The IRS scandal continues to grow and the Obama Administration continues to act as if nothing has happened. A number of bombshells came out today in documents released by the House Oversight Committee and statements by its chairman, Darrel Issa.
The most troublesome news is that contrary to the Obama Administration’s claim that the IRS’ politically-motivated targeting of conservative groups was limited to two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office, the directive seemed to come from higher up.
“I think as you have seen in a lots of press reports, that there were two rogue agents in Cincinnati that are sort of responsible for all of the issues we have been talking about today. What do you think about those allegations?” committee investigators asked an identified IRS worker from the Cincinnati office, according to a partial transcript released Sunday. “It’s impossible. As an agent we are controlled by man, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.
The agent also claimed that the applications of Tea Party and other conservative groups was done because “Washington D.C., wanted some cases,” and now that it has become a scandal the Obama Administration is “basically throwing us underneath the bus.”
The other big news was that the IRS scandal could extend well beyond the extra scrutiny applied to applications from conservative groups asking for a tax exemption. It could have spread to an intimidation campaign of everyday folks. David Lightman and Kevin Hall report for McClatchy:
A group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa had to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldn’t picket in front of Planned Parenthood.
Catherine Engelbrecht’s family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Retired military veteran Mark Drabik of Nebraska became active in and donated to conservative causes, then found the IRS challenging his church donations.
While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
To say this is disturbing would be a massive understatement. It’s one thing for the government to pick on other politicians (Watergate), the media (the recent AP scandal), or simply cover-up a botched operation (Benghazi). It’s entirely another thing for elites in Washington to pick on every day people simply going about their business in the best way they know how. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan picks up on the distinction,
“The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens,” writes Noonan. “It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.” So what are the IRS elites doing while the regular people toil under an Orwellian style crackdown? The New York Daily News reports:
“A government watchdog has found that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2010, according to a House committee.
That total includes $4 million for an August 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif. . . [in which] some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,5000 per night.”
Another day, another scandal.