Way back when the IRS "scandal" first broke, I questioned for several reasons whether the issue was even close to the problem the far right was shouting about it and how the press was covering it.
Then last week, it turned out that the "scandal" indeed wasn't remotely the problem the far right wanted it to be. In fact, it turned out that liberal groups were being looked into just the same as conservative ones -- just as it should be. The "Be On the Lookout" lists (BOLO) the IRS used cut across the political spectrum. If some IRS officials were too zealous (if), they were too zealous even-handedly, on both sides of the aisle.
Now, though, it turns out that the problem is far worse...but for conservatives. And if there's a scandal, it's at their doorstep.
According to the Treasury inspector general for Tax Administration’s office -- which put out the initial explosive audit as directed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) -- The Hill reports here that "A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) 'to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.'”
In other words, the reason the Treasury Department's audit showed IRS bias against Tea Party corporations, is because the man who asked them for the audit, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), asked them to look at Tea Party corporations, and not liberal groups.
In response, House Republicans have denied any effort to focus the efforts of the Treasury audit. However, they do admit that the audit they asked for was, in fact, based solely on complaints from Tea Party corporations. A Republican aide told The Hill that the Treasury inspector general had “the authority to look at whatever they wanted to, and would be expected to do so if there was wrongdoing.”
That sounds good -- sort of -- but only if you stop thinking right here. The reality in Washington is that when the chairman of a committee asks you do something, you generally do that. You don't start searching around in areas you're not asked for. You act like the aides to King Henry II did when he wistfully wondered aloud, "Oh, who wouldst rid me of this turbulent priest?" -- and then then proclaimed shocked innocence when they went and killed Thomas More.
In fact, not searching into areas they weren't asked to is precisely the reality of what occurred. A spokesman for the Treasury inspector general told The Hill, "We did not review the use, disposition, purpose or content of the other BOLOs. That was outside the scope of our audit.”
Of course it was outside the scope of their audit. Committee chairman Darrell Issa didn't ask them to look there.
And so what are Republicans doing? They're blaming the messenger. After telling the messenger what message to bring.
"Were there problems with the way the inspector general did his audit? Well, of course.” Oversight committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said. “There are all kinds of problems with what he did.”
You bet there were problems. Like for starters, he let Darrell Issa and Republicans on the committee bully him into looking at only part of the situation they wanted.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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