IRS scandal update: President Obama told Bill O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday that there wasn’t even a smidgen of corruption in the IRS Tea Party targeting controversy.
Instead, the president claimed in the pre-game interview televised on Fox that the scandal was the result of “bone-headed decisions” by agents in a local IRS office. In May 2013, however, President Obama called the IRS targeting of right-leaning groups “outrageous” and said those responsible would be held “fully accountable.”
Whether you like or dislike O’Reilly, and many don’t for good reason, he’s one of the few journalists in the otherwise generally docile mainstream media who is willing to ask the president tough questions. Perhaps St. Louis reporter Larry Conners was the only other one, and he wound up getting fired. This is a lot different from the approach common when George W. Bush was in office, when everyone from Matt Lauer on down (or up) had no hesitation about peppering Obama’s predecessor with often hostile, accusatory questions.
Many conservatives and libertarians have argued that the heightened IRS scrutiny of grassroots, Tea Party-aligned groups when they applied for nonprofit status amounted to voter suppression in the 2012 presidential election.
The president’s comments on Sunday raised eyebrows because a US Department of Justice criminal probe — which some have called a “sham” investigation and have called for a special prosecutor instead — into the unconstitutional heightened scrutiny of conservative groups who applied for 501(c)(4) nonprofit status is still ongoing.
An FBI leaker recently told The Wall Street Journal that no criminal charges are expected against government officials, however. This also raised eyebrows in that one of the key Washington D.C.-based IRS managers (now retired) involved in the IRS heightened scrutiny of Tea Party and similar groups invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when called to testify about the scandal before Congress. Moreover, the FBI has so far interviewed few if any of the victims.”
PJMedia offered this assessment of the president’s dismissal of any corruption before the investigation reaches completion: “You always have to keep your eye on the ball with this president. The IRS leaked the existence of the abuse in a conference call last May, and apologized for it at the same time. The leak itself came just ahead of an inspector general’s report that was about to disclose the abuse. The agency blamed the abuse on ‘rogue’ officials in its Cincinnati office, but officials later testified that they were acting on orders from IRS headquarters in Washington. It was eventually revealed that the IRS leaked information from conservative groups to their critics on the left. Career IRS lawyer Carter Hull testified that the applications involved were reviewed by William Wilkins, an Obama appointee in the IRS counsel’s office … Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of the abuse, eventually invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before Congress about her role in the abuse.”
Added The Wall Street Journal: “The President’s clairvoyance is extraordinary, since neither the Justice Department nor Congress has finished investigations. The congressional probes have conducted interviews with dozens of employees from the IRS and Treasury Department and reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents. They have already revealed that the tea-party cases, including intrusive questionnaires, were systematically reviewed by lawyers in the IRS Washington office. But hey, if the President says it’s all kosher and the FBI doesn’t intend to pursue criminal charges in its probe of the selective IRS screening procedures, why should Ms. Lerner take the Fifth? Perhaps we’ll get to hear what Ms. Lerner meant when she wrote in February 2011 emails that the tea party matter was ‘very dangerous’ and that ‘Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.’”
Congress held additional hearings about the IRS Tea Party Scandal this week during which Becky Gerritson and Catherine Englebrecht described their ordeals at the hands of the IRS. “Catherine Englebrecht described the government’s response to her Houston-based True the Vote group’s nonprofit application in 2009 as ‘the weaponization of government.’ She said she and her husband experienced multiple business and personal tax audits, as well as visits by officials from the FBI, OSHA, ATF and EPA.Neither she nor her husband had ever before been audited, and their 20-year-old high-tech manufacturing business had no previous OSHA inspections.”
Attorneys for Tea Party groups also testified:
The House Ways and Means Committee this week also released emails suggesting that “the Obama administration’s Treasury Department and former IRS official Lois Lerner conspired to draft new 501(c)(4) regulations to restrict the activity of conservative groups in a way that would not be disclosed publicly.”
The IRS is going ahead with new rules that could muzzle the free speech of Tea Party groups that have obtained 501(c)(4) nonprofit status, but will apparently leave unions and other politically active groups on the left/liberal side of the ideological spectrum untouched. In the meantime, the IRS is handing out bonuses to its employees.
Do you think the IRS Tea Party scandal will ever be investigated to the point that all the relevant facts will come out?
[image credit: Joshua Doubek]