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As the right continues to try to make the IRS’ bad behavior look political, they are seemingly doing nothing more than making themselves look foolish.  Fox News posted two articles at the end of the week (here and here) trying to further suggest the many times debunked notion the mistakes can be traced back to the White House and Darrell Issa also posted an op-ed in the USA Today eluding to the same.  Most of their new argument is based on Thursday’s testimony of two IRS employees, one of which linked the review of groups to the Office of Chief Counsel, who is an Obama appointee.

I suppose this was intended to be breaking news and something new for the country to look at regarding the ongoing investigation.  Just one problem: we already knew the Chief Counsel was involved over two months ago.  Call it lazy research.  Call it an omission.  Call it biased reporting.  Call it what you want.  It just looks ridiculous.

If you look at page 42 of the TIGTA’s report from May 14, 2013, the first entry in the timeline for August 4, 2011, the report clearly states:

   

Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue. (Emphasis added)
Breaking news folks!  The team at Fox has made it most of the way through one report released 9 weeks ago!  Congrats guys!

As for Mr. Issa, he continues to plant the seed that the targeting was political and goes to the White House at any chance he gets.  In his op-ed, he questions:

   

Was the targeting of Tea Party applicants directed from the White House or somewhere else outside the IRS?
He then suggests judgement should be withheld until all the info is in but the implication is clear.  There are many ways to word that question and make that point but he clearly refuses to stop linking the scandal to the White House despite having zero evidence.

If you have been paying close attention to the scandal and watched the 5 hours of testimony Thursday, you’ll notice an evolution in the argument coming from the right.  At first, they suggested the targeting itself was political but that has been debunked beyond any doubt at this point and there is no longer an argument there considering the mountain of evidence against it.

Now the argument is the delay in giving the non-profit groups approval was political.  And it turns out this argument may be showing the hypocrisy of the right considering they might be the side that created the problem that led to the delays.

If you watch the testimony of the Inspector General from Thursday and skip to questioning from Republican Rep. Tim Walberg at around the 46:00 mark, you’ll see him getting an answer he probably didn’t want regarding the delay.  He brings up how some of the work was shifted from an experienced IRS employee to another greener employee and the IG jumps in and points out:

   

I would just add, Congressman, given the fiscal constraints facing the entire nation, but especially those confronting the Internal Revenue Service, I am not surprised that they would have made a decision like that and they’re, unfortunately, going to have to continue to make some of these…haphazard-types of decisions because of a lack of resources and manpower. (Emphasis added)
In other words, the old conservative strategy of “starving the beast” has worked perfectly for them in that it has created underfunded agencies incapable of doing the work imposed on them by the government and now they get to yell “fire” where they lit the match.

Another tactic of the right in the first testimony was to demonize Lois Lerner further.  So, what do the IG investigators think of Lerner’s actions during their testimony?  She was actually helpful and trying to fix the problem.  When Republican Tim Walberg asked about her actions he received this response (44:47 mark):

   

Well, she (Lerner) was trying to fix the problem.  She…recognized, then, that these criteria were inappropriate, to use any names regardless of political party, and she was trying to fix it.
She might not have been perfect, but it certainly seems like she wasn’t as bad as the right is making her out to be.

There are two other exchanges I would encourage people to watch from the IG testimony.  The first (at 2:10:12) is Democrat Carolyn Maloney holding up and showing the training manual from the IRS that encourages employees to look for terms like “Republican, Democrat, donkey, elephant, Tea Party, and progressives.”  The IG explains he just received the document last week so this was not included in earlier testimony and reports from his office.

The second (at 2:18:16) tip of the hat goes to Democrat Tony Cardenas of California.  He simply asks the IG to identify if he has any evidence regarding accusations by Republicans, such as Representatives Issa and Rogers and Senators McConnell and Cruz, and if any of those outlandish claims have any truth to them.  Answer: nope.  Nicely done Mr. Cardenas!

I’ve said before the IRS acted poorly in this situation but the evidence continues to mount that none of the wrongdoing was political in nature.  And as this evidence mounts, the folks on the right trying to reach for anything they can to prove what isn’t true just look more and more ridiculous as time goes on.  Keep up the good work Fox and Issa!  We surely enjoy watching you show the world your true colors!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fox & Co. and Issa are just stringing it out.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peacestpete, gffish, micsimov

    killing time, to confuse and dumbdown their followers even more - cause they're
    certainly not interested in the economy and lowering unemployment.

    "Tax cuts for the 1% create jobs." -- Republicans, HAHAHA - in China

    by MartyM on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:41:49 PM PDT

  •  Hard to believe they are still beating this (0+ / 0-)

    dead horse.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:11:54 PM PDT

  •  Sadly, it's not just them. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish

      A blogger (on another website)  posted another article pushing the Issa agenda  in Atlanta (AJC) article.    The new claim is that the DEMS in these hearing are trying to stonewall this craziness.
        They don't want a reasoned debate and if one does engage in a discussion - then they immediately start to mock and belittle a blogger.  
       

