Who's ready for another major shift in the IRS' official story? In recent days, Darrell Issa's Democratic counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, has been telling anyone who will listen that Congress' IRS "witch hunt" is over and resolved. His absurd assertions -- from which he's edged away slightly -- smack of desperation, especially considering that new developments continue to arise. Why, here's one just now, and it's a biggie:
The Internal Revenue Service's screening of groups seeking tax-exempt status was broader and lasted longer than has been previously disclosed, the new head of the agency said Monday. In a conference call with reporters, Danny Werfel said that after becoming acting IRS chief last month, he discovered wide-ranging and improper terms on lists screeners were still using to choose groups for careful examinations. He did not specify what terms were on the lists, but said he suspended the use of all such lists immediately. "There was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum" on the lists, Werfel said. He added that his aides found those lists contained "inappropriate criteria that was in use." Werfel's comments suggest the IRS may have been targeting groups other than tea party and other conservative organizations for tough examinations to see if they qualify. The agency has been under fire since last month for targeting those groups. His comments also indicate that the use of inappropriate terms on such lists lasted longer than has been revealed previously. A report last month by a Treasury Department inspector general said agency officials abolished targeting of conservative groups with those lists in May 2012.
It seems the Inspector General report missed the boat on the ongoing malfeasance detail. This is the same report Cummings cites as sufficient oversight, which totally ignores the IG's questionable timing in releasing its findings. And just for good measure, Werfel serves up this verdict:
"We have not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the IRS or involvement in these matters by anyone outside the IRS," he told reporters.
In other words, no one else (read: within the administration) knew about our continued wrongful actions, which were also totally accidental. 'Innocent incompetence' strikes again. Let's face it: Internal investigations often produce whitewashes, which is why you can color Issa very skeptical. Under the best case scenario, the federal government is so vast and unaccountable that this major agency managed to carry on its high-profile inappropriate behavior in the midst of a massive media firestorm over those very actions. Most Americans do not buy the IRS' ineptitude defense, though they're unlikely to dispute the government's bloated incompetence. The likelier explanation for all of this is malicious intent, coupled with ass-covering lies. We're not sure how far up the chain this corruption goes, but a plurality of Americans think the White House is responsible. At the very least, high-ranking officials in Washington directed the targeting program, and members of the administration knew about it well before the 2012 elections.
Bloomberg reports that the just-disclosed "inappropriate terms" that were still being used as of a few weeks ago included "occupy," "progressive" and "Israel." That last one won't come as a great shock to those who've followed this matter closely, but the other two are noteworthy. Was the IRS also targeting left-leaning groups, and if so, for how long? Lefty groups have said publicly that they weren't targeted, an apparent truth that was confirmed by both a former IRS commissioner under oath -- as well as the Inspector General's probe, which stated the following: “The criteria developed by the Determinations Unit gives the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission.” So what's going on here? And how on earth were shady "BOLO" lists still being employed until last month? I'll leave you with Eliana Johnson's WSJ piece taking Cummings to task for his politicized leaking and IRS excuse-making. Our own Carol Platt Liebau has made similar points about the non-exculpatory transcripts Cummings released, the purpose of which were to provide political cover for his friends at the IRS and the administration. Considered in a vacuum, the transcripts are interesting. Given all other relevant evidence, they're empty. Parting thought: If it turns out that the IRS targeted some lefty groups (we need to see more evidence on that, plus a timeline), will Elijah Cummings keep pretending this investigation is essentially over?