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Thu May 16, 2013, 11:15 PM

New Yorker - "The I.R.S. and the Tea Party: Where Is the Scandal?"

Here is a nice piece from the New Yorker that does some actual reporting, rather than breathlessly reporting Darrell Issa's breathless rants of the day or repeating the latest Fox News narrative.

As far as Obama’s potential involvement and vulnerability goes—and that’s what everybody in Washington really cares about—here is the key passage in the report (“EO” stands for “Exempt Organizations” and the “Determinations Unit” is the office in Cincinnati):

We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.

“Come on,” I can hear Maine Senator Susan Collins and others saying. Are you so deep into the tank for Obama that you are seriously suggesting a group of low-level bureaucrats in Ohio came up with the idea of setting aside, for special review, applications from groups whose names contained the words “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” or “9/12 Project”? No, I am not making that suggestion. It comes from an agency that Congress created in 1999 to provide independent oversight of the I.R.S. In organizational terms, the Inspector General for Tax Administration comes under the ambit of the Treasury Department. But it is independent of the Department and all other agencies located therein. Since 2004, it has been headed by J. Russell George, a native of Brooklyn and a former prosecutor in Queens, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. The lead author of the report, Gregory D. Kutz, is a career public servant and forensic auditor who used to work for the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Here, again, is the report (“BOLO” stands for “Be On the Lookout”):

The Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO listing criteria before it was implemented. As a result, inappropriate criteria remained in place for more than 18 months.

If you are a Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, or the Senate Finance Committee, all of which are rushing to schedule hearings on this great national scandal, such statements don’t offer much in the way of encouragement.

Never fear! Our intrepid representatives will come up with something. Rather than focussing on the body of the report, today’s Times reports, they are fixing on a single entry in the report’s appendix, which reveals—shock! horror!—that on August 4, 2011, I.R.S. officials in Washington, who by then knew about the Cincinnati office’s targeting of conservative groups, met with the I.R.S.’s chief counsel “so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”

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