Breaking: Senior IRS officials knew of targeting conservative groups in 2011; Update: IRS chief counsel knew in 2011

posted at 3:58 pm on May 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

This changes the dynamic in two ways:

A federal watchdog’s upcoming report says senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups in 2011.

The disclosure contradicts public statements by former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who repeatedly assured Congress that conservative groups were not targeted. ….

That report says the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups learned that groups were being targeted in June 2011. It does not say whether Shulman was notified.

Yesterday, the IRS claimed that this only happened in one office in just 2012, and that only lower-level officials were involved.  This report from the Associated Press refutes both of those claims — and adds yet another damning example to a growing list of misleading and false statements from the Obama administration.

Let’s go back to yesterday’s admission:

Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.

Rather, Lerner said, they were a misguided effort to come up with an efficient means of dealing with a flood of applications from organizations seeking ­tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.

Lerner’s statement gave the clear impression that the IRS only just learned about this, and that the actions were by rogue agents without enough supervisory control.  The AP’s report on the upcoming Treasury IG’s report is that it will demonstrate that “senior officials” knew about this more than a year earlier — while Shulman was telling Congress that nothing of the sort was going on.

If the IG report substantiates this, then the questions will really start flying for the Obama administration.  Why would senior IRS officials remain silent while their agents illegally targeted conservative non-profits with their knowledge? Was it because they were ordered to make it happen?  Most government bureaucrats don’t go that far out of their way to innovate, especially in a legal landmine area such as this.  And I’d suspect that “senior officials” wouldn’t climb out on that limb unless pressed on it, too.

Hey, maybe this is why there were no disciplinary actions, huh?

Anyone still buying that this wasn’t driven by partisan motives? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Update: More from the AP, including a huge problem for Lerner and Shulman:

The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.

But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ”Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says. …

On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.

While this was happening, several committees in Congress were writing IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to express concern because tea party groups were complaining of IRS harassment.

In Shulman’s responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.

Lerner’s going to look like a liar.  Shulman might end up facing charges of lying to Congress and perhaps obstruction as well.  It probably won’t end there, either.

Update: John Hinderaker notes the convenience of discovering this now rather than before the election:

So the harassment of conservative groups began much earlier than the IRS told us yesterday, when the agency’s spokesman said the improper conduct occurred “during the 2012 election.” As I wrote yesterday, I was skeptical about that since I had heard of the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS well before the 2012 campaign season.

It now appears that this is one more scandal that the Obama administration managed to keep quiet until after November’s election. One wonders how many more skeletons will come tumbling out of the closet, now that Obama is safely re-elected.

It’s still going to be a massive political problem for Obama, with a Congressional probe now all but guaranteed as yet another set of false talking points collapses.

Update: How big of a deal is abusing the tax system to gain an advantage over the political opposition? Don’t forget that it was one of the charges in the Watergate articles of impeachment:

Article 2

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

  1. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

That doesn’t make Obama guilty of the actions, but it does demonstrate the seriousness of the violation — and the fact that the Obama administration tried to shortstop the IG report with yesterday’s dog-and-pony show also demonstrates just how bad they know this will be.

Update: A quote from the Nixon tapes about using the IRS against Nixon’s opponents — “There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills. … Are we looking into Muskie’s returns?”

Update: I missed this earlier, but the IG report will accuse the chief counsel of the IRS of knowing that the targeting was taking place, and saying nothing:

Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”

On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.

Hmmm.  Why would a chief counsel remain silent on such a development?

Update: Another point: if the chief counsel knew about this in August 2011, how likely would it have been that IRS Commissioner Shulman would have been unaware of it when he testified before Congress in March 2012?  I think it’s time for Shulman to find a very good lawyer and start looking to make a deal.

Update: William Jacobson reminds us (along with Daniel Drezner) that the IRS is now also the enforcer for ObamaCare.  Nothing to worry about there, though … right?

Update: Hey, here’s a good question:

Remember how much Harry Reid was mouthing off about tax returns?  Did the White House feed him some inside information, or did the IRS?

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IRSIntimidate Republican Supporters.

Obama and Beyonce and Jay-Z probably had a good laugh about it as they sparked up a doobie in the Rose Garden.

profitsbeard on May 12, 2013 at 3:06 AM

the IRS already apologized

nonpartisan on May 11, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Best Ever Response

sunny on May 12, 2013 at 3:34 AM

3:34 means you’re all alone…….

1.) A Clinton cannot be trusted

2.) Media is on the side of influence

3.) A Liberal will kill every baby in or out of the womb they can!

