Following up on yesterday's post, IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election:
Washington Post editorial, Playing Politics With Tax Records:
A bedrock principle of U.S. democracy is that the coercive powers of government are never used for partisan purpose. The law is blind to political viewpoint, and so are its enforcers, most especially the FBI and the IRS. Any violation of this principle threatens the trust and the voluntary cooperation of citizens upon which this democracy depends.
So it was appalling to learn Friday that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. It was almost as disturbing that President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have not personally apologized to the American people and promised a full investigation.
“Mistakes were made,” the agency said in a statement. IRS official Lois Lerner explained that staffers used a “shortcut” to sort through a large number of applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status, highlighting organizations with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. The IRS insisted emphatically that partisanship had nothing to do with it. However, it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.If it was not partisanship, was it incompetence? Stupidity, on a breathtaking scale? At this point, the IRS has lost any standing to determine and report on what exactly happened. Certainly Congress will investigate, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised. Mr. Obama also should guarantee an unimpeachably independent inquiry.
Wall Street Journal editorial, The IRS Targets Conservatives:
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean the IRS isn't out to get
you. We only wish that were a joke. On Friday, an IRS official disclosed for the first time, and by way of
apologizing, that the agency that wields the taxing power of the federal
government had targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny during
the 2012 election season. Apology or not, that can't be the end of the
The stunning admission didn't emerge in an official statement by a
senior official at the Treasury Department, which supervises the IRS.
Instead, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner disclosed it
on Friday in response to a question from the audience at a meeting of
American Bar Association tax lawyers in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Lerner acknowledged that the
agency had flagged groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" to
have their tax returns inspected, presumably with an eye on the legality
of their tax exemption. Ms. Lerner called this "inappropriate," which
it certainly was, and she said it wasn't done "out of any political
bias," which is hard to believe. If there was no political bias, why
were only conservative groups targeted? White House spokesman Jay Carney
also called the IRS actions "inappropriate" on Friday, which makes that
the word of the day.
Ms. Lerner added the tax inspections were carried out entirely by
low-level workers in Cincinnati without any direction from Washington.
Forgive us if we also don't take that claim as gospel.
Even if the idea did arise as some kind of spontaneous Cincinnati
political combustion, where could they possibly have come up with the
idea that targeting the tea party might be a good career move? That
certainly was the uber political message coming out of the White House,
even if it wasn't a directive from the top of the IRS. Another question
is who stopped the "inappropriate" requests once they were discovered.
Was anyone punished? And how far up the chain of command did knowledge
Republicans were up in arms Friday about the IRS disclosure, and
rightly so. We assume they will use their oversight power in the House
to find out what happened, and whether these Cincinnati kids were really
operating on their own.
Other than the power to prosecute, the
taxing authority is the most awesome power the government has. It can
ruin people and companies. When wielded for political purposes, it is a
violation of the basic contract the American people have with their
government. The abuse admitted by Ms. Lerner can't be dismissed in a
casual apology on a casual Friday as no big deal. It's a very big and
Update: From the Associated Press:
Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general's report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner. ...
Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”