there wasn't even a "smidgen" of corruption at the IRS?

To the contrary, yesterday's disclosures demonstrate that, contrary to the President's assurances, there was far more than just a "smidgen." Rather, they confirm the darkest suspicions that the IRS was effectively transformed into a partisan attack dog, intentionally loosed on American citizens Democrats didn't like.

Several appalling pieces of news emerged yesterday -- items that, were they politically harmful to Republicans rather than Democrats, would be front-page in breathless accounts at the Washington Post and The New York Times.

(1) Lois Lerner secretly communicated with Democrat Elijah Cumming's staff (contacts that were undisclosed -- even denied -- until yesterday) about True the Vote, one of the conservative groups most aggressively harassed by the IRS (and other federal agencies).

(2) After personally meeting with two liberal groups, Ms. Lerner obligingly asked the relevant IRS subordinate why Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS had not been audited -- and in fact stated that its application would be denied, even though no one who had actually worked on the case had indicated any such thing.

(3) Early in 2013, Lerner asked for an investigation of five conservative groups designated "controversial" by ProPublica. Thereafter, four of the five were investigated; three were audited. (NOTE: ProPublica is the group that reported, last year, it was given confidential tax-exempt status applications by the IRS).

(4) Although Lerner had told the IG that she had only learned that the key words "tea party" were being used as a way to target certain groups for scrutiny in June 2011, in fact she knew about the targeting in April/May 2010 (just a few weeks after it began). That means the targeting went on -- with her knowledge and without any intervention on her part -- far longer than originally known.

(5) Lerner emailed (perhaps in jest) that maybe she could get the "DC office job" with Organizing for America, the new incarnation of Obama for America.

A couple of observations:

a) With this information, combined with what has been previously released, no reasonable person can possibly believe that the law governing nonprofits was being fairly, neutrally, disinterestedly applied by nonpartisan government officials of integrity.

b) There is abundant evidence that Ms. Lerner sought to manipulate tax laws in a partisan manner, abusing her position of trust to help her party of choice and to hinder groups to which she was ideologically opposed. (Note to the President: This is "corruption.")

c) If Americans are going to find out the truth about what happened at the IRS, it will be necessary to offer Lois Lerner immunity. Otherwise, the contempt matter can (and will) be litigated, time will be lost, and without new disclosures, the Democrats and their friends in the press will unilaterally declare the scandal done (a la Benghazi). Lerner richly deserves prosecution and punishment, but it is more important for Americans to have a full account of what happened and why -- and a comprehensive explanation of how the behavior is inimical to the very idea of the rule of law.

d) Don't expect Democrats to be eager for Lerner to have immunity, even if it means their partisan ally at the IRS will avoid prosecution. The more fully Americans understand the extent of the abuses committed by their tax-collecting agency, the less credibility Democrats' "progressive" model of government -- with supposedly impartial, technocratic elites administering the supposed good works of a supposedly benevolent centralized government -- will ever have.