The news that progressive groups were also targeted by the IRS should, in theory at least, prompt reporters to press leading Republicans on a simple question: Do you still stand by your insinuations that the White House or Obama campaign were somehow behind the politically motivated targeting of conservatives?
In a key moment, Rep. Darrell Issa — the chair of the Oversight Committee and a lead investigator into the IRS scandal — is now claiming he never, ever said the White House or the Obama campaign was behind the targeting. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash (at the 1:30 mark), he said this:
“I’ve never said it came out of the office of the President or his campaign. What I’ve said is, it comes out of Washington.”
And yet, later in the very same interview, Issa said this:
“For years, the president bashed the Tea Party groups. He was very public against these groups. And on his behalf — perhaps not on his request — on his behalf, the IRS executed a delaying tactic against the very groups that he talked about.”
This is utter gibberish, and reporters (kudos to Bash for doing a great job here) need to hold Issa accountable for it. Indeed, the juxtaposition of the two statements neatly captures the increasingly untenable nature of Issa’s stance. He claims the IRS targeting was done “perhaps” not on the president’s request — seemingly dangling that out there as a possibility — right after flatly stating he has never said the targeting was directed by the White House or the president’s campaign. Is there any evidence that this was orchestrated by Obama or his campaign, or isn’t there? Yes, or No? Doesn’t the current evidence actually tell us otherwise? Yes, or No?
As for Issa’s suggestion that he never made any such charge, here’s what he said in mid-May:
“This was a targeting of the president’s political enemies, effectively, and lies [sic] about it during the election year so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are also drawing attention to the fact that other leading Republicans have suggested the IRS targeting was politically motivated, or came from the White House, with varying degrees of directness. Here’s GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee:
“Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country — an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago.”
Here’s GOP Senator Ted Cruz: “We have seen a consistent pattern in this administration, and the pattern is a willingness to use the machinery of government to target those they perceive as their political enemies. That was true with the IRS, and it’s true with the Department of Justice, in targeting reporters…”
Here’s Rep. Dave Camp, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee: “We know it didn’t originate in Cincinnati.” Oh, and what about that deceptive video Mitch McConnell released using the IRS scandal to tie Obama to Nixon?
I continue to believe the IRS story — and whatever improper conduct occurred — require a full accounting. The complete story has not been told. But as CNN’s Bash notes, the latest revelations indicate that “the big question” remains “whether IRS targeting was politically motivated.” Between this, and the full witness testimony released by Dems that undercuts the notion that “Washington” directed the targeting, will Republicans be pressed to say whether they still stand behind their suggestions of political motivation and/or White House involvement?
* YES, BOEHNER WILL FEEL PRESSURE ON IMMIGRATION: The Hill reports that Republicans are privately betting that expected opposition to the immigration bill from all Senate GOP leaders will reduce pressure on Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on it. That very well may be. But the pressure on him to allow that vote will be pretty intense from many quarters within the GOP, too. In the end, if enough Republicans privately want reform to pass, it will. If they don’t, it won’t.
* A BIG DAY FOR GAY EQUALITY? Today the Supreme Court will rule on two cases involving gay marriage, and Adam Liptak spells out the possible rulings the justices could offer on the Prop 8 case:
They could reverse the appeals court, leaving California’s ban on same-sex marriage in place. They could affirm the appeals court’s ruling on a theory that would allow same-sex marriage only in California. Or they could address the broader question of whether the Constitution requires states to allow such marriages. It is also possible that the court will give no answer on the merits, deciding instead that it was powerless to hear the case because no party before it was entitled to appeal from the decisions of the lower courts.
The bolded option, of course, is what gay rights advocates are hoping for; a ruling that Prop 8 violates the equal protection clause could lead to the striking down of other state laws barring gay marriage.
* IRS SCANDAL CONTINUES COLLAPSING: This now goes well beyond Issa. Sam Stein has the latest: Democrats are now demanding to know why the original inspector general’s audit of the IRS omitted the critical fact that progressive groups were also targeted in a BOLO. This is key:
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 had specifically requested that investigators “narrowly focus on tea party organizations.” So they did just that, Kraushaar said.
The charge that the targeting of conservatives was directed from Washington has collapsed, and the notion that conservatives were targeted for political reasons is in serious doubt. The IG is expected to respond soon.
* FOCUS NOW ON KEY AUTHOR OF IRS AUDIT: One other key nugget from Stein’s story. Questions are now being raised about Gregory Kutz, the Treasury assistant inspector general who was lead author of that audit:
Three sources independently contacted the Huffington Post on Tuesday to note that in 2011, Kutz had been relieved of his job as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office when a report he produced on for-profit colleges underwent multiple corrections. One of the three sources — a former Kutz colleague — argued that the IRS investigation mirrored the for-profit school study, showing a bias toward “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”
It does appear this story will continue, though perhaps not in the direction many on the right had hoped for.
* SCOTUS VOTING RIGHTS DECISION HAS IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES: It is already starting to matter:
Just hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his state will move forward with a voter-identification law that had been stopped by a panel of federal judges and will carry out redistricting changes that had been mired in court battles.
This is exactly what voting rights advocates fear: Initiatives to restrict voting that stalled or are pending now look far more likely to become law across the country.
* 1OO DAYS SINCE GOP AUTOPSY RELEASED: The DNC is up with a new Web site and video marking that 100 days have passed since the RNC released its ballyhooed autopsy into what went wrong in 2012, and branding the GOP the “Same Old Party.” Interestingly, the argument that the GOP continues to pursue policies and priorities that are alienating the very voter groups among which the autopsy recognized a need to improve appeal is increasingly being made by Republicans themselves.
* ED MARKEY VICTORY SHOWS IT’S NOT 2010 ANYMORE: Ed Markey cruised to an easy 10 point victory last night, defeating Gabriel Gomez by 55-45 will virtually all precincts counted, another sign the abysmal confluence of circumstances that enabled Scott Brown’s surprise victory are behind us. Also: It turns out that having extensive experience in Congress — Gomez attacked Markey relentlessly for the length of his service — turned out not to be such a liability for higher public office, after all.
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
See Alex Roarty’s analysis of the Massachusetts outcome: Even Gomez’s background, moderate posture (on a few issues) and aura of cultural savvy weren’t enough to sell this “new” kind of Republican, given GOP brand problems.
Glenn Kessler punctures the silly talking point employed by immigration reform foes that they haven’t had time to read the bill. Remember: Jeff Sessions has openly made it known that such procedural delays are all about killing it.
And Chris Geidner chronicles the remarkable four decade journey gay rights advocates have traveled from Stonewall Inn, the sight of the uprising in the 1970s that launched the movement, to the Supreme Court today. In case you missed mine: From Stonewall to the Supreme Court.