Politics

IRS supervisor: “Tea Party” was just our little pet name for everyone

IRS supervisor: "Tea Party" was just our little pet name for everyone

The first person who might have been fired over the IRS scandal is Holly Paz, a Washington-based supervisor who is no longer with the tax-exempt organizations department, although the IRS has so far refused to reveal her current status.  This agency is far beyond the point where it should be allowed to refuse to reveal anything.  If Paz was sacked over her role in the scandal, the agency certainly isn’t making a big deal about it.  (Her lawyer describes her as a “whistle-blower” and says she has joined Lois Lerner on “administrative leave.”)

Fox News has some details from the testimony Paz gave to congressional investigators.  She was personally involved in reviewing Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status… which, let me remind the American people once again, means top IRS officials lied through their teeth when they tried selling us that phony story about rogue low-level agents in Cincinnati.

The really astounding part of Paz’s testimony came when she tried to claim the IRS internally uses the phrase “Tea Party” to describe all groups seeking tax-exempt status, no matter their political beliefs.  No, seriously, she really said that:

Details of Paz’s role were first reported by The Associated Press. Still, Paz provided no evidence that senior IRS officials ordered agents to target conservative groups or that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved.

Instead, Paz described an agency in which IRS supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field but didn’t fully understand what those agents were doing. Paz said agents in Cincinnati openly talked about handling “tea party” cases, but she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active — conservative and liberal.

Paz said dozens of tea party applications sat untouched for more than a year while field agents waited for guidance from Washington on how to handle them. At the time, she said, Washington officials thought the agents in Cincinnati were processing the cases.

Well, of course she didn’t hand over any evidence linking senior officials to the Tea Party persecution.  She was busy trying to convince investigators that “Tea Party” is just a generic term the folks at the Internal Revenue Service use to describe every group – from the hundreds of conservative groups they stonewalled for years and bombarded with absurdly intrusive questions, to the absolutely zero liberal groups they treated that way.

Paz also offered the standard agency song-and-dance about how they needed more training to handle these applications for tax exempt status, and didn’t get it until May 2012.  This is absurd on its face, since we know the IRS loves to blow millions of dollars on training sessions, complete with “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island”-themed training videos.  And this supposed lack of training didn’t stop them from waving liberal groups right on through, with a personal assist from top-level officials.  The infamous Lois Lerner, director of the Tax Exempt Organizations division, was simultaneously signing threatening letters to Tea Party groups, and personally granting express approval – with a retroactive tax exemption – to the fishy “charity” run for the personal enrichment of President Obama’s half-brother.  Are we supposed to believe she just needed more training?

The Tax Exempt Organizations unit of the IRS was a large division of an absolutely titanic government agency whose sole, dedicated purpose was processing these applications.  A bevy of extremely well-compensated supervisors ran the operation.  But they keep pretending their job was impossibly difficult and confusing, leaving them a bewildered mess for years.  The very nature of their mission makes it ludicrous to pretend agents of this division were so naive and out-of-touch with current events that they would adopt the term “Tea Party” as a catch-all phrase for every applicant.  This army of highly-paid bureaucrats should have been experts on the groups they presumed to regulate; instead, they act like they all hopped off a slow boat from China on the day they went to work for the Tax Exempt Organizations division, and knew nothing about American politics.

The IRS wasn’t being overwhelmed by some tidal wave of applications that nobody could have seen coming.  From the early days of this scandal, officials like Lerner have tried to portray the agency as buried beneath an unexpectedly large pile of applications, but that isn’t true – there were fewer applications in 2010 than 2009, and there wasn’t any real “surge” until 2012, when the abuse stopped.  If Holly Paz’s testimony is taken at face value, she is painting an absolutely astonishing portrait of institutional incompetence.  She’s describing a division that didn’t have the first clue how to do its job, and was allowed to muck around for years by highly-paid supervisors whose primary function should have been keeping an eye on them.

But the Administration sure isn’t acting like it plans to clean house in a shockingly incompetent organization.  So far, we’ve got one temporary appointment allowed to run its full course, a couple of graceful retirements, Lois Lerner going on paid “administrative leave” after allegedly refusing to resign, and maybe Holly Paz quietly fired, although at this point it’s possible she was laterally transferred, or even promoted.  It looks more like the Administration is encouraging its people to hang tough and keep their mouths shut until the scandal blows over, not conducting an angry crusade against abuse and ineptitude.

And it cannot be stressed enough that there is no evidence whatsoever of random ignorance in this scandal.  Only those conservative groups received rough treatment from the IRS; they never chose anyone else for voter-suppressing intimidation or ridiculously long delays.  That’s awfully selective for people who supposedly think “Tea Party” was a generic term that covered everyone from the Alabama Tea Party and Coalition for Life of Iowa… to the re-purposed Obama For America organization, currently spending seven figures on a campaign to promote ObamaCare..

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