Politics

The IRS scandal made it to the White House yesterday

The IRS scandal made it to the White House yesterday

Despite the best efforts of disgraceful Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to turn yesterday’s hearings into a circus, the adults in the room were indeed able to bring the scandal right up to the White House door.

I’m not kidding about the national disgrace of buffoons like Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat.  They’re like small children running through the committee room, banging pots together and screaming nonsense to keep anyone from noticing that a Barack Obama political appointee just got linked into the criminal conspiracy at the IRS.  And now they’re childishly trying to stir up a racial scandal over exasperated House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa comparing Cummings to a “little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar.”

Well, I’ll happily back up Rep. Issa on this.  America is going down the tubes because our government is run by an incompetent mob of toddlers who have their hands caught in an awful lot of cookie jars.  And I’ll make it bipartisan by noting that not all of the toddlers are Democrats, but it’s getting hard to find an adult among them.

Cummings spent his time asking those famed “low-level employees from Cincinnati” if they’d ever received a personal phone call from President Obama instructing them to persecute Tea Party groups.  This drove Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) around the bend, prompting him to unleash an epic rant against the obstructionist Democrats:

Yesterday’s hearings brought the final demise of all the Administration’s distractions and evasions.  As Chaffetz reminds us, the lie about rogue low-level agents came from the White House, through its official spokesman.  There have been attempts to fog the issue by claiming progressive groups were hassled, too.  There have been efforts to wish the scandal away by saying it was just a few Obama-loving goofballs who took the President’s endless harangues against his political opponents too seriously.  All of that died forever yesterday.

To build on something Rep. Chaffetz said, it’s funny how Democrats always claim they’re in favor of the “little guy,” but they’re always quick to throw little guys under the bus to protect the Democrat Party aristocracy from scandal.  The White House was happy to hang hard-working IRS agents out to dry.  They understandably responded by saying they were just following orders, and they started naming names.  One of those names was Carter Hull, a top IRS lawyer.  And as Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal, Hull brought a new name into the mix: IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who is “one of the only two Obama political appointees in the IRS.”

House investigators soon talked to workers in the Cincinnati office, who said everything they did came from Washington. Elizabeth Hofacre, in charge of processing tea-party applications in Cincinnati, told investigators that her work was overseen and directed by a lawyer in the IRS Washington office named Carter Hull.

Now comes Mr. Hull’s testimony. And like Ms. Hofacre, he pointed his finger upward. Mr. Hull—a 48-year IRS veteran and an expert on tax exemption law—told investigators that tea-party applications under his review were sent upstairs within the Washington office, at the direction of Lois Lerner.

In April 2010, Hull was assigned to scrutinize certain tea-party applications. He requested more information from the groups. After he received responses, he felt he knew enough to determine whether the applications should be approved or denied.

But his recommendations were not carried out.

Michael Seto, head of Mr. Hull’s unit, also spoke to investigators. He told them Lois Lerner made an unusual decision: Tea-party applications would undergo additional scrutiny—a multilayered review.

Mr. Hull told House investigators that at some point in the winter of 2010-11, Ms. Lerner’s senior adviser, whose name is withheld in the publicly released partial interview transcript, told him the applications would require further review:

Q: “Did [the senior adviser to Ms. Lerner] indicate to you whether she agreed with your recommendations?”

A: “She did not say whether she agreed or not. She said it should go to chief counsel.”

Q: “The IRS chief counsel?”

A: “The IRS chief counsel.”

This wasn’t a “rogue” operation.  It was policy.  An Obama appointee had a big role in setting that policy.  Anyone who didn’t get on board was pushed aside.  The policy only targeted Obama’s political adversaries.  And they weren’t just denied the benefits of the tax exemption they sought.  They were put in a “holding pattern,” deprived of the swift responses given to left-wing groups.  This suppressed the Tea Party groups far more effectively than outright refusals, which they could have appealed.

Noonan approvingly cites Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) dissection of the evolving defense offered by the White House and Democrat Party throughout the scandal.  It was indeed awesome, as Gowdy humorously noted this was one of the few times Obama spokesman Jay Carney didn’t try to dodge a tough question by claiming he really appreciated the inquiry, but did not have the answer.  Carney straight-up lied about “rogue agents.”

From the beginning, I have thought it noteworthy that Democrats treated the IRS scandal as an existential threat to their party and President Obama, rather than a horrible malfunction of the gigantic mega-government they profess to love and trust, or the despicable hijacking of a brilliant system by a few malefactors in need of punishment.  It’s increasingly clear why.

 

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