President Obama’s comment that there’s “not even a smidgen of corruption [at the IRS]” may prove to be as accurate as “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”
Yesterday it was reported: “For the first time since it released President Nixon’s tax returns in 1974, a House committee voted Wednesday to release confidential tax documents as part of a request for a criminal investigation into the Internal Revenue Service. This time, the House Ways and Means Committee is seeking criminal charges against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner.” Of particular concern are Lerner’s e-mails appearing to push IRS employees to disallow the GOP group American Crossroads its tax-exempt status while she was angling for a political job with Organizing for America. (“The letter to Holder alleges that Lerner singled out Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by former George W. Bush political aide Karl Rove, for an audit and a denial of tax-exempt status after meeting with campaign finance reform activists in January 2013. That same month, Lerner spoke of hoping to get a job at Organizing for Action, an Obama-affiliated group that was also seeking tax-exempt status. ‘Oh — maybe I can get the DC office job!’ she wrote in an e-mail.” Holder is unlikely to do anything about Lerner, but the House Republicans made their point: There is a smidgen of something going on at the IRS.
Perhaps there is an innocent explanation, but the facts don’t look good for Lerner. The Wall Street Journal editorial board recounts:
The most troubling new evidence are documents showing that Ms. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign-finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax-exempt status. After personally meeting with the two liberal outfits, Ms. Lerner contacted the director of the Exempt Organizations Examinations Unit in Dallas to ask why Crossroads had not been audited.
“You should know that we are working on a denial of the application,” Ms. Lerner wrote in an email. “Please make sure all moves regarding the org are coordinated up here before we do anything.” The Cincinnati agent assigned to the case at the time, Joseph Herr, noted on his timesheet, “[b]ased on conference, begin reviewing case information, tax law and draft/template advocacy denial letter, all to think about how best to compose the denial letter.”
The incident comes at a time the White House is being skewered by the mainstream media for its misleading stats on the purported wage gap and when Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) is getting slammed by the MSM for the Senate Majority Fund ads tying Republicans to the Koch brothers. “They’re lying,” says National Journal’s Ron Fournier. Others think Reid “has no self-editing mechanism,” says Nevada political guru Jon Ralston.
Whether you think he lacks self-editing or honesty or both, Reid is becoming an inviting target for campaign ads and for negative media coverage. When you come across as the sort of politician who makes ordinary voters hate politics, you’re in trouble. (In fact, for some time now Reid’s approval ratings have been at or near the bottom of all the top congressional leaders.)
If the Democrats set out to systematically diminish faith in government and destroy their own credibility, they couldn’t have done a better job. But given that they rely on voters’ willingness to entrust their tax dollars, privacy, retirement, health care, safety and a lot more to the federal government, it’s harmful to liberals’ cause to be seen as duplicitous. And instead of drawing fire away from his members, Reid may simply reinforce the perception that the party in power — as can happens with either side — gets cocky, overreaches and, well, makes stuff up.
Republicans should be wary, however. It’s not clear that Republicans — as the Dems did with Newt Gingrich — can use Reid to vilify the opposition party on the November ballot (although all of them elected Reid as their leader). Neither should Republicans count on making 2014 only about Obamacare, scandal and corruption, although it is tempting to do so. In fact, the public doesn’t like either party very much.
Republicans should therefore resist the temptation to overreach on the scandals and the prevarication. Sometimes it is better to watch the media finally sink their teeth into one’s opponents. As for Republicans, they can advance their own reasonable, modest agenda — making the point that giving too much power to the feds is proving unwise these days. Then voters might trust them to run things — until they, too, disappoint and overreach.