Wonkbook: All the latest on all the scandals

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(Photo by JIM LO SCALZO/EPA)
(Photo by JIM LO SCALZO/EPA)

The Inspector General's report on the IRS's treatment of conservative groups came out late yesterday. So if you missed it, or simply decided to ignore it till morning, here's what it said.

The key story of the report seems to be this: In the summer of 2010, in response to a huge surge in 501(c)(4) applications and media stories that some of these groups were illegally acting like political organizations, a group of IRS officials developed inappropriate criteria for identifying overly politicized 501(c)(4)s applicants. Those criteria included looking for the words “tea party” or related terms. In July 2011, the director of the IRS told them to knock it off and use more politically neutral criteria that focused on the activities of the group rather than the name or ideology of the group.

Here’s where things get interesting: In January 2012, that same group of IRS officials goes rogue and changes the test back without getting management approval. According to the IG report, “they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad.” They’re found out three months later and, in May 2012, a new IRS director again demands the test is revised to “more clearly focus on activities permitted under the Treasury Regulations.” That’s the test the IRS is using now, and the IG seems comfortable with it.

Management, however, isn’t happy with what’s been going on. They issue “a memorandum requiring all original entries and changes to criteria…be approved at the executive level prior to implementation.”

So that’s the core of the story. But it’s not the whole story. Much of the report is about confusion, incompetence, and unacceptable delays in the IRS unit that manages questionable 501(c)(4) applications. There’s no allegation here of politicization. But it’s nevertheless unacceptable:

Many organizations waited much longer than 13 months for a decision, while others have yet to receive a decision from the IRS. For example, as of December 17, 2012, the IRS had been processing several potential political cases for more than 1,000 calendar days. Some of these organizations received requests for additional information in Calendar Year 2010 and then did not hear from the IRS again for more than a year while the Determinations Unit waited for assistance from the Technical Unit. For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, 33 as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).

Those aren’t reasonable delays. Then there’s this charming tidbit: Some of the “letters requested that the information be provided in two or three weeks (as is customary in these letters) despite the fact that the IRS had done nothing with some of the applications for more than one year.” Imagine you’re the director of a hopeful 501(c)(4) that applied to the IRS a year ago, got no response, and then all of a sudden you receive a letter demanding tons of information within two or three weeks. It’s absurd.

These delays impose a real cost, too. It’s been noted that none of the groups caught in this net were rejected for 501(c)(4) status. That’s true. But many of them are still waiting for a ruling, and others saw their activities held up for over two years.

Some of the information the IRA requested was also inappropriate, and could’ve revealed donor information that the 501(c)(4) designation is designed to keep secret. Again, quoting the IG report: “The Determinations Unit requested donor information from 27 organizations that it would be required to make public if the application was approved, even though this information could not be disclosed by the IRS when provided by organizations whose tax-exempt status had been approved.”

The key question related to the political test remains: Why hasn’t anyone been fired? It’s not definitive whether there’s any evidence that the IRS employees who created the tea-party-focused test and then recreated it after the director objected did so for political reasons. It certainly seems possible. And even if their actions were entirely non-political there was a lot of incompetence and a bit of insubordination. What were the consequences?

Beyond the employees, of course, lie the IRS's procedures. It's too slow. many of the employees don't understand the agency's (admittedly opaque) approach to regulating 501(c)(4)s. The process lacks any kind of transparency. The IG made nine recommendations for fixing all this. The IRS has agreed to implement seven of them, and has proposed alternatives for the remaining two (the disagreements are over how to document the reasons that applications are chosen for review and how to train IRS specialists on the issue).

Unless significant further evidence comes out, however, this doesn’t look like the rot went particularly deep. The most cynical interpretation of the facts of the case laid out by the IG are that a group of mid-level IRS employees created a politically motivated screening process for 501(c)(4) applications. They were stopped, twice, by IRS management, and procedures were put in place to ensure they couldn’t do anything like it again. The employees failed, but the system seems to have worked, though not before a lot of groups received some pretty shabby treatment.

