IRS: No, We Won't Provide Documents to Congress, In Order to "Protect" Our Victims

Posted: Jun 06, 2013 5:29 PM
IRS: No, We Won't Provide Documents to Congress, In Order to "Protect" Our Victims

Totally shameless, but would you expect anything less from this crew?  The Internal Revenue Service is refusing to comply with Congressional investigators' requests for documents related to the agency's improper political targeting program, and they're doing so in particularly galling fashion:

Internal Revenue Service officials have invoked a Watergate-era law designed to protect private citizens' tax returns to justify their refusal to turn over documents requested by the House Ways and Means CommitteeIn its first official response to a May 14 bipartisan request from the committee for information and documents related to the agency's illegal harassment of conservative, evangelical and pro-Israel groups, the IRS told lawmakers on June 4 that Section 6103 of the federal tax code allows it to exempt itself from compliance with such congressional requests. The provision originally was written during the Watergate scandal to protect U.S. citizens and shield their private tax records from prying government officials. Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement that the committee will continue pressing the IRS for the requested documents and information.

In order to obstruct Congress' investigation into their own systematic and abusive treatment of Americans' tax records, the IRS is hiding behind a law designed to...prevent systematic and abusive treatment of Americans' tax records.  They're "protecting" their victims, you see.  What a disgrace.  Ways and Means Committee aides are turning up the heat on the IRS, calling them out for this deeply cynical evasion:

Ways and Means Committee staff have warned IRS officials that they are using the obscure provision to protect potentially illegal conduct by government employees or to withhold politically damaging information. "Section 6103 must not be used by the IRS as a shield," a committee staffer said in an email to reporters. The agency's tactics raise "the question of whether the IRS will broadly apply section 6103 to avoid divulging politically hazardous or potentially embarrassing information."

This ploy does more than just "raise questions."  It leads reasonable people to conclude that the IRS is hiding something, perhaps criminal wrongdoing.  The tax collection agency is also stonewalling a Senate committee, having just missed a deadline to turn over documentation and answer dozens of questions about their targeting program.  There are strong arguments to be mounted against appointing a special counsel to the IRS affair, but this petulant lack of cooperation with Congress may force that hand.  As this standoff plays out, the American people are utterly rejecting the IRS' risible contention that their years-long campaign of targeting conservatives somehow wasn't politically motivated:

Most Americans regardless of party believe political reasons drove the Internal Revenue Service to single out for burdensome and unnecessary scrutiny some conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday. The public splits across party lines, though, about whether President Obama and his administration were involved. Sixty-eight percent of respondents- 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents - said they think the IRS targeting was motivated by politics, rather than adherence to the tax code policy. But while forty-four percent think the Obama administration had a hand in the targeting, 40 percent said they believe the agency acted on its own.

Read that last sentence again.  A plurality of respondents believe the Obama administration was involved in the scheme, even though no direct evidence to that effect has been unearthed at this point.  Maybe a lot of people are assuming where there's smoke, there's fire.  Or maybe Americans just don't trust the administration anymore.  That's why the NSA news is such a calamity inside the West Wing.  The distrust pump has been primed for the last month now, and forfeited credibility is difficult to regain, especially when new, creepy revelations keep arising.  On the subject of credibility, where might you guess the following passage appeared in print? 

The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. 

.  Anyway, back to the poll.  The good news is that roughly seven in ten Americans can see what's staring them right in the face.  But while only 26 percent of the general public say the IRS did nothing wrong, that number balloons to 35 percent among Democrats.  One wonders if support for the IRS will drop off among average Democrats when they hear about their $50 million, three-year party bender the rest of us financed -- not that the IRS has its own receipts in order, or anything.  Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Americans (a) know about the IRS scandal, (b) think the agency's actions were either unethical or illegal, and (c) believe the abuse was driven by political bias.  Perhaps Congressional Democrats' attack-the-victim approach isn't such a great idea after all.  Did someone say "overreach"?