Vox concedes IRS involved in ‘scandal,’ is wrong about most everything else

posted at 4:41 pm on June 18, 2014 by Noah Rothman

The pithy explainer site Vox has endeavored to “voxsplain” the scandal involving the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups with undue scrutiny. It’s a wonder they felt that this was even necessary, considering the lengths to which political reporters went in order to diminish what Slate’s Dave Weigel called the “Q-rating,” or popular interest, in the story.

But the IRS, which stumbled into this controversy in the first place, has forced a reluctant press to relitigate the issues surrounding the targeting of conservative groups when they claimed two years’ of former IRS executive Lois Lerner’s emails had simply disappeared. This excuse was met with earned incredulity from lawmakers and media figures alike.

The IRS scandal’s renewed “Q-rating” has forced Vox’s Dylan Matthews to concede that this is, indeed, a “scandal.” Not, however, for the reasons you might expect; incompetent management, stifling bureaucracy, a culture that rewarded political retribution, etc. No, the problem is as it ever was – not enough taxpayer funding.

“The IRS has been underfunded for years, and there’s strong reason to believe that it needs more money if it’s going to avoid issues like the one it ran into with conservative non-profits in the future,” Matthews wrote.

“As ironic as the budgetary cost of the budget cuts is, the ultimate irony is that they could wind up replicating the scandal House Republicans are trying to address,” he continued. “There were a number of reasons for why the IRS started singling out groups with words like ‘Tea Party’ and ‘patriot’ in the name, but a lack of resources to do more effective screening was a major factor.”

The Vox columnist later explained that the rules governing 501(c)(4)s, which changed radically in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, resulted in a spike in the number of groups seeking tax-exempt status. “So considerably fewer employees were suddenly charged with considerably more work,” he added, noting a rise in applications coincided with a decline in IRS staffing. “And it’s safe to say the work was more politically fraught and challenging.”

The claim that the 2010 Citizens United decision resulted in a surge in tax-exempt applications which swamped the IRS and forced them to do shoddy work was among the first submitted by the administration’s most eager defenders. It was also one of the earliest exculpatory claims to be debunked.

Via a Politifact post discrediting this claim from June, 2013:

Here’s how the activity breaks down for 501(c)(4) applications, the sort of tax-exempt group where political activity is allowed:

2009: 1,751
2010: 1,735
2011: 2,265
2012: 3,357**
….
The earliest that there might have been a jump in applications would have been in October 2010. That is well after the IRS began its effort to give selective treatment to tea party groups.

It’s true that 501(c)(4) applications have increased in recent years, but they had not “shot up dramatically,” as Matthews describes it, in the immediate wake of the Citizens United decision in 2010. “The real surge in applications did not come until 2012 — the year the IRS stopped the practice of treating the Tea Party class of groups differently from others,” wrote The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta.

Matthews goes on to favorably quote a New York Times story which he said “ looked into the IRS Cincinnati office, the epicenter of the scandal.” This assertion is simply insulting to anyone who has been following the IRS scandal. Another of the early efforts by the administration to “voxsplain” the IRS scandal away was the claim that two rogue IRS employees in a provincial Cincinnati outpost were solely responsible for the targeting.

That did not turn out to be the case. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without [D.C.-based IRS attorney] Carter Hull’s influence or input,” said Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre in congressional testimony leaked to The Wall Street Journal in June of last year.

The interview transcripts suggest it began with a search for tea-party groups by name among applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. The Cincinnati employee who conducted the search, Gary Muthert, said he started gathering applications in March 2010, at the request of an unidentified local manager, who allegedly told him that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” according to the transcripts. Mr. Muthert first heard of tea-party applications from another Cincinnati employee.

In May of 2014, the activist group Judicial Watch obtained documents following a FIOA request which showed clearly that the Cincinnati office was directed to heavily scrutinize “tea party applications” out of Washington.

Via Katie Pavlich:

On July 6, 2012, former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance Holly Paz sent an email to IRS Attorney Steven Grodnitzky asking for an explanation of how tea party group applications were being handled. Grodnitzky responded by confirming the cases were being handled in Washington.

“EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob,” Grodnitzky wrote.