Going forward, the White House has taken the IG's side. "I’ve directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again," President Obama said in a statement.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 1/3 (again). Yesterday, that was the share of House committees investigating the Obama administration in some capacity. Today, it's the share of new global oil supplies that will come from the US over the next five years, according to a new IEA forecast. That's a monster piece of the energy-market pie, in case you couldn't tell.

Wonkblog's Graphs of the Day: Google searches for "scandal" coming from the District of Columbia are up sharply. So are keywords like "Benghazi."

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) all the world's a scandal, we're just merely players; 2) CBO releases update; 3) immigration reform debate rages; 4) no Medicaid penalty yet; and 5) America strikes oil.

1) Top story: Everything you need to know about all the scandals

House will grill Holder on AP, IRS scandals today. "Attorney General Eric Holder will testify before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, where Republicans say they’ll grill him about the Justice Department’s secret review of Associated Press phone records and the IRS targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny, among other issues. The oversight hearing had already been scheduled for 1 p.m. on May 15. But Republicans now plan to use the time to address the two issues that came to light this week." Rachel Weiner in The Washington Post.

@sam_baker: somewhere in the federal government there is one guy who isn't furloughed and whose agency is scandal-free. he is the chosen one

Obama second term now clouded by controversies. "Obama’s words suggest that he believes there is a way to compartmentalize the business of his second term: legislative and other business here, scandals over there. But things are too messy for that right now. A politician who has counted good luck as part of his skill set will need all the breaks he can muster to pull off that bit of political jujitsu...It is too early to draw any broad conclusions about the long-term damage to Obama’s presidency from the news that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups and that the Justice Department collected two months of phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors. But in the moment, these controversies — along with the ongoing congressional investigation of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya — have created major challenges for the administration." Dan Balz in The Washington Post.

@DLin71: Has the White House been accused of any new scandal since yesterday? I’m “Obama likes Nickelback” away from getting bingo.

The scandals threaten Obama's ability to have a real policy agenda. "[T]he three controversies have reinforced GOP suggestions that the president is arrogant and invasive. The White House said Tuesday that Obama’s second term would not be derailed — that he will strike a significant budget deal and secure comprehensive immigration reform — even if only because Republicans want those bills to pass, too." Justin Sink in The Hill.

@mattyglesias: The return of scandal politics is annoying, but a bullish sign about the economy. The post-crisis world is here.

Is this a problem of leadership? "There are at least three leadership talking points we will hear again and again regarding the trio of scandals suddenly engulfing the White House. The first is that every president gets his share of second-term scandals, and that Obama is getting his...The second is that the president needs to get out in front of the scandals...The third is that President Obama will need to make decisive moves in response and ensure that some heads roll...But another leadership challenge the president faces as a result of these scandals is far bigger than how he’ll navigate lame-duck politics, manage crisis communications, or appear decisive and in charge. It’s how he’ll get anything done." Jena McGregor in The Washington Post.

Interview: Alan Abramowitz on why these scandals are not 'game changers.' Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Updates on the IRS scandal

IG report: 'Inappropriate criteria' stalled IRS approvals of conservative groups. "Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of whether Internal Revenue Service employees broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the latest setback for an agency that is the subject of withering bipartisan criticism and multiple congressional inquiries. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the Justice Department and the FBI began the probe after the IRS acknowledged that it selected conservative groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special reviews...Also Tuesday, a widely anticipated report by the IRS’s watchdog described the agency’s tax-exempt unit — where the screening of conservative groups occurred — as a bureaucratic mess, with some employees ignorant about tax laws, defiant of their supervisors and blind to the appearance of impropriety." Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Read: The IRS Inspector General's report on the IRS targeting conservative groupsBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

This is a problem of incompetence and insubordination. It's not a conspiracy. "The key story of the report seems to be this: In the summer of 2010, in response to a huge surge in 501(c)(4) applications and media stories that some of these groups were illegally acting like political organizations, a group of IRS officials developed inappropriate criteria for identifying overly politicized 501(c)(4)s applicants. Those criteria included looking for the words “tea party” or related terms. In July 2011, the director of the IRS told them to knock it off and use more politically neutral criteria that focused on the activities of the group rather than the name or ideology of the group. Here’s where things get interesting: In January 2012, that same group of IRS officials goes rogue and changes the test back without getting management approval." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Explainer: What you need to know about the IRS scandal. Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

