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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 404

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  A Tale of Two Scandals, by Peggy Noonan:

[T]he Obama administration is experiencing what appears to be its own Eighteen-and-a-Half Minute moment. In a truly stunning development in the Internal Revenue Service scandal, the agency last week informed Congress that more than two years’ of Lois Lerner’s email communications with those outside that agency—from 2009 to 2011, meaning the key years at the heart of the targeting-of-conservatives scandal—have gone missing. Quite strangely. The IRS says it cannot locate them. The reason is that Lerner’s computer crashed....

I haven’t ever met a reporter or producer who wasn’t a conservative who didn’t believe the IRS scandal was the result of the bureaucratic confusion and incompetence of some office workers in Cincinnati who made a mistake.

But the IRS scandal is a scandal, and if you can’t see the relation between a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal and what happened 41 years ago with a strangely destroyed key piece of evidence in an ongoing scandal, something is wrong not with the story but with your news judgment. (We won’t even go into the second story last week, that the IRS sent a big database full of confidential taxpayer information to the FBI.) ...

The mischief of the Nixon administration was specific to it, to its personnel. When Chuck Colson left, he left. All the figures in that drama failed to permanently disfigure the edifice of government. They got caught, and their particular brand of mischief ended.

But the IRS scandal is different, because if it isn’t stopped—if it isn’t fully uncovered, exposed, and its instigators held accountable—it will suggest an acceptance of the politicization of the IRS, and an expected and assumed partisanship within its future actions. That will be terrible not only for citizens but for the government itself.

And the IRS scandal will also have disfigured government in a new and killing way. IRS scandals in the past were about the powerful (Richard Nixon) abusing the powerful (Edward Bennett Williams). This scandal is about the powerful (Lois Lerner, et a.) abusing the not-powerful (normal, on-the-ground Americans such as rural tea-party groups). If it comes to be understood that this kind of thing is how the government now does business, it will be terrible for the spirit and reality of the country.

So many of those who decide what is news cannot, on this issue, see the good faith and honest concern of the many who make this warning. And really, that is tragic.

What are the implications of this claim? It means no one can see any emails Lerner sent to or received from other agencies and individuals, including the White House and members of Congress.

And what is amazing—not surprising, but amazing—is that if my experience of normal human conversation the past few days is any guide, very few people are talking about it and almost no one cares.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/06/strong-2.html

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Comments

I've been following this one since the day that Lerner made that odd (and carefully pre-planned) apology at an ABA conference. Here's what strikes me as a former litigator. Lerner knew that the IG report was in progress for a long time before she did her apology. Her apology was timed to be just days before the IG report came out. If she and others at the IRS knew that the IG was doing the report, wouldn't that trigger a preservation duty as to emails? That is, once you know that some legal process may be calling for your docs, you normally have a duty to prevent spoliation. So I'd be interested in knowing when Lerner and others at the IRS first realized that the IG was poking around.

Posted by: john Steele | Jun 17, 2014 9:14:17 AM

Paul:

I've started a petition calling for an Executive Order ( http://wh.gov/lHuzE ) to search all federal agencies for the missing IRS emails.

More details here: http://porkopolis.blogspot.com/2014/06/whitehousegov-petition-calling-on-potus.html

Posted by: Porkopolis | Jun 17, 2014 11:42:14 AM

So the IRS doesn't back up their computers. More proof of incompetence by the federal government. And these are the people in charge of our new universal healthcare system. Scary isn't it!

Posted by: Alanatswbell | Jun 17, 2014 2:12:33 PM