While Matthews cites testimony from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson and a Government Accountability Office report, both of which do point to problems with agency funding and staffing, the Vox columnist referenced few of the most recent developments which make the IRS scandal a scandal in the first place.

There is no mention of the implausible vanishing emails, no reference to leaked communications which indicate that Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D-MD) office had coordinated with the IRS, no mention of the fact that the IRS may have violated federal tax law when it forwarded confidential taxpayer information to the FBI in an effort to explore the potential to bring criminal charges against some nonprofit groups.

It is unlikely that this manner of apparently voluntary misconduct would have been avoided had Congress simply increased the IRS’s funding before 2010.

The post is just another vehicle to claim that this or the other federal agency needs more funding. It’s a familiar pattern. That is not, however, to suggest that there is no value to this Vox post. It is essential, if only because it freely and without qualification refers to the IRS scandal a “scandal.” Baby steps.


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Did Vox say the obozocare should be repealed because the IRS obviously can’t handle the extra burdens?

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Vox concedes IRS involved in ‘scandal,’ is wrong about most everything else

VOX is a progressive propaganda outfit – what do you expect?

The communists have done a very good job of infecting every aspect of American society.

But they are also greedy crony capitalists and that will be their downfall.

Be patient my friends.

redguy on June 18, 2014 at 4:46 PM

This is moronic.
In the private sector if your division of a company demonstrates incompetence, you get less money and people are held accountable.

Vox says that government agencies should be awarded for incompetence and mismanagement.

Wow.

airupthere on June 18, 2014 at 4:51 PM

But now they can say that they’ve covered it and its old news.

Iblis on June 18, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Let me see if I get this straight. An unconstitutional law passed by both parties and signed by GWB, who said when he was signing it that he felt it was unconstitutional, gets bagged by the Supreme Court. And that led to the IRS starting to fumble the amount of applications in such a way as to target and harass conservative groups, all because the IRS was underfunded?????????

You cannot even make that stupid stuff up! At some point the Left’s pointy headed moron are going to have strokes trying to cover up this obvious illegal and CRIMINAL actions.

archer52 on June 18, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Vox? The thingy Allah mentioned a while back. Did they ever make a go of it?

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Who is Noah Rothman? He writes like a freaking leftist.

Raquel Pinkbullet on June 18, 2014 at 5:03 PM

Excellent, clear analysis by Noah Rothman. It is appreciated.

bluegill on June 18, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Goebbels would be proud of Vox.

rbj on June 18, 2014 at 5:04 PM

I thought we had pretty much established that Vox was going to nothing more than (yet another) mouthpiece of Libtardom. I don’t think them deciding to admit that a scandal is taking place just so they can in essence say there really is no scandal is worth giving them the time of day?

This bunch on this issue reminds me of some of the whitewashing we see from Scopes: “Yeah, there’s some truth to this, but not really…move along now, folks.”

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 18, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Snopes…sorry, was thinking of Inherit the Wind for some reason…

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM

Who is Noah Rothman? He writes like a freaking leftist.

Raquel Pinkbullet on June 18, 2014 at 5:03 PM

Excellent, clear analysis by Noah Rothman. It is appreciated.

bluegill on June 18, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Nice to see the peanut gallery weigh in, eh Noah? Lolz!

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Vox? The thingy Allah mentioned a while back. Did they ever make a go of it?

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Vox reminds me of a beta male clubhouse – like the He Man Woman Haters Club.

Mark Boabaca on June 18, 2014 at 5:08 PM

“The IRS has been underfunded for years, and there’s strong reason to believe that it needs more money if it’s going to avoid issues like the one it ran into with conservative non-profits in the future,” Matthews wrote.

My interpretation of what Matthews wrote:

The government needs to spend more money funding the IRS so the IRS doesn’t have to target groups who want to reduce government spending.

Maybe he is on to something. Maybe the IRS wanted an increase in funding which is why they singled out groups who want to reduce government spending. In a roundabout way VOX is essentially admitting that the targeting was politically motivated.

airupthere on June 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Mark Boabaca on June 18, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Lolz! Pretty much. Maybe they’ll make a go of it yet. ; )

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Sounds similar to the garbage the NYT “public ombudsmen” come up with to explain why their paper is so out of touch with reality.

