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Scandal of the Day

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As it goes with these things, every day there is another drip. Which becomes a trickle, then a stream, and soon enough a flood. Maybe even a whole monsoon season. Scandals tend to multiply. It's not that some folks suddenly go bad, as an old boy once told me, it's that they're suddenly found out.


If you'd have asked most Americans on June 18, 1972 -- the day after a third-rate burglary in Washington -- if they ever heard of something called Watergate, they'd probably have just looked at you funny. Water-what?

And if you'd announced just a couple of weeks ago that the IRS was targeting conservative groups with Tea Party or Patriot in their names during the last few years, you would have been relegated to the tinfoil-hat brigade.

Why, sure, mister. And the black helicopters are watching you, too. How about you sit down and have a nice glass of iced tea? We'll get you some help.

But the IRS now has admitted targeting conservative groups for audits and delaying or even preventing them from getting nonprofit status. Naturally, one of the higher-ups at the IRS said its campaign to harass conservative groups wasn't inspired by anybody's politics. But you couldn't help noticing that no group was targeted because it had "moveon" or "99 percent" in its name.

What's more, the IRS is supposed to have let a leftish outfit called ProPublica see supposedly confidential applications from conservative groups. The source for that very serious accusation? ProPublica.

FYI for those who can't be bothered by such details, ProPublica is the kind of media outlet that claims to produce fair, unbiased, objective investigative journalism but leans to port while doing it. It's sort of like the New York Times that way. Which makes it the perfect outfit to get some confidential information from the IRS. At least when that information concerns suspicious types. You know, types with Patriot in their names.


ProPublica -- to its credit -- noted all this in a story and added that the IRS didn't happen to disclose any information about liberal groups in its document dump. What a coincidence.

The IRS stalled some requests from conservative organizations for nonprofit status for more than a year while liberal groups were being approved in the usual fashion.

ABC News found a woman in Ohio, one Marion Bower, who waited two years for her local tea party chapter to be declared tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service. Her story is something else. And so is she.

Marion Bower, 68, says she applied for tax-exempt status but kept getting weird requests from the IRS. The government wanted copies of her blog. It also let her know, just by the way, you understand, that the IRS had already made some copies of her group's website. It also wanted a list of the officers in her branch of the tea party, inquired about what it did at meetings, and asked how its board was chosen. To top it off, the IRS inquired about her reading habits.

Shades of "Fahrenheit 451." Who knows, she could have been reading subversive literature like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, complete with all that dangerous talk about freedom of speech and the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . . ."

How did Miss Marion feel about being asked all these impertinent questions? "I felt like, my goodness, what in the world is going on here?" she told ABC. "Is this ever going to end?"


Since the IRS told her it wanted to know what kind of things she and her group were reading, she sent its snoops a copy of the United States Constitution. The lady does have a sense of irony. In short, she sounds like my kind of girl. Just wait till the IRS finds somebody reading The Federalist Papers. There'll be hell to pay.

You don't have to be a Republican to see something wrong, very wrong, with what has been going on here.

The first domino has already fallen -- the acting head of the IRS has resigned under fire. How many more officials need to go? And why is the "career public servant" who was supposed to be supervising how these tax exemptions are granted -- Lois Lerner -- still on the government payroll?

Such scandals are not easily contained, and shouldn't be when they're as far-reaching as this one. Remember the parade of resignations-cum-convictions that accompanied Watergate?

Barack Obama now joins the long and impressive list of presidents whose administrations used the IRS for partisan purposes and dirty tricks in general. That list includes some notable names: Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton -- those Democratic saints -- in addition to Richard Nixon, whom even most Republicans now disavow.

The country's current chief executive, President Innocent Bystander, talks as if the IRS were part of somebody else's administration. And expressing outrage at its dirty tricks. ("Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it.") Just as Richard Nixon tried to distance himself from Watergate early in that scandal. But the strategy might work for Mr. Obama, who is adept at dodging responsibility. We're all supposed to believe his administration had nothing to do with trying to cover up Benghazi, either.


Somebody once said that opposition in government makes good administrations better -- and bad administrations gone. Well, opposition certainly made the Nixon administration gone. And not an hour too soon.

Where this latest scandal at the IRS will lead is anybody's guess at this point. Maybe it will just fade away, as Democrats may be hoping. But some folks -- like conservatives, the press, and conservatives in the press (yes, there are some) -- will see to it that this affair gets a full airing.

Trust me.

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