  •  Corrections: (0+ / 0-)

    First, you say with regards to political motivations:  "that has been debunked beyond any doubt at this point and there is no longer an argument there considering the mountain of evidence against it." Really? Please elaborate. All I know of are denials by parties with a stake in the matter.

    Second, Lerner has pleaded the 5th rather than testify to her knowledge about the unusual and different treatment of the conservative applications. Doesn't sound like the action of someone trying to help if you ask me.  

    Third, It isn't that the chief counsel was "had a meeting". it is that he specifically requested the applications be sent to his office where they lingered for years. THAT is new information.

    I have said repeatedly that our side ignoring and trying to spin away as "nothing to see" this grossly inappropriate action is very disturbing. If you reversed the party affiliations we'd all be having a cow.  Discover the facts, hold people accountable. Fix the problem. Just like the President asked.

    •  Alrighty (0+ / 0-)

      1. Rep. Cummings pointed out during testimony that the committee had questioned 16 witnesses up to this point who worked on the situation in some way and all were on record (under oath, if I'm not mistaken) stating the targeting was not politically motivated.  That includes self-described Republicans who would, in the interest of their party, have a reason to attempt to say otherwise if there was any truth to it.  Also, as I pointed out in the post, Rep. Maloney showed the training manuals that instructed IRS employees to target both left and right sounding names and it has been reported for a while now those types of names were included in targeting.  Finally, the timeline of events show the targeting originated from the bottom of the IRS and made its way up the chain which counters the main argument from the right that it was directed from as high as the White House then made its way down.

      2. I'm simply stating what the Assistant Inspector General stated to the committee under oath.  It's possible (and sounds likely) Lerner will have to testify at some point so we could find out more from her later but, other than her pleading the 5th, there doesn't seem to be any hard evidence of wrongdoing by her at this point and the IG appears to be confirming that.  If you know of any other evidence given that suggests otherwise in how she handled the targeting once she found out about it, I'm all ears.

      3. Not new information since that can be noted from the TIGTA report and, if we assume that meeting in August 2011 is the first time the chief counsel's office began looking at the cases closely, they may have already been lingering for up to 18 months or longer at the IRS since the targeting began in Feb/Mar of the previous year.  Can't logically fault the office for that delay.

      4. I stated the behavior by the IRS was bad but the point is that the targeting was not politically motivated.  There is a big difference between employees using bad judgement to make their decisions and the White House using the IRS to target political enemies.  I would encourage you to watch the questioning I noted from Rep. Cardenas to get an idea of some of the wild allegations by members of Congress against Democrats and the White House.  It is important to note the difference in the public debate of this situation and there has been no evidence of any political motivation behind the targeting to this point.

      •  More corrections (0+ / 0-)

        1) The "targeting" of both sides from the training manual does not address the ad hoc policy, instituted by Lerner's office that tea party applications be sent to DC for further review. The six progressive applications were revised, as per the manual, by the front line screeners. The tea party applications were not as they were awaiting instructions from Dc. Which took two years.

        The Cincinnati agents certainly did not have political motivations. But of course they were not the ones making the decisions to put tea party applications on hold for two years.

        2): Here you go:

        Hofacre said IRS employees had reached out to Washington for guidance in 2010 on how to proceed with tea party cases and were told to wait.
        If you look at the testimony of Hull he said that Seto, the head of Mr. Hull’s unit in Washington D.C., Lois Lerner instructed that
        "the Tea Party applications should go through a multi-layer review that included her senior advisor and the Chief Counsel’s office."
        Hull also said this was the
        "first time in his 48 year career at the IRS he was told to send an application to (Ms. Lerner’s) senior advisor".
        #3. If you look at number two you see why there was a delay. The The apps were sent before that (as you say lingering for 18 months) because they were instructed to be sent there for review- but evidently were not reviewed at that time. Then according to Hull's testimony at that meeting The Chief Counsel’s office advised Mr. Hull that they
        "needed updated information to evaluate the applications".
         

        But of course the applications were up-to-date months earlier (when Hull made his recommendations) and  Hull testified that he

        found this request from the Chief Counsel’s office surprising
        . Meanwhile the tea party apps were sitting in Ohio where agents were asking for guidance but receiving none.

        I think you very well can blame the office for that- at least until they can provide an explanation which thus far they have not.

        #4. I do not think the WH had anything to do with this either but until there ARE answers and not dissembling, shooting messengers, and trying to brush it aside as nothing important, it gives ammo to Issa and his ilk to look for and promote the worst scenario.

        As the President said this should be investigated, people held accountable, and the problem fixed.

