The Internal Revenue Service scandal may be the worst of all the current Obama administration fiascoes. It is an easily understood gross misuse of the powers of government to target opponents of the president. What is more, the administration’s supplicants in the lefty punditocracy can no longer claim this is just an IRS scandal.
J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s top tax watchdog, said Friday he had informed top Treasury officials starting last spring about problems related to the special attention the agency was paying some conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. George said he shared the information with the Treasury’s general counsel in June and with Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin “shortly thereafter.”
Are we to believe, with allegations of IRS harassment swirling in the media, that these two officials nodded, returned to their offices and told no one? If so, they are guilty of suppressing a huge scandal in an election year. But let’s get real. Upon hearing this information, it is almost inconceivable that they unilaterally decided to remain mum. Both of these officials must be required to answer questions under oath. If they do not, an independent prosecutor would be essential.
But we may not need to wait for that. ABC News reports:
Tea partiers say the lengthy questionnaires, some of them 30 questions long, cost them hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars as they sent stacks of paperwork to the IRS and were held in legal limbo for years, uncertain of what activities they could pursue, and cut off from skeptical donors scared away by their pending status.
“This is not only unconstitutional, it is illegal,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil-rights group that says it is suing the IRS on behalf of 17 clients who were targeted for extra scrutiny because of their groups’ leanings. . . .
The American Center for Law and Justice represents 27 tea party groups that received questionnaires from the IRS asking for information on their donors, members, finances, educational materials, events and, in at least one case, connections to another group and another individual. Sekulow said 17 of his clients are prepared to move ahead with a civil lawsuit against the IRS.
Good for them. Through the civil discovery process they can compel individuals to disclose what they did, with whom they discussed the issue and how this scheme was kept quiet until Lois Lerner, now chief the Obamacare unit of the IRS (!!), planted a question at an American Bar Association gathering (a year after IRS officials knew of and were already investigating the scandal) to allow the matter to surface. Now, officials can take the Fifth, I suppose. And they all should lawyer up.
It’s ludicrous to think, as the most diligent Obama spinners assert (do they even believe it?), that scandals do not implicate senior administration officials or that these are petering out. To the contrary, more than two-thirds of Americans, according to Gallup, believe the IRS fiasco is a “serious matter that needs to be investigated.” And that was before Friday’s hearing.