Sen. Baucus meets with IRS chief. "Steven Miller, the embattled acting director of the Internal Revenue Service, was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet behind closed doors with one of the lawmakers who will play a key role in probing the agency’s practice of targeting conservative groups seeking to become nonprofits. He met with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus for about an hour. The Montana Democrat said the meeting is an early step in the process of his committee’s investigation into the IRS and that a hearing will be scheduled soon." Lauren French in Politico.

Interview: A conversation with former IRS commissioner Mark W. EversonSean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

Lois Lerner accused of lying to Congress. "Close to 500 groups were flagged for extra review, according to a nine-page letter sent to Lerner today by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)...The two Republicans also accuse Lerner of providing false information to Congress on four separate occasions." Lauren French in Politico.

Explainer: Who is calling for what, and whose head, in the IRS scandalAaron Blake in The Washington Post.

How is the IRS supposed to vet 501(c)(4) groups, anyway? "The IRS needs to draw a distinction between political groups and “social welfare” groups across the spectrum. Any tax-exempt group that is organized under Section 501(c)(4) must fall into the latter category. That is, the group has to be “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.”..But they can’t be primarily engaged in partisan politics or electioneering." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Explainer: 5 key players to watch in the IRSDavid Nather and Kelsey Snell in Politico.

...And why do these groups want the tax status? "They weren’t petitioning to become recognized as “social welfare” groups because they were hoping to save on costs. They wanted to keep the identities of their contributors secret...Many major donors — Republicans and Democrats — value their anonymity, prizing the fact that they don’t have to become public figures if they give to a non-profit that, ostensibly, does voter education rather than direct political advocacy." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Updates on the AP/DoJ scandal

In letter to AP, Justice Dept. insists it has acted properly. "“We strive in every case to strike the proper balance between the public’s interest in the free flow of information and the public’s interest in the protection of national security and effective enforcement of our criminal laws,” [Deputy Attorney General James] Cole wrote. “We believe we have done so in this matter.”The Justice Department is allowed to obtain phone records without notifying someone if doing so would threaten the integrity of the investigation. Cole said the Justice Department sought the records only after exhausting other methods of information-gathering." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

@samsteinhp: it's been, like, 16 hours since our last major scandal broke. feels like we're due.

...But the whole mainstream media is furious. "More than four dozen media organizations joined forces Tuesday to sharply rebuke the Justice Department for secretly gathering the phone records of Associated Press journalists, calling on the department to promptly return the records and disclose all other pending subpoenas related to the news media. “The scope of this action calls into question the very integrity of Department of Justice policies toward the press and its ability to balance, on its own, its police powers against the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public’s interest in reporting on all manner of government conduct."" Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

...And Sen. Reid says he agrees. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday called the Justice Department's seizure of the phone records of the Associated Press "inexcusable" and admitted the difficulty of defending its actions. Reid went a step further to say there is no way for Justice Department officials to justify a broad seizure of private phone records." Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Holder said he had recused himself from the probe. "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that he recused himself from involvement in a Justice Department leak investigation that secretly acquired telephone records of Associated Press journalists...Holder said in reply to questions that he does not know “all that went into the formulation of the subpoena” for the phone records, but that “this was a very serious leak — a very, very serious leak.” He said that since he became a prosecutor in 1976, “this is among the top two or three serious leaks that I’ve ever seen.”" Sari Horwitz and William Branigin in The Washington Post.

@AlecMacGillis: Has there ever been such a stark contrast of a besieged WH cutting bait on one fall guy scandal while defending on others? #toughluckIRS

But the real AP scandal might just be how much of this is actually legal. "U.S. law allows the government to engage in this type of surveillance—on media organizations or anyone else—without meaningful judicial oversight. The key here is a legal principle known as the “third party doctrine,” which says that users don’t have Fourth Amendment rights protecting information they voluntarily turn over to someone else. Courts have said that when you dial a phone number, you are voluntarily providing information to your phone company, which is then free to share it with the government." Timothy Lee in The Washington Post.