4.) If you are at the bottom of my driveway, I can shoot you in the heart.


sunny on May 12, 2013 at 3:40 AM

Chris Forewit @forewit

Did Obama see Romney’s tax records and use that info to call on him to disclose them?

excellent question!!

ted c on May 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Chris Forewit @forewit

Did Obama see Romney’s tax records and use that info to call on him to disclose them?

excellent question!!

ted c on May 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM

If he did it was all on paper.

CW on May 12, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Chris Forewit @forewit

Did Obama see Romney’s tax records and use that info to call on him to disclose them?

excellent question!!

ted c on May 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM

If he did it was all on paper.

CW on May 12, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Shhhhhhhhhh … they’ll shred everything.

listens2glenn on May 12, 2013 at 9:57 AM

you can’t tie this to Obama. there’s no evidence he was aware of it happening.

nonpartisan on May 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

No one in Zero’s regime takes a dump without permission from Zero or Jarrett. There will be a trail. Not everyone will be willing to sacrifice themselves for your messiah.

As we are seeing with Benghazi, people WILL come forward and with his regime crumbling this will accelerate.

dogsoldier on May 12, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Famous words. What difference does it make? It’s Bush’s fault.

Fast and Furious
IRS/Tea Party

ritewhit on May 12, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Wait until these chuckleheads in the IRS get into our medical records and rake us over the coals/threaten us because we don’t have the “right kind” of insurance coverage. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

I don’t see how more clear it can be that the government wants to get into and control every facet of our lives…and skim as much money off of us as they can.

And as much as I hate to say it, the Republicans for the most part will pretend to fight but will do nothing to reverse it all. They haven’t reversed Great Society programs, the Patriot Act and other money/power-grubbing Socialistic measures enacted over the years.

Tyranny and Thievery.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM

you can’t tie this to Obama. there’s no evidence he was aware of it happening.

nonpartisan on May 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

As expected, lefties pull out the thread worn 1940’s ‘gangster defense’: “You got nuthin’ on me, copper”

socalcon on May 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Interestingly, but not unexpected, the MSM has been devoid of reports regarding the purported 16,500 IRS agents to be hired to ‘enforce’ Obamacare.

F&F, Goznell, Bengazi all over again.

socalcon on May 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

you can’t tie this to Obama. there’s no evidence he was aware of it happening.

nonpartisan on May 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetie.

Deep down you know these guys are as corrupt as Nixon, and more so when you put together their non-action during the Benghazi terror attacks and their sale of arms to cartels in Mexico so they can kill more Mexicans and border agents.

Whatever necessary to stay elected, right? It’s people like you who allow corruption to thrive.

Why don’t you clean your Mom’s basement for her while you’re down there. It’s Mother’s Day, you know.

goflyers on May 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM

This entire corrupt administration needs to be impeached and imprisoned, yesterday.

The only difference between these criminals and the Nixon administration is that at least the criminals in the Nixon administration were reasonably competent at their jobs.

AZCoyote on May 12, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Let’s use Occam’s Razor here. What is the simplest answer–that the IRS had it in for conservative groups or the Obama Administration?

AnnaS on May 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Susan Collins must be kidding. Obama will send the guys bonuses.

Schadenfreude on May 12, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Susan Collins must be kidding. Obama will send the guys bonuses.

Schadenfreude on May 12, 2013 at 1:22 PM

You are right. Even if we get what we want and those responsible get fired, the democratics’ favorite Nazi stooge George Soros will see to it that they get cushy jobs in one of his filthy organizations.

The proggies take care of their soldiers.

slickwillie2001 on May 12, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Let’s start with conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 242

J_Crater on May 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Nobody Died in Watergate

J_Crater on May 12, 2013 at 2:52 PM

The only way we’ll see anything else on this outrage is if Boehner sets up a select committee with subpoena power and the power to swear in witnesses and pursue perjurers.

If he hasn’t done it on the Benghazi cover-up, which will die an unheralded death without a select committee, do you seriously believe he’ll have the stones to do it on this one?

Sadly, I fear Boehner will just make “sound and fury signifying nothing” fold his tent and slip away, he and Cantor are gutless

We deserve better leadership, MUCH better.

E9RET on May 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Naturally, the IRS has been working in conjunction with the corrupt Dept of Injustice to target conservatives. Remember this (From The Blaze, 07AUG2012):

“The casino company owned by Mitt Romney’s wealthiest supporter, Sheldon Adelson, is now in the Department of Justice’s crosshairs. That revelation is making the media rounds today, as someone in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office leaked word of a money laundering investigation involving Las Vegas Sands Corp. to the Wall Street Journal.

So now Adelson, a man who claimed he would donate up to $100 million
to ensure Romney wins the upcoming presidential election, could find
out how the wheels of justice really turn under President Obama’s watch.

This revelation is as unsurprising as it is disgraceful.

