Paul L. Caron

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 899

IRS Logo 2Investor's Business Daily editorial, IRS' Lois Lerner Skates; An Ugly Precedent Is Set:

The Justice Department declined to file charges against IRS enforcer Lois Lerner, who singled out Tea Party groups for scrutiny on political grounds. With no accountability, it's now open season on dissidents. ...

That's the message the Justice Department sent when, in a classic Friday night news dump, it decided to not file charges against IRS tax-exempt groups chief Lois Lerner. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Justice said that while it found "mismanagement, poor judgment and inertia," there was no case for a criminal prosecution.

This is absurd. Lerner was caught red-handed targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, wrote partisan emails to prove it, then engaged in a massive cover-up effort — with a suspiciously crashed server, an oddly missing BlackBerry and plenty of excuses.

She evaded even more accountability by shielding herself with the Fifth Amendment in Congress. The consequences to her have been . .. retirement on a full pension with all her bonuses to a multimillion-dollar mansion in the deep D.C. suburbs.

As for her victims — and they were many — there is no justice. Now everyone, no matter what their political leanings, will wonder if they too are a political target by an out-of-control agency protected by the Justice Department.

Because that's the real consequence of this failure to hold Lerner accountable: A precedent has been set.

IRS officials now know they can go after any political opponent they want, ruin them any way they wish, swing an election — as occurred with Lerner's actions — and get away with it. ...

The Democrats may giggle with glee at seeing another of their own skate free based on the president's executive actions through his DOJ flunkies.

But two can play that game. If a Republican as unscrupulous as Obama wins the election, the same banana republic politics in government will make Democrats the next victims.

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink


Mr. TexEcon: Actually, DOJ did not find "insufficient" evidence to file charges. They found NO evidence.

Mr. Spradling: Someone is pulling your chain. Federal employees do not sign non-disclosure agreements when they retire from the IRS. Retirement is statutory; non-disclosure under sec. 6103 is statutory. Retirement is not and cannot be made contingent upon non-statutory terms.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Oct 27, 2015 7:37:46 AM

The really frightening thing is talking to recent IRS retirees who say the problem is much worse than anybody imagines. Unfortunately, they had to sign 3-year non-disclosure agreements and cannot share their experiences with the public.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Oct 26, 2015 7:45:35 AM

To the contrary, targeting a person or group because of their viewpoint under color of law to deprive them of rights is a criminal offense, as pointed out in the Assistant Attorney General's letter to the House Judiciary Committee. The problem, as AAG put it, was that they could not find evidence sufficient to overcome the reasonable doubt standard.
The trouble is the investigation itself. IRS employees are represented by a union so you can imagine the position it took and so advised its members. Further, we don't know how hard they pressed on what seemed smoking guns to everyone else – a second, non-government email account to conduct official business, a missing blackberry, the missing hard drive, then the apparent coordination between Lerner and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (in its drive to criminalize opposition political activity). Maybe the next administration will revisit the investigation (much as the Obama Administration did in re-investigating the CIA interrogation program after 9-11).
The most frightening thing about this whole affair is the people who try to trivialize its importance, from Ranking Member Cummings on the House Oversight Committee to people who comment on blogs. They just don’t see the damage an attitude like this – that it is permissible to abuse due process, the rule of law, and fundamental fairness as long as it is your side doing it - is doing to our system of government.
These are dangerous times.

Posted by: TexEcon | Oct 25, 2015 11:27:56 PM

IBD's author is deluded: Two cannot play this game.

Career government employees will blow the whistle immediately and enthusiastically on any right-wing excesses. Left-wing excesses are rationalized as necessary evils for the greater good, which just happens to coincide with greater government employment.

Posted by: AMT buff | Oct 25, 2015 7:26:20 PM

While we may all agree that Lerner is a cowardly and odious character, there is no evidence that she violated criminal law. "Targeting," even if proven, is not criminal. Nor is writing partisan emails or denigrating Lincoln's presidency. And BTW, DOJ released the news Friday morning, not in "a classic, Friday night news dump."

Posted by: Publius Novus | Oct 25, 2015 12:19:44 PM