...And that presents a real challenge to Obama's credibility on civil liberties. "President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer who came to office pledging renewed respect for civil liberties, is today running an administration at odds with his résumé and preelection promises. The Justice Department’s collection of journalists’ phone records and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties — and as a president who would heal the country from damage done by his predecessor." Scott Wilson in The Washington Post.

Updates on Benghazi

WH: Republicans are fabricating emails. "The White House on Tuesday accused congressional Republicans of fabricating emails leaked to two different media organizations that suggested interest in scrubbing the Benghazi, Libya, talking points...[A] full version of the email, obtained by CNN, suggests that Rhodes never specifically says he wants the concerns of State Department official Victoria Nuland to be addressed at a meeting to work through the talking points. Rather, he wrote that he hoped the concerns of all those involved in the process are considered." Justin Sink in The Hill.

Updates on Sebelius fundraising controversy

More Republicans are calling for an investigation into Sebelius's solicitations. "Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee raised questions Tuesday about Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's push to raise money for a group promoting the Affordable Care Act...The lawmakers asked for detailed information about Sebelius's outreach to industry groups and whether private funds also went to HHS accounts. Two House committees launched similar investigations Monday." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Interview: Lamar Alexander: Sebelius fundraising ‘arguably an even bigger issue’ than Iran-Contra. Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Scandal opinion round-up

MILBANK: The uninterested president. "President Passerby needs urgently to become a participant in his presidency...Nixon was a control freak. Obama seems to be the opposite: He wants no control over the actions of his administration. As the president distances himself from the actions of “independent” figures within his administration, he’s creating a power vacuum in which lower officials behave as though anything goes." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

SARGENT: Scandals might just save entitlements from reform. And that's a good thing, too. "The Monica Lewinsky scandal may have helped save Social Security in the late 1990s. Now the scandal fever currently gripping Washington — IRS, Benghazi, Associated Press phone records — may save Social Security and Medicare two decades later. Liberals who are dreading the scandal-mania that is taking hold should note that it contains a potential upside: It could make a Grand Bargain that includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits even less likely than it already is." Greg Sargent in The Washington Post.

@AlecMacGillis: My favorite of the 20 scandal stories now on Politico's home page: "Chaffetz: Impeachment not off table." #itsrightnexttothesalt

MARCUS: IRS has been too lax on tax-exempt status. "This less-noticed scandal is the mirror image of the one dominating the front page. It’s not that the IRS has been too tough on such groups — it’s that the agency has been too lax. Groups on the right and left have taken advantage of the tax laws to intervene in elections while hiding their donors from public view." Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post.

ALLEN AND VANDEHEI: DC turns on Obama. "The town is turning on President Obama – and this is very bad news for this White House. Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama – and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration...[T]he press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be. This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked together to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system." Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei in Politico.

@ryanavent: Scandal-day twitter gets much more bearable around 8 pm. Presumably because everyone is about three drinks in.

BAZELON: The war on journalists. "In light of the Justice Department’s outrageously broad grab of the phone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press, the administration’s unprecedented criminalizing of leaks has become embarrassing. This is not what Obama’s supporters thought they were getting. Obama the candidate strongly supported civil liberties and protections for whistle-blowers. Obama the president risks making government intrusion into the investigative work of the press a galling part of his legacy." Emily Bazelon in Slate.

Music recommendations interlude: Scandal, "Goodbye to You," 1982. (Warning: This is hilariously Eighties.)

