The Inspector General’s report didn’t mention the IRS targeting progressive groups for enhanced scrutiny … because House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa used the Inspector General’s office to harass his own “Enemies List.”
Within hours after the release of the Inspector General’s report on the IRS targeting of conservative groups that applied for 501(c)(4) status, there were reports that the IRS had also asked progressive non-profit groups for the same information. Indeed the only group whose 501(c)(4) application was denied – the Maine Chapter of Emerge America – is a progressive organization that trains Democratic women to run for office.
Yet the media dutifully allowed House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa to charge President Obama with using the IRS to target political opponents, mostly because the IG’s report did not mention the IRS targeting progressive groups.
“Narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations”
On Tuesday we learned why, via the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein:
As for why the report failed to mention that progressive groups, along with tea party groups, had been placed on IRS so-called Be On The Lookout lists for special scrutiny, Karen Kraushaar, the communications director at the Treasury Inspector General’s Office, said investigators had been constrained by their mission statement. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) had specifically requested that investigators “narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.” So they did just that, Kraushaar said.
In other words, Chairman Issa asked for a selective investigation of the IRS, directing the IG’s office to look only at the IRS targeting of conservative groups. He then used the report from that selective investigation to build a narrative of the IRS targeting only conservative groups. It’s like combing through police records looking only for arrests of people wearing blue jeans … to tell a story that police arrest only people wearing blue jeans.
“It has contributed to the distortion of this entire investigation”
Yesterday the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), responded with an angry letter to the Treasury Department Inspector General’s office, with these key paragraphs:
Appendix VII of the audit report states: “The following chart illustrates a timeline of events from February 2010 through July 2012 involving the identification and processing of potential political cases.” There is no mention here that the timeline is narrowly focused on Tea Party and conservative organizations.
Failing to make this clear in these documents and at Congressional Hearings even when asked directly has been fully misleading. It has contributed to the distortion of this entire investigation, including use of innuendo and totally unsubstantiated assertions of White House involvement.
Mr. George, Congress created TIGTA to be an “independent and objective” unit to conduct and supervise audits and investigations into tax administration. Implicit in the word “objective” is a duty to be forth-coming. There is increasing evidence that the May 14, 2013 audit was fundamentally flawed and that your handling of it has failed to meet the necessary test of objectivity and forthrightness.
The IG’s response, so far, has been that they answered the questions they were asked to answer … by Chairman Issa.
“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks”
Chairman Issa has his own “enemies list,” as he made clear six days after the 2010 midterms:
Issa told Politico in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold “one or two hearings each week.”
“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” Issa said.
Issa is also targeting some ambitious up-and-comers like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio – all aggressive partisans – to chair some of his subcommittees.
He also wants to organize aggressive oversight beyond his committee and plans to refer inquiries to other House panels, drawing even more incoming GOP chairmen to the cause of investigating the executive branch.
In the coming weeks, Issa and his staff are also planning to reach out to the inspector general community and staffers at the various bureaucracies the committee will oversee.
“It’s a good thing the IRS is scrutinizing these applications”
Few progressive groups complained about the IRS procedures. As the Associated Press‘ Alan Fram and Stephen Ohlemacher reported yesterday, that may be because many progressive groups were neither shocked nor troubled by the scrutiny:
But even with the delays, leaders of some progressive groups said they didn’t feel like they were being targeted.
“This is kind of what you expect. You expect it to take a year or more to get your status because that’s just what the IRS goes through to do it,” said Maryann Martindale, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, a small non-profit that advocates for progressive causes. “So I don’t know that we feel particularly targeted.”
Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri, said it took about 14 months for the IRS to approve his group’s tax-exempt status, in December 2012. He said the IRS asked a lot of questions about the group’s activities.
“It took a long time. We didn’t think much of it,” Nicholson said. “What I thought at the time was, there’s a lot of new groups that have popped up in the election cycle and it’s a good thing the IRS is scrutinizing these applications.”
Tea Party groups howled that being asked to prove they weren’t political campaign organizations – forbidden under 501(c)(4) rules – was IRS oppression. Progressive groups saw that as the IRS doing their job.
The real scandal in the IRS story is Chairman Issa’s “enemies list” … and President Obama is at the top of that list.