Government officials will no doubt claim the timing of the probe is coincidental, but that is asking us to believe a lot. The investigation deals with possible money laundering stretching back years ago. So the U.S. Attorney’s Office in LA had to go public with the accusations today? Unless the statute of limitations for these crimes expires Nov. 6 (they don’t), what reason could there be for bringing for these accusations to light right before the political conventions?

To suggest the timing of this had no political motive strains credulity. The timing is indeed everything.”


TeaPartyNation on May 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM

there may be agents within the IRS who wanted to aid Obama. that still doesn’t mean Obama was aware of it.

nonpartisan on May 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM


Obama said that he would “Reward his supporters and punish his enemies”. IRS agents (Mindless Myrmidons) only do what their top superiors want them to do. This came from the top just like Fast & Furious, Benghazi and most disgusting Extortion 17 helicopter shoot-down. This BSTRD basically murdered at least 25 US Navy SEALS. The SEALS took out Bin Laden and O benefited from it. How does he show his appreciation ? By not providing them with the right helicopter, refuse to provide them with air cover, and then lying out of his anal orfice about it all

hamradio on May 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM

A couple of addenda from other writers.
Powerline quotes the prophetic Sir Winston:

A Socialist State once thoroughly completed in all its details and its aspects—and that is what I am speaking of—could not afford to suffer opposition. . . Socialism is, in its essence, an attack not only upon British enterprise, but upon the right of the ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clapped across their mouths and nostrils. . .

An observation by Doc Zero that I haven’t seen anyone else make explicit, although I suspect most HotAirians considered it:

The IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, received a letter from twelve Republican senators back in March 2012, asking for an investigation of these inappropriate audits. (I guess Democrats don’t care about such things, at least not when they happen to political dissidents. Imagine the IRS hunting for words like “progressive” or “liberal” to trigger audits during the re-election campaign of a Republican President. While we’re on the subject, isn’t it rather sad that the “low-level workers” who launched this little project knew they wouldn’t get any liberal groups if they searched for the word “patriot?”)

AesopFan on May 13, 2013 at 2:01 AM

One more for the road:

But the most extraordinary aspect of the talking points editing process is what was never mentioned, at least as far I have seen — the supposedly infamous Mohammed video. Not a word of that. While emailing each other, these officials from the CIA, State, the Pentagon, and the White House seem to have completely ignored it.

In other words, like the lady in the classic Hitchcock movie, the video vanished.

I have seen some commentary that the original CIA report always mentioned a protest of the video as a possibility, and that was all that remained after the edits; so far, I haven’t been able to find a source for that belief.

AesopFan on May 13, 2013 at 2:16 AM

Woops – that last comment was in the wrong thread.

Here’s one that covers Benghazi and the IRS.

I work for an organization that commissions polling, and published verbatim accounts from voters polled about Obama. His supporters felt he cared about them and was doing his darndest. Those moral virtues counted more than success.

But now? The president and his closest advisers — at least as far as we can see as of today — stood by while Americans died. They so far have displayed no plausible sympathy for the men. Nor have they displayed any convincing outrage. These are moral reactions; Obama and the Obama crew have failed to show that they have responded morally to this disaster.

Nor, apparently, did they show the virtues of courage in responding. Nor have they honored justice in the oldest yet still most convincing way: They have not punished those responsible for the deaths.

These are moral failings: The failure to recognize, condemn and fight evil, the failure to show courage and resolve in the face of evil, the failure to acknowledge and correct errors.

The same holds true for the IRS scandal. A supposedly free people make an extraordinary concession to the government when they file tax returns: In an inversion of the normal American rights, we are forced to testify against ourselves. This is morally acceptable if and only if the government sticks to the highest standards of fairness. When the government breaks that agreement, the people are justifiably outraged.

Yet, speaking of outrage, where is Obama? If he’s said anything, I haven’t heard it.

Presidents succeed when they maintain the moral contract the people demand of them. Hoover and Roosevelt both bungled the Depression. But Roosevelt made the people feel he cared and that he was outraged: Sympathy and outrage are key moral expressions. Herbert Hoover, bless him, was unable to do either. The people rejected him.

Voters accepted Reagan’s failures, such as Iran-Contra, because they felt he was brave and warm-hearted. They rejected Carter’s failures because they perceived him as cold and timid.

Obamacare looms as an additional threat. So far voters have accepted it because Obama and the Democrats at least seemed to care about them and were courageous enough to try something.

But if it begins to seem that the Obamacare bureaucrats don’t really care about them, people will go crazy.

Again, this isn’t about policy or even execution. It’s about morality, the full range of morality, including fairness and compassion and courage and prudence.

That’s why this week is so disastrous for the Left: their moral image, their only real possession, is being shredded.

AesopFan on May 13, 2013 at 2:32 AM