As Republicans press their investigation into the Internal Revenue Service, Democrats are trying to turn the focus to the Republican ties of the agency’s chief investigator, Inspector General J. Russell George, whose May audit ignited the firestorm. Late last week, House Democrats charged that some of Mr. George’s work has been “highly misleading,” and they demanded that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has been taking the lead in investigating the IRS, call back the inspector general not just as an investigator, but as the target of lawmakers’ inquiry ... “This is a Republican-appointed inspector general. This is someone who has donated and worked for prominent Republicans. Are we as Democrats and the public to believe that he is objective and simply followed the truth where it leads?” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat on the oversight panel who questioned Mr. George during a May 22 hearing...
The most recent questions about Mr. George arose after he said the IRS issued a “be on the lookout” order to employees scrutinizing applications for tax-exempt status to watch for progressive groups, in addition to the extra scrutiny they were giving conservative groups. Democrats seized on that as evidence that the special scrutiny wasn’t politically motivated. But Mr. George then released a letter saying that while some groups with progressive names or the word “occupy” in their names were targeted, 100 percent of groups with “tea party,” “9/12” or “patriot” in their names were pulled out for scrutiny. That follow-up letter angered Democrats who said Mr. George was withholding information.
Democrats insist that the Inspector General "withheld information," and complain that the investigation was "one-sided." Yes, that's because only one side was inappropriately targeted by the IRS. That was the core finding of the independent investigation. That's the scandal. Cummings' false equivalency between the routine screening of both sides and the improper abuse and delays inflicted on conservative groups is intentionally misleading. To review: Zero Tea Party conservative groups were approved for tax-exempt status over a period of 27 months, while dozens of lefty groups received the green light. Conservative organizations were deliberately buried in burdensome paperwork, fraught with wildly inappropriate questions and outrageous demands. This emanated from, and was sometimes micromanaged by, DC. The IRS' former commissioner testified under oath that only conservative-leaning groups were mistreated this way. When the House Oversight Committee held hearings featuring the IRS' victims, committee Democrats couldn't produce a single liberal witness. Oh, and the IRS admitted and publicly apologized for their wrongful targeting of conservatives following their own internal investigation, and before the IG report was published. If the truth was "we did it to both sides!" they would have presented that evidence early and often. They didn't.
Democrats will undoubtedly use their portion of tomorrow's hearings to badger George, impugn is reputation, and smear the integrity of the investigation he oversaw. He'd better be prepared for the onslaught. Chairman Issa said yesterday that George is prepared to refute the allegations "in no uncertain terms." We'll see. By the way, if we're now to believe the IG is really a conniving right-wing agent, why have Republicans felt compelled to raise questions about some of his determinations and actions? For example, why does he continue to claim that anti-conservative IRS abuse wasn't politically motivated when that conclusion is an obvious tautology? Almost no one believes that contention, but he sticks to it anyway. And why were the results of his investigation overdue, pushing the bombshell past the November election? The IG was aware of the damning conclusions of the IRS' internal probe last year, and chose not to read Congress into the brewing scandal at that time. Wouldn't a Republican partisan masquerading as an investigator have leaked such highly combustible intel to Team Romney (perhaps using Issa as a conduit) at an opportune moment?
I'll leave you with two additional notes on the IRS scandal: (1) As Carol noted yesterday, Treasury has now admitted that government agents illegally accessed at least four political candidates' and/or donors' private tax records dating back to 2006. At least one of the breaches was done "willfully." Shockingly, the DOJ has declined to prosecute; they're too busy with this sort of disgusting pandering. (2) Sarah Hall Ingram -- the IRS supervisor who was transferred from overseeing the tax-exempt division to running the agency's Obamacare enforcement efforts -- has pulled out of participating in a Congressional hearing "at the request of the IRS." Because transparency.