Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 607

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Enough Already On IRS Targeting! Maybe, But Whose Tax Returns Went To White House And Why?, by Robert W. Wood:

We discussed IRS targeting during 8 months of 2013, and all of 2014. It is now 2015. We are all tired of it. Many Democrats accuse conservatives of blowing the IRS scandal out of proportion, conducting a ‘witch hunt.’ They say, as Mr. Obama said to Fox News, that there is not even a smidgen of corruption. Yet it should be no wonder that some people still aren’t so sure. Transparency hasn’t characterized much of what has happened over the course of these 20 months.

To find the missing emails from the key figure who refused to testify, the IRS said it spent $10 million of taxpayer money. Even those expensive recovery efforts were unsuccessful. Then, embarrassingly, the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails were recovered after all by the Treasury Inspector General. Among other things, the emails showed Justice Department involvement. Yet that too has been explained with a spin that seems to point the finger at conservatives.

DOJ had to look into conservative organizations, goes the narrative, because they were so bad. Because the focus isn’t on who did what and why, we are still in the dark about much of it. For there are really two scandals. One is alleged targeting, although it really isn’t alleged any longer. Lois Lerner, the IRS, and the Inspector General all admitted it.

Questions remain how involved the administration was, how one-sided it was solely to conservatives, etc. Still, the administration’s gyrations and shifting stories consumed 20 months. A parade of narratives ranged from confused IRS employees, to rogue IRS employees, to lost emails, recycled backups, $10 million of search efforts, and more. It should be upsetting to every American. And it should be embarrassing to government officials, though they do not show it.

Who can blame Americans for being suspicious? It was a whole year into a Congressional investigation before the IRS first said the emails were ‘lost.’ Would such a belated “oh by the way…” ever be tolerated if an American taxpayer voiced it? Even the ‘take the Fifth’ attitude is disturbing, regardless of one’s understanding of our Constitutional protections. As one report slams ‘culture of bias’, is it over-reacting to be bothered by this?

Even if it is, the second IRS scandal, the alleged release of confidential taxpayer data to the White House, is far more debilitating. It too isn’t just alleged. We know it happened. What we do not know is how much was released, whose tax records they were, or who over at the White House requested them. Even worse, we do not know if we will ever know. ...

White House Press Secretary Mr. Josh Earnest has said the Obama administration “has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communications between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service.” Maybe that is all true, but this sure looks sloppy or worse. Especially given all the platitudes about transparency, it would be nice if we could get to the bottom of this and then finally move on. After all, it is 2015.

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink


Mr. Texecon: First, while I appreciate the “Mr.,” it should be Mr. Publius, since “Novus” is an adjective. Second, I assume that you meant to write “refutation” rather than “reputation,” although the QWERTY keyboard provides no clue why you would have made such a typo. As for Mr. Wood, his coverage of the IRS “scandal” has been more fact-based than most. Nevertheless, my response to his latest editorial takes issue not with his arguments, but with his facts. As one of my least favorite presidents once opined, “Facts are stubborn things.” Mr. Wood’s latest editorial contains two serious factual errors, which I pointed out. Editorial opinions based on factual errors tend to be erroneous.

Ms. JoyO: Your facts are also wrong. None of LLerner’s co-workers’ PDAs failed. They were wiped when the employees received newer devices. IRS procedures regarding disposal of such devices required that they be wiped, and they were. As for “the fact that the IRS sent over 2,200 tax documents to the White House,” you have seriously misstated the facts. The 2,200 tax documents to which you refer are the documents at issue in the Cause of Action v. TIGTA FOIA lawsuit. Once again, the “2,200 tax documents” are actually 2,043 PAGES of documents (which is probably a whole lot less than 2,200 documents). These 2,043 pages of documents are TIGTA documents, and although they are tax documents, they are not documents that were sent to the WH. These documents were generated by TIGTA during the course of investigating claims and allegations that tax return information was sent to the WH. These documents probably relate to the allegations concerning Austan Goolsbee’s alleged receipt of Koch Industries’ tax returns, something which has not been confirmed by anyone, and may relate to other similar allegations as well. These documents cannot be released to Cause of Action, because they are tax documents relating to persons other than Cause of Action. They can, however, be released to either of the tax-writing committees of Congress–neither of which seems to be interested in them for some unfathomable reason.

Messrs. woodun & VoteOutIncumbents: Nothing worthy of comment.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jan 7, 2015 7:56:17 AM

Mr. Novus, your putative reputations of Mr. Wood's arguments are just more spin control, though much more eloquent than the farcical efforts of the President's press secretary. None of this passes the smell test and your earnest defense of the obvious shows it.

Posted by: texecon | Jan 7, 2015 12:59:03 AM

Any logical person would question all of the coincidences surrounding the IRS Scandal---ranging from the fact that over 85% of the targeted people were Conservatives; the fact that the hard drives of Lois Lerner and 11-12 of her IRS and FEC co-workers all crashed -- with Lerner's crashing a couple weeks after she learned about the upcoming Congressional Hearings (I think the others crashed around the same time but can't really remember); the Blackberries of Lerner (and I believe those of the same 11-12 coworkers) all failing; and NOW the fact that the IRS sent over 2,200 tax documents to the White House. It's totally unbelievable that all of these were random events.

Posted by: JoyO | Jan 6, 2015 4:33:31 PM

...and the MSM continues to give this administration a pass. Just imagine if a Republican administration tried this stuff?

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Jan 6, 2015 1:34:38 PM

Since the Obama administration lies about everything, we know when they say they are rigorous in following the rules, that they really aren't.

Can you think of any other issue where they follow the rules and/or tell the truth about it? Keystone? Gulf drilling moratorium? Libya? Immigration? We could go on all day as they lie about everything even when they don't need to, like scapegoating a guy for a YouTube video and throwing him in jail when telling the truth about AQ being behind the attack would have sufficed.

Posted by: wodun | Jan 6, 2015 11:38:59 AM

Inspector General”–neither TIGTA nor anyone else has CONFIRMED that such materials in fact consist of LLerner’s emails. All TIGTA references to the recovered backup tapes indicate that some emails MAY have been recovered from the tapes, and MAY include some LLerner emails. That is all. There has been no confirmation of what usable material was recovered from the backup tapes, let alone any indication that some “emails showed Justice Department involvement.” (The Justice Department “involvement” came from other LLerner emails produced by the IRS from the email systems of other IRS employees. Moreover, the Justice Department “involvement” was a consultation concerning possible criminal prosecution of persons suspected of committing perjury on exempt org applications. That, in fact, falls well within the purview of DOJ’s duties.)
Second, “the alleged release of confidential taxpayer data to the White House” is just that–alleged. No one, neither TIGTA nor Cause of Action (the plaintiff in the case) has identified any of the 2,043 pages of documents arguably responsive to the FOIA request as documents: 1) consisting of tax records “shared” with the WH or 2) that are investigatory records that conclude that any tax information actually was sent to the WH. Thus far, all of the WH tax information sharing allegations are based upon Austan Goolsbee’s impolitic remark about Koch Industries’ tax-paying habits–or lack thereof. And of course, Mr. Goolsbee’s comment may or may not have been based on actual knowledge.
In short, Mr. Wood has made two factual errors here, both of which make rather substantial assumptions that are not (at least not yet) supported by any known facts.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jan 6, 2015 10:04:42 AM