Top op-eds

BARRO: Don't get too excited about the newest CBO report. "That’s because the main factors cutting this year’s deficit are one-time effects. Half of this year’s deficit reduction comes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants that have been under federal conservatorship since 2008. They will make unexpectedly large dividend payments to the government this year, but that won’t happen again. The other half of this year’s change comes from higher-than-expected revenues, which are also mostly a one-time spike." Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

YGLESIAS: McCain's 'a la carte' proposal won't fix cable. "Briefly a maverick again, Sen. John McCain wants to require that cable companies offer their channels to consumers on an à la carte basis. It’s nice to see a Republican recognizing that a healthy respect for the free market is not the same thing as mindless deference to the business model of entrenched firms. Unfortunately, though à la carte sounds like common sense to many people, it’s unlikely to be a good idea. Everyone hates their cable company, and à la carte is a way to vent that rage in a way that would hurt cable companies’ profits. But it would do so in a way that would leave most consumers worse off, and generate meaningful savings for only a small minority. The problem starts with a fundamental misunderstanding: the delusion that if your basic package contains plenty of channels you never watch, you’re paying for many channels you don’t watch." Matt Yglesias in Slate.

PEARLSTEIN: Case for austerity not dead yet. "[T]he idea that countries like Greece, Italy and even France could be relied on to do structural reforms once a stimulus-induced, deficit-driven recovery had been achieved is simply a political fantasy. There is no historical support for such a belief, and everything we know about the politics of these countries suggests otherwise." Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post.

Newfoundland interlude: Here's a goat riding a horse.

2) CBO releases budget update

In new report, CBO sees brighter economy, smaller budget deficit. "After four years of budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecast Tuesday that this year’s deficit will plummet to $642 billion, or 4 percent of the nation’s total economic output...The forecast puts the nation on track for its smallest deficit since 2008, before the recession hit in full force. And the CBO predicts that the gap between revenue and spending will continue to shrink through 2015, when it will fall to just over 2 percent of the economy — well within the bounds of what economists consider to be economically sustainable" Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

CBO is saying that the deficit problem is solved for the next decade. "The last time the CBO estimated our future deficits was February– just four short months ago. Back then, the CBO thought deficits were falling and health-care costs were slowing. Today, the CBO thinks deficits are falling even faster and health-care costs are slowing by even more. Here’s the short version: Washington’s most powerful budget nerds have cut their prediction for 2013 deficits by more than $200 billion. They’ve cut their projections for our deficits over the next decade by more than $600 billion. Add it all up and our 10-year deficits are looking downright manageable." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Sequestration update: Defense Dept. will only need 11 (not 14) days of furloughs. "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced plans Tuesday afternoon to reduce the number of furlough days faced by the department’s 800,000 civilian workers from 14 days to 11 days beginning in June...Hagel told the audience of several hundred Defense employees that up to 11 days of furloughs will begin July 8. “We did everything we could not to get to this day,” he said." Steve Vogel in The Washington Post.

Rep. Owens has a new idea for government bond issuance. "Under his bill, H.R. 1956, people could buy War on Debt Bonds from the government at a minimum $10,000 face value. Annual, tax-free interest on these bonds would accumulate, and owners could redeem them only after 50 years...[I]t would allow holders to redeem their War on Debt Bonds earlier than 50 years, during any year in which the budget deficit exceeds 3 percent of gross domestic product, or if the public debt exceeds 100 percent of GDP." Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.

What poverty looks like interlude: A new generation of young Americans hopping the nation's trains.

3) Immigration reform in debate

Senate panel rejects 2 controversial amendments to immigration reform. "Several Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee joined with Democrats Tuesday to reject two controversial GOP amendments that would have upended a bipartisan proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws by requiring stricter border enforcement and visa standards. The two amendments by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) would have required the Department of Homeland Security to establish a biometric identification system to track people entering and exiting the country at the nation’s airports, seaports and border crossings and would have limited the number of legal immigrants who could enter the country with worker visas." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Focus turns to border security, temporary visas as immigration reform moves ahead. "The Senate Judiciary Committee continued to plow through amendments to an immigration overhaul bill on Tuesday, revisiting border security provisions before moving on to measures related to temporary guest worker programs. Here is a look at some of the more interesting and important amendments offered, and how they fared in committee." Ashley Parker in The New York Times.

...And the legislative language for student visas, too. "The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a proposal Tuesday meant to improve information-sharing on foreign students – a direct influence of last month’s Boston bombings on the ongoing immigration debate on Capitol Hill. The amendment to the Gang of Eight immigration bill from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would require the Department of Homeland Security to transmit information about student visas into U.S. Customs and Border Protection databases. If that isn’t done within 120 days, issuing certain student visas would be suspended." Seung Min Kim in Politico.

