TaxProf Blog

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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1046

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Obama Administration Learned From Lois, Dodging IRS Scandal, by Robert W. Wood:

Deny, stonewall, deny. For a time, the IRS scandal looked serious, enough for heads to roll. But with a dogmatic and unwavering narrative, the administration made it go away. It was aided by Lois Lerner’s refusal to testify, generous bonuses and pension. You have to hand it to the administration for pulling off a tour de force that could have brought a lesser administration down. Disagreeing with any of it can sound like being against recycling.

President Obama always fervently denied there was any IRS problem, not even a smidgen of corruption. Any missteps were innocent, entirely the fault of bonehead decisions in local IRS offices. On his final Daily Show appearance, the President capped his ‘no targeting’ mantra. There was no targeting. Emails show there was no directive about targeting. Sorry, it turns out some of our emails are missing? Well, hard drives crash. We recycle them–which helps the environment. Besides, liberals got targeted too. There’s no smidgen of corruption. Cash bonuses? Those are unrelated. And the latest in the long line of excuses: it was all the Republicans’ fault.

With all this unwavering devotion to mission, there could be no other conclusion. It was no surprise that the current Justice Department wrote a letter to members of Congress announcing that Lois Lerner will face no criminal charges. If you worried about the email’s sent from Ms. Lerner’s dog’s email account, don’t be, the dog is safe too. The most the DOJ would say was that there was mismanagement down at the IRS. Hey, perhaps some poor judgment, even institutional inertia, but that was it.

Stay on mission. It may have looked like targeting. But the DOJ said there was no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives. Not even Ms. Lerner, despite her history, including at the Federal Election Commission, before she moved on to IRS targeting. Disparate impact on the tea party? That was just mishandling. 

Ms. Lerner was handsomely rewarded while she presided over alleged discrimination against conservative nonprofits. In fact, records revealed that she received $129,000 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013, averaging $43,000 a year—on top of her regular salary. Ms. Lerner came off as a kind of folk hero in the DOJ report, stepping forward to bring this whole issue up! The fact that Ms. Lerner planted and then answered her staged question made her a kind of whistleblower.

President Obama’s testy “not even a smidgen of corruption” remark to was convincing, despite the Government Accountability Office report that internal controls for exempt organization audit selection should be strengthened. The GAO said organizations can be picked for examination in an unfair manner, based on religious, educational, political, or other views. Inconveniently, IRS documents revealed Lois Lerner’s email warning IRS staffers of the pitfalls of revealing too much information to Congress. Forget email, use instant messaging system that automatically deletes. House Oversight Committee documentation suggests that IRS officials used it deliberately to evade public scrutiny. 

Ms. Lerner professed her innocence and then took the Fifth. When she broke her silence to Politico, she said she did nothing wrong, claiming she was the victim. Staying on mission was key, even though Ms. Lerner had met with the DOJ about prosecuting conservative groups. Former IRS Commissioner Shulman testified there was “absolutely no targeting” of conservative or Tea Party organizations. Ms. Lerner admitted targeting, calling it “absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate.”

Four days later, on May 14, 2013, the Inspector General issued a report confirming the targeting. Ms. Lerner professed her innocence, then took the Fifth. She was placed on administrative leave, and shortly thereafter retired with full pension. The House held Ms. Lerner in contempt. Only then–on June 13, 2014, did the IRS first say it lost Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2011, destroying hard drives and backups.

Eventually, the IRS said it spent millions to try to recover them. Republicans were repeatedly accused of wasting money on this, since the IRS was above reproach. The narrative saying the Republicans were just wasting money sure turned out to be right. There was no smidgen of corruption, after all.

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Comments

This is one of those scandals for which we'll have to wait for about ten years for an insider to write a book. Obama was able to get away with a cover up because the mainstream media refused to do their watchdog job. After seven years of "the most transparent administration in history" America is still reeling from the coverups, especially on the part of the media. The MSM will never recover from this administration. ABCBSNBCNNPRPBS, the Washington Post, and NY Times will never be trusted again.

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Mar 20, 2016 8:55:15 AM

President Obama is without question the most prescient person ever to occupy the Oval Office. Think about it. He was able to plant two stories in the Honolulu newspapers announcing his birth in 1962, when in fact he was born in Kenya. As for the IRS, he was able to cause President Bush to appoint a compliant Republican IRS Commissioner who would enable the Obama Administration to use the IRS to persecute the Republican Party. What a man!!! Do any conservatives understand how silly this sounds?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 20, 2016 2:23:24 PM

Publius Novus: Strawman much?

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Mar 21, 2016 8:33:50 AM

Mr. VOI: Satire. Requires IQ above 90 in order to understand the difference from the well-known informal fallacy.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 22, 2016 5:48:15 PM

VOI, PN is not asserting strawmen. He is the strawman from the Wizard of Oz! That is why he is so sensitive about IQs.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Mar 23, 2016 5:32:28 AM