        •  As the focus is (0+ / 0-)

          now on the delay being political, as I mentioned, there is a very plausible explanation for that when coupling two pieces of info.  I pointed out the IG suggested the bad decision was derived "because of a lack of resources and manpower".  We also know 501c4 group spending on elections went from barely over $1 million in '06 to over $80 million in '08 and over $90 million in '10.  (Which is extremely odd to see an increase like that in a midterm versus the previous presidential election.  Note the differences from '00 to '02 to '04 to '06 and then from '10 to '12 in the link.)

          With that being said, I'll offer a possible explanation for the delay.  An understaffed and underfunded IRS team, that is used to seeing very little election activity from 501c4s, gets tasked with figuring out how to discern what is and what is not too much political activity from a sector that suddenly saw a more than %6000 increase in campaign spending in '08 and a bizarre upcoming increase in the following midterm.  The oncoming explosion in spending in '10 is coming from newly formed (mostly) conservative groups, most of which have some very common terms in their names.  The decision to inappropriately use names to target these groups slowly makes its way up the ladder and goes through a series of variations along the way, one of them we know from Thursday's testimony to be Lois Lerner trying to stop the use of names and focus on political advocacy.  The higher-ups in the IRS get wind and try to remedy the situation but also realize the groups still need scrutiny and still need to be kept within the bounds of the law considering the dramatic increase in spending.  They asked for a template from Hull based on the two cases he looked at and he points out there can be no template because each group is different in how they spend their money and what actions they perform (again, from Thursday).  They send his work to someone else looking for different ideas on building a usable template.  More delay ensues and we end up where we are now all because of the lack of manpower and resources coupled with the explosion in campaign spending.  

          I would argue this is not only a very plausible chain of events based on what we know for sure at this point but it would also explain why everyone that has testified has had no doubt the targeting and the actions were not politically motivated in any way.

          •  Well that's an new (0+ / 0-)

            explanation. It can go alongside the rouge agent and other excuses.  The number of 504c apps did not see a significant spike until after the terms were put in place.

            In 2009, before IRS began targeting tea party organizations, 1,751 groups applied for 501 (c)4 status. That number dropped in 2010 to 1,735. In fact, applications were down across all areas in the Tax Exempt division's jurisdiction. So, they had more staff available for processing. While the number of applications did increase in 2011 and 2012, there was no increase in applications when the IRS began isolating tea party groups.
            Moreover, the IRS reportedly abandoned the targeting in early 2012. It presumably had little trouble handling the increased number of applicants in advance of the 2012 election.

            Again the low level agents did not appear to have a bias. But they were following orders. From Lerner's division in DC. A decision which in effect froze nearly 300 applications for two years for no apparent professional reason.
            For whatever reason the IRS chose to target tea party organizations for special scrutiny, it wasn't due to a flood of new applications. The delay itself was not a function of professional judgement as Hull explained. It is still a mystery that only Lerner or Wurfel can answer. And until they do it smells very fishy.

            •  I'm aware of the number of applications (0+ / 0-)

              but the number would not need to increase to increase the load on the agents needing to investigate the political activity of 501(c)(4)s.  Let's say the number was exactly 1000 new apps per year (along with the tens of thousands that would need any kind of renewal).  When these organizations were only spending a little over $1 million in '06, they would not need to closely look at probably 95% or more of the new apps.  But when the political spending spikes like it did in '08, long before the targeting started, they are now looking at far more for political activity.  So, if you have, for example, five agents having to only look at 20 or 30 new organizations closely in '06, that's what they are used to as far as workload.  If they suddenly have to look at 500 to 600 new organizations participating in political activity, they won't be able to handle the work load.  There is no need for the shear number of apps per year to have increased for that to happen.  Only the nature of the organizations applying would have had to change and it's pretty clear from the campaign spending numbers that is exactly what happened.  Unless it can be proven the nature of the new organizations applying were not political, the number of apps per year in this time period is more or less irrelevant to the debate.

              •  Nice spin (0+ / 0-)

                But I 'aint buying it. Nor does the IRS make that claim.

                You say "If they suddenly have to look at 500 to 600 new organizations participating in political activity, they won't be able to handle the work load. " but that did not occur. The spike in applications- as I said- occurred AFTER the targeting of conservative applications.  Besides, an app per hour (or whatever): Look at their file. Do they merit approval? Yes? No? Done. Next ... The amount of money shouldn't have any effect on the time needed to review.

                But instead they, and only they, were sent to DC by the people who pled the fifth or retired suddenly. Very fishy. And really this an effort to defend the (apparently) indefensible isn't it? Reverse the party affiliations and I think you wouldn't be defending this.

                I could be totally wrong and I hope I am. But very fishy.

                504(c) can be political by the way. They just cannot campaign for (or against) a specific candidate.

                 

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