TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1003

IRS Logo 2Joe  Kristan (Tax Update Blog), 1000 Days of TaxProf Scandal Coverage:

Thanks to Paul Caron for his persistence in paying attention to the past and continuing IRS abuse of power. 

Peter J. Reilly (Forbes), IRS And The Tea Party — Scandal Enters A New Millennium:

Big milestone over at the Tax Prof yesterday.  The IRS Scandal, a day by day chronicle, has hit 1,000.  The event is marked by a an article in The College Fix titled — “The IRS Scandal, Day 1000: Every single day for nearly three years prof chronicles IRS scandal”-. ...

My objections to the day by day scandal narrative is that the string has often been maintained by stories that barely have a tenuous relationship to what I call the “core scandal” – delays and excessive questioning in the handling of tax-exempt applications of Tea Party and similar groups.  ...

What the scandal true believers really yearn for is absolute proof of President Obama ordering his IRS hit squad to go after conservatives. ... Instead they are left with a tone at the top argument in which the President’s statements about Citizens United and untraced money flooding into politics was a kind of dog whistle signal to go after conservatives. ...

Two lines of litigation that keep churning out new material for the day by day IRS scandal are NorCal Tea Party Patriots v IRS, which seeks damages for the delays and abusive inquiries, and FOIA requests by Judicial Watch.  The NorCal litigation is being funded by Citizens for Self Governance, which appears to have Koch connections.  If you look at the 2014 Form 990 of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, to which Richard Scaife gave $364 million in 2014, you will find $225,000 being given to Judicial Watch for general operating support. ...

Much of the coverage of the Tea Party scandal is taking snippets from the vast document dumps and making a big deal out of them – things like Lois Lerner wondering if somebody should investigate Bristol Palin.  If you really dig into the stuff, you can understand how there is material there to construct a variety of narratives.

In one of the narratives. you could write Lois Lerner as a tragic flawed hero, who saw great wrong being done, but was unable to get anyone to act.  She tried to get Justice interested in prosecuting people for lying on their exempt applications and got nowhere.  The gift tax initiative went nowhere (although I’m not sure she was that involved in that one).  And then there is this batch of exempt applications.  She knows they are up to no good and here she has leverage.  She can slow them down by not doing something, which is a lot easier than doing something. Instead of accomplishing something in stemming the flow of dark money, Lois Lerner ends up crippling the IRS, which is fine with libertarian billionaires.  They don’t want the IRS to do its job at all.

The narrative that seems most plausible to me is Lois Lerner as the Agent From Hell.  AFH is my term for a certain type of IRS agent that I have thankfully only encountered a couple of times in my career.  AFH is not that technically astute, but AFH is dogged.  And AFH is certain that your client is up to no good.  AFH just hasn’t quite figured out what that no good is.  That was Lois Lerner and the Tea Party applications, only she had to do her work through minions.  Lois Lerner was passionate about the dark money issue and nobody else seemed to care. So she tortured her line agents to get them to torture bewildered applicants who were already pumped up on conspiracy theories. A perfect storm of bureaucratic bumbling coming across as brilliantly subtle conspiracy.

On To The Next Millenium

And of course the brilliantly subtle conspiracy is the narrative that works best for those still interested in the scandal, so that is what will tend to predominate in the day by day as we move along.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/02/the-irs-scandal-day-1003.html

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Comments

Ideologues have no place in the IRS. Especially not at the top. Koskinen has donated more than $80,000 to Democrats over the years. Only an ideologue or someone trying to buy favors would do that. http://www.allgov.com/officials/koskinen-john?officialid=29921

Posted by: AMTbuff | Feb 6, 2016 8:16:00 AM

Just because you are paranoid does not mean that they aren't after you

Posted by: Richard prout | Feb 6, 2016 9:05:46 AM

The real scandal now is that this has been going on for 1003 days now, and we're no closer to the truth, or to the IRS being cleansed of politically reckless ideologues.

Posted by: Old Patriot | Feb 6, 2016 3:45:52 PM

You passive-Americans. Isn't stuff like this why they invented the Second Amendment?

Posted by: Chris | Feb 6, 2016 4:14:59 PM

" She knows they are up to no good." Do we really want IRS political appointees making this kind of judgment call about political opponents? Because in her eyes, anyone she politically disagreed with was "up to no good".

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Feb 8, 2016 5:02:42 AM