UPDATE - As Katie reported earlier, (now former) Acting Commissioner Miller has resigned from the IRS, effective in June. Or was he planning on leaving anyway?
I expected some scapegoating and blame-shifting as the IRS brass scrambles to save their careers, but I did not anticipate this level of shamelessness:
The Internal Revenue Service has identified two "rogue" employees in the agency's Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for "overly aggressive" handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN. In a meeting on Capitol Hill, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller described the employees as being "off the reservation," according to the source. It was not clear precisely what the alleged behavior involved. Miller said the staffers have already been disciplined, according to another source familiar with Miller's discussions with congressional investigators.
Hey, it was essentially just two guys, and they've been "disciplined," so can't we all just move on? Unbelievable. As we established earlier, IRS officials at the highest level knew about the targeting scheme for years. There was a "task force" in Washington, DC that helped run the practice. Agents in at least four separate offices were involved. And the acting commissioner -- the guy who's suddenly trying to dump this into the laps of two unnamed minions and walk away -- appears to have intentionally misled members of Congress who inquired about accusations of abuse. Oh, and the New York Times reports that "senior" IRS officials knew about the harassment policy within two weeks of its inception in 2010:
Even before then, in mid-March 2010, 10 Tea Party cases appear to have been brought to the attention of another senior I.R.S. official in Washington, just two weeks after the Cincinnati effort began, according to the inspector general’s audit. And Steven Miller, now the acting I.R.S. commissioner, was aware of the matter in March 2012, a month before he told Republican senators there was no special treatment for conservative applicants for tax exemption.
But now the IRS has identified two fall guys for their tectonic mess, apparently in the hopes that a few low-level scalps will make everything else just float away. It's delusional. In case you were curious, taxpayers have bestowed numerous generous bonuses upon IRS higher-up Lois Lerner over the last few years. Lerner learned of the targeting program in 2011. Good thing the IRS is also insisting that they didn't tell anyone in the Obama Treasury Department about their years-long targeting methods. All that time, and not a word. Who wouldn't implicitly trust their assertions of fact at this point? I'll leave you with three reasons why IRS suspicions have widened over the last day or so, and a single quote:
(1) A conservative group stifled by the IRS was able to obtain tax-exempt status by adopting the name of a liberal-sounding group, at which point they sailed right through:
When September 2012 arrived with still no word from the IRS, Ryun determined that Media Trackers would likely never obtain standalone non-profit status, and he tried a new approach: Starting over. He applied for permanent non-profit status for a separate group called Greenhouse Solutions, a pre-existing organization that was reaching the end of its determination period. The IRS approved Greenhouse Solutions' request for non-profit status in three weeks. When news broke last week that the IRS had applied heavier scrutiny to conservative groups seeking non-profit status from 2010-2012, Ryun said he became convinced that his second application was approved quickly because he applied under the Greenhouse Solutions title, which he called a "liberal-sounding name."
(2) A major Romney donor says he just happened to get audited three times after the Obama campaign attacked him by name, and that he's not alone:
VanderSloot, who was also national co-chair of the Romney campaign’s finance committee, was described in an April 2012 Obama campaign Web posting as one of eight “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.” Shortly after the post appeared, VanderSloot was subjected to two Internal Revenue Service audits — one focusing on his personal finances, the other related to his business interests — and a Labor Department audit of one of his businesses. When asked about whether any of the other seven donors who appeared on the list were audited as well, VanderSloot spoke cautiously, but did say he “wasn’t the only one.”
(3) A pro-life group in Iowa alleges the IRS made their tax exempt status contingent upon signing a legally-binding statement foreswearing any picketing Planned Parenthood clinics (!):
“In one case, the IRS withheld approval of an application for tax exempt status for Coalition for Life of Iowa. In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent ‘Ms. Richards’ told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” the Thomas More Society announced today. “Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved.”
Re-read those items, then recall that the IRS has told the American public that their targeting efforts were not motivated by political bias. The latter two accusations also raise questions about whether the IRS was doing the bidding of liberal organizations like the Obama campaign and Planned Parenthood -- which has donated heavily to Obama, whom they endorsed twice. As for the apparent score-settling and admitted "inappropriate" harassment, Jim Geraghty dredges up this classic quote from our sitting president:
"Don't think we're not keeping score, brother." - President Obama, late March 2009. blueoregon.com/2009/04/obama-…— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) May 15, 2013