Paul L. Caron
Dean


Monday, June 20, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1138

IRS Logo 2Washington Post editorial, The GOP Congress Is Unfairly Targeting the IRS:

Most of the country has moved on from the Internal Revenue Service targeting controversy, which turned out to be not much of a scandal. Although initial reports seemed highly suspicious, it’s been clear for some time that administrative incompetence was the likely culprit, not the Obama administration vindictively singling out conservative groups for IRS scrutiny. But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the other Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are still outraged. Having turned what could have been a wholly reasonable investigation of IRS carelessness into a partisan scandal hunt, the most concrete result from their inquiries may end up being a gratuitous attack on a longtime public servant.

The committee voted on party lines Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the man President Obama tapped to lead the agency after reports that IRS employees had disproportionately scrutinized conservative nonprofits. Nonprofits that may engage in political activity deserve IRS attention, because the government should not be subsidizing political groups through the tax code. The problem was the thoughtless way IRS employees went about determining which groups to examine. Mr. Koskinen, an old bureaucratic hand, was not at the IRS when this happened. He was just supposed to clean things up afterward.

As their inquiry failed to turn up evidence of malign political motives, House Republican investigators turned their sights on Mr. Koskinen personally, claiming that he badly — perhaps purposely — bungled his assignment. IRS employees destroyed a trove of emails the committee wanted to see — after the agency was supposed to be saving them. The IRS’s inspector general found that the erasure was an honest, if frustrating, mistake. Still, Mr. Koskinen’s congressional inquisitors charge, he did not confess to Congress when he should have. Some statements he made to Congress turned out to be untrue. The IRS director has a reasonable response to that, too: He did not immediately know the nature or extent of the gap in emails, and once he did, he ordered his staff to attempt to recover what they could.

The GOP Congress has already harassed and weakened the IRS through counterproductive budget cuts. Now Republican lawmakers appear to be doing their best to deter anyone of competence from ever agreeing to lead the agency. The result of a congressional investigation into IRS dysfunction would end up being more IRS dysfunction.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/the-irs-scandal-day-1138.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

"The GOP Congress Is Unfairly Targeting the IRS"

I guess they don't teach irony in journalism school, since the IG report and Congressional investigation persuasively showed that the IRS unfairly targeted Tea Party groups.

One might even say that turnabout is absolutely fair play, given the circumstances...

Posted by: MM | Jun 20, 2016 7:48:02 PM

Some statements he made to Congress turned out to be untrue.

That's a very polite way to say he lied and knowing he lied should cause even a zealot Democrat to question the rest of the conclusions this author makes about no one being responsible and the program of persecution carried out by Obama's IRS before and after Obama knew about it was all just an honest mistake.

Posted by: wodun | Jun 20, 2016 9:04:21 PM

I think it is clear there was no intentional targeting other than the targeting by congress and the reduction of funding.

Posted by: Sterling | Jun 20, 2016 10:59:27 PM

"I think it is clear there was no intentional targeting."

Just accidential or coincidental targeting, right? Followed by destructon of evidence, accidential and coincidental, of course. Followed by stonewalling and pleading the 5th Amendment, with nothing to hide, I'm sure.

What's clear to me is that people that lean one a particular way politically see what they want to see, ignore any evidence to the contrary, and don't give a crap about government transparency. Of course, if the man in the White House had an "R" next to his name...

Posted by: MM | Jun 21, 2016 7:20:00 AM

Mr. MM: Turnabout is fair play? Don’t you find it odd that conservatives, including you, frequently anthropomorphize an inanimate, non-human tax collection agency? There is no “turnabout” on a government agency. You can’t hurt it by reducing its budget. When the Congress reduces IRS funding, the agency collects less revenue and generally does it, shall we say, less properly. It collects less revenue because its main resource, government workers, work 40 hours a week, are reduced in number by attrition (usually), receive less training, and work with older equipment. So the IRS doesn’t suffer from a budget cut, because the IRS does not–indeed cannot–care. On the other hand, when the IRS collects less revenue, either the federal budget must be reduced (theoretically), taxes must be increased (theoretically), or the annual budget deficit increases (actually). My mother used to caution us about “cutting of your nose to spite your face.” Obviously, she was smarter than the Appropriations Committee.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 21, 2016 7:47:12 AM

Your point isn't quite true in this instance. Congress can't prosecute anyone regardless of the evidence. That's not one of their powers. The power of the purse, however, is one of the (and probably the main) check they have on abuses by the executive.
So, if they shouldn't use the power of the purse, you're basically saying they should never hold the executive accountable for anything.

Posted by: sigh | Jun 21, 2016 8:25:51 AM

Publius N,

I'm a libertarian, not a conservative. There's a difference, though from your POV I doubt you can tell. You're fond of crying ad hominem when others have done so, which is ironic since you routinely engage in the same due to some personal problem you have with Congress's constitutionally mandated oversight of the Executive branch.

I've done my homework and know the facts. Despite a drop in funding since the sequester kicked in, voluntary tax compliance has changed much at all. It's still over 80%, which is where it's been since at least 2006.

That being said, I have no problem punishing government abuse of power in this manner, since the branch in question refuses to police itself, destroys potential evidence of wrongdoing, and the Commissioner himself makes false statements before Congress.

As an *honest* taxpayer in good standing, hitting bureaucrats where it hurts is perfectly fine in my book, even productive if it restrains future abuses of power:
http://gao.gov/products/GAO-16-459R

Not that it seemed to stop the IRS in this case. Even as their budget was going down and they were targeting conservative groups, they still had the millions of dollars to waste on crap like this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/irs-waste-undermines-federal-employees/2013/06/06/8ef09ea6-ced3-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

Tip of the iceberg, no doubt. I'm sure you can rationalize it all away, and that's perfectly fine, it's a free country. I appreciate apologists for government malfeasance. They're far more transparent than the bureaucracy they constantly defend...

Posted by: MM | Jun 21, 2016 8:11:57 PM

Sigh,

M. Publius has been saying that a Republican controlled Congress shouldn't perform its constitutionally required oversight duty over a Democratically controlled Executive Branch.

I have no doubt that his tune would change 180 degrees if the parties in question were reversed but all the salient facts remained the same...

Posted by: MM | Jun 21, 2016 8:20:00 PM