If you have been following the Internal Revenue Service scandal over the past 24 hours or so, you may be reeling, just a bit. And if you haven’t, you’ve missed an out-of-body experience in which the IRS, the administration and Democrats seem to think Americans are a bunch of dopes.
1. At his contentious hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Steven T. Miller, the IRS’s outgoing acting commissioner, denied anything illegal was done. He denied targeting groups. But yes, groups with “tea party” and other conservative flags got different treatment. It was bad, what they did, he allowed. No buzz word like “progressive” was used to flag liberal groups. And he wants a bigger IRS budget. (Honestly, you can’t make this up.)
2. The IRS did not reveal the scandal before the 2012 election. The IRS falsely informed Congress the targeting wasn’t going on. Even NBC’s Lisa Myers could figure out, “Imagine if we — if you can — what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different.”
3. Miller said this was a matter of “horrible customer service.”
4. Miller asserted that the woman who ran the group that engaged in this behavior and is now running the Obamacare unit is a “superb civil servant.” (Right about now, you might think he was pulling our leg, but he was sincere.)
5. Miller can’t identify who thought up the scheme.
6. Yesterday, the president, when asked if the White House knew about the scandal before it was revealed, would only say he didn’t know about what was in the Inspector General’s report until the report was released. If anyone in the White House was aware of the misconduct and kept it from coming out before the election, this will be one really big problem for them.
7. Some House Democrats on the committee repeatedly sought to blame the Citizens United case, which ruled about dollar limits on third-party groups, including those at issue in the IRS scandal. That is a bit like blaming the tax code for Al Capone’s tax evasion.
8. However, some Democrats, maybe sensing that this looks really, really bad, expressed outrage and agreed there needs to be more investigation. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said that when it turned out there had been targeting the IRS was obligated to inform Congress. Officials then did not do so.
9. Miller smirked, rolled his eyes and repeatedly refused to answer questions to the obvious dismay of Republicans trying to figure out what the heck went on.
10. The IRS may have leaked confidential tax information from one group to other, according to some of those singled out by the IRS. But it is not yet clear this occurred. (This would definitely be illegal, Mr. Miller.) Recall that during the campaign the Obama team referred to the Koch brothers tax returns. We don’t know if that is related to this scandal. Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Republicans raised an instances in which this was reported, including one involving the National Organization for Marriage.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the hearing, ““What we don’t know at this point is whether it jumped the fence from the IRS to the White House. But we do know this: We can’t count on the administration to be forthcoming about the details of this scandal — because so far they’ve been anything but.”
Those who imagine the federal government is both dishonest and incompetent had their worst suspicions confirmed over the last couple of days.