Disturbing interlude: The geography of hate, via Twitter.

4) No Medicaid penalty for states

CMS won't penalize hospitals with cuts to 'disproportionate share hospital' funding. "[T]he Obama administration announced that for the next two years, it doesn’t plan to penalize states that have yet to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health law by targeting them for reduced Medicaid funding, according to a proposed rule unveiled Monday. That money goes to  hospitals that treat large numbers of poor people. The health law is funded in part by a gradual reduction in extra Medicaid payments, called disproportionate share hospital, or DSH. Those payments help hospitals that care for a large proportion of poor patients who are covered by Medicaid, or who are uninsured...The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed on Monday that for the next two years, the DSH dollars be reduced based partly on a state’s percent of uninsured residents" Phil Galewitz in Kaiser Health News.

The GOP wants to deny the IRS funding for enforce Obamacare. "Republican Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) is preparing legislation to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from hiring new agents to implement Obamacare in light of the agency's targeting of conservative groups...The IRS is responsible for the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, and the tax subsidies that millions of people will receive to help them buy health insurance. The agency will also manage the law's new streams of tax revenue from healthcare stakeholders." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

How Gosnell can save the abortion-rights movement. "While Planned Parenthood applauded the Gosnell verdict, and should be applauded for doing so, the real question becomes how it, and the rest of the reproductive rights movement, moves forward after Gosnell. If the Gosnell case is treated as merely an unfortunate blip, then the mainstream reproductive rights movement will risk becoming a relic of the past, out of touch with modern day feminists who embrace reproductive rights, as well as the grey area of what constitutes a life. But if these groups care about ensuring that reproductive rights continue to exist long after the name Kermit Gosnell has been forgotten, then it is essential that they acknowledge two things." Keli Goff in The Washington Post.

Advice from a 6th grader interlude: "As you get older, things will seem more lame than before. Nothing will change but you, I promise."

5) American oil, and lots of it

IEA: US will account for one third of all new oil supply in world over the next 5 years. "The US will account for a third of new oil supplies over the next five years, more than previously expected, according to the International Energy Agency, illustrating the impact of the shale revolution. In its medium-term review of the oil market, the industrialised countries’ energy watchdog sharply raised its forecast for North American oil production from six months ago and slightly cut its forecast for capacity additions from the Opec oil cartel." Ajay Makan in The Financial Times.

For insurers, there's no doubt climate change is real and dangerous. "Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming...[T]he focus of insurers’ advocacy efforts is zoning rules and disaster mitigation." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Auto dealers and state legislatures conspire to make cars more expensive. Can Tesla change thatNeil Irwin.

Most women probably shouldn't get the cancer screening that Angelina Jolie just didSarah Kliff.

The IRS report: Insubordination and incompetence, but not much of a conspiracyEzra Klein.

Interview: Kevin Drum on why the robots will rise up and take all our jobs. Dylan Matthews.

In AP surveillance case, the real scandal is what’s legalTimothy Lee.

Interview: Lamar Alexander: Sebelius fundraising ‘arguably an even bigger issue’ than Iran-ContraSarah Kliff.

Everything you need to know about the IRS scandal in one FAQDylan Matthews.

Alan Abramowitz: It’s ridiculous to call these scandals ‘game changers’. Ezra Klein.

READ: The Inspector General report on the IRS targeting conservative groupsBrad Plumer.

Et Cetera

Senate sets showdown for WH nomineesManu Raju in Politico.

Should we lower blood-alcohol limits for drunken drivingAmy Schatz in The Wall Street Journal.

Work-wage lawsuits have proliferated over the last yearKris Maher in The Wall Street Journal.

Senate readies final vote on water-infrastructure bill. Ramsey Cox in The Hill.

Senate passes farm bill, including a $4.1b cut to food stampsBill Tomson in The Wall Street Journal.

Fed official calls for tapering bond purchasesYlan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Ezra Klein · May 14, 2013