Nobody Died, but the IRS Lied

The IRS was caught red-handed singling out Tea Party groups for special attention.

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The Obama administration reeks from a disturbing air of dishonesty.

It's not that they have not been truthful about policy matters, like how much the president's health care reform is really going to cost or whether Obama told the truth that he would not propose raising taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year while campaigning in 2008. They haven't, but the real stench is coming from the way the government's business – the people's business – is being conducted.

Obama and his aides are proving consistently untrustworthy, something Wednesday's congressional hearings featuring administration whistleblowers brought home sharply. The events in Benghazi that led to the murder of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, did not go down the way administration officials repeatedly said at the time they did.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

The latest outrage is the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's admission Friday, after months of denials, that conservative groups were in fact singled out for special attention and scrutiny in the months leading up to the president's 2012 re-election.

The charge that something nefarious was afoot at the IRS was dismissed at the time it was made by the administration and by investigative reporters in Washington. To them it sounded like partisan background noise issuing from attention-seekers looking to raise money and cause trouble for Obama.

The idea that low-level agency employees operating out of Ohio made the decision by themselves to "slow walk" applications through the process, which is what the IRS alleges occurred, is simply not credible and no one, not Congress, not the media, and not the American people should take it at face value.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

One person who is not going to let the issue pass is U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who, after the IRS admitted it had been in the wrong, sent a letter insisting the IRS provide copies to the House Ways and Means Committee of all correspondence containing the words "tea party," "patriot" or "conservative," as well as the names and titles of any agency employees involved in delaying the approval of the applications in question.

"Since the inception of this investigation, the Ways and Means Committee has persistently pushed the IRS to explain why it appeared to be unfairly targeting some political groups over others – a charge they repeatedly denied," Boustany wrote.  My greatest concern is what would have come from this blatant abuse of power if members of Congress, as well as others, had not spoken up and stepped in to question the IRS about these activities.  

Boustany called the IRS' response to the matter "unacceptable" and promised to "continue to work to ensure there are protections in place so no American, regardless of political affiliation, has their right to free speech threatened by the IRS."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

Boustany and others are right when they call the IRS' actions a "blatant abuse of power." It's important to ask questions about who knew about it, who ordered it, who helped cover it up and who decided to lie to Congress. The administration's allies will try to write this off as a small, insignificant thing that is more partisan, more political in the reaction than in the commission of whatever minor offense might have occurred. They are only deluding themselves which, in private moments, one hopes they will have the intellectual integrity to at least admit to themselves.

When in trouble, it went in the Clinton years, the strategy was to "deny, deny, deny." Under Obama it has evolved to "point the finger of blame at the victim then change the subject." At some point it is all going to catch up with them. The American people may not be able to understand all the minute details of Solyndra or Benghazi and may not be able to follow all the threads, but they do understand using the IRS for political purposes. And that may be the administration's downfall.

UPDATE 5/10/13: Late Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee announced it would hold a hearing on the Internal Revenue Service practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings. In announcing the hearing, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said, “The IRS absolutely must be non-partisan in its enforcement of our tax laws. The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing. The Committee on Ways and Means will thoroughly investigate this matter and will soon hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this situation. We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”

  • Read Robert Schlesinger: Obama, Gridlock and the Make Believe Leadership 'Crisis'
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