Marcola on June 18, 2014 at 5:17 PM

ezra klein envy..

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 18, 2014 at 5:18 PM

I’m surprised they used Vox.com rather than Vox.org. The latter, while carrying the same feces-polluted water for the proggies, would appear more trustworthy for that ubiquitous LIV.

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 5:19 PM

The IRS needs more money and power like teanage boys need alcohol and car keys…both higly ill advised

jaywemm on June 18, 2014 at 5:20 PM

I’m surprised they used Vox.com rather than Vox.org. The latter, while carrying the same feces-polluted water for the proggies, would appear more trustworthy for that ubiquitous LIV.

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 5:19 PM

.com is short for communist. DUH!

ezra klein envy..

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on June 18, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Nobody cares about Ezra Klein.

nobar on June 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Did the troll just suggest that Ezra Klein is a d!ck?

CurtZHP on June 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Is that the same as penis envy is for you?

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:23 PM

CurtZHP on June 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Lolz! My reply was a wee bit more subtle than that I thought, until the mill ate it. Just have to wait and see if and when it gets out of the mill. ; )

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:24 PM

We’ve all heard the excuse, “Liberalism never fails, it’s just underfunded.”

But this is the first time I’ve heard: “Liberalism is never corrupt, it’s just underfunded.”

High points for originality. The East German judge gives him a perfect score.

But you knew that.

SteveMG on June 18, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Of course I could just add spaces to expedite it.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Is that the same as p e n i s envy is for you?

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:27 PM

Well heIIfire, what do ya know. It won’t even go with spaces and a definition.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 5:28 PM

It is essential, if only because it freely and without qualification refers to the IRS scandal a “scandal.” Baby steps.

Nope. Not essential. He used the term to say that underfunding an over-reaching political organ of the left used to thwart the will of American tax payers is scandalous.

Please don’t legitimize Vox by giving it a voice here unless you add an appropriate laugh track.

ROCnPhilly on June 18, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Vox, shmox.

Ward Cleaver on June 18, 2014 at 5:35 PM

As always, Iowahawk has the zinger for this piece of pap.

@iowahawkblog
That unpleasant smell shows why Jeffrey Dahmer needs a bigger refrigerator

Defenestratus on June 18, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Well of course, EVERYTHING is a lack of funding.

Except for the military, those fools can make do with BB guns and paintball grenades.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM

So how was giving a good portion of ECA to the IRS either “budget neutral” or competent administration in the first place?

You got some voxsplainin’ to do!

Axeman on June 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM

You know what I’m terrified of, “Voxsplain” becoming a verb…do I have that right, verb? As in “googling” something has become mainstream.

I hate “google it!” with the fiery passion of a blue-hot star.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 5:46 PM

You know what I’m terrified of, “Voxsplain” becoming a verb…do I have that right, verb? As in “googling” something has become mainstream.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 5:46 PM

This was a much easier word with a gentler consonant blend:

Voxsplain

Axeman on June 18, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Never heard of Vox. Why would anyone care what some random web site thinks about anything?? Is Vox something the cool kids are into (for all of 3 minutes)??

Vox … WTFF? Who gives a sh!t? This reminds me of George magazine. That was a total loser mag – though it was known, thanks to all the Kennedy criminal cred and the like. But that mag was so awful that it shut down about 5 minutes after the plane crashed – as if it was trying to close the whole time but just couldn’t … because …. Kennedy!!

Now some vox junk? Yeah … whatever.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 18, 2014 at 5:58 PM

“There were a number of reasons for why the IRS started singling out groups with words like ‘Tea Party’ and ‘patriot’ in the name, but a lack of resources to do more effective screening was a major factor.”

Yes, yes that explains why Conservative 501(c)(4)’s were held up indefinitely and burdened with totally politically motivated questionnaires, while Progressive 501(c)(4)’s applications were all completed in a relatively short timespan with little burden placed on them.

See, Vox explained it so simply and perfectly, bless their little hearts.

NOMOBO on June 18, 2014 at 5:59 PM

This was a much easier word with a gentler consonant blend:

Voxsplain

Axeman on June 18, 2014 at 5:54 PM

You want to write Chinese do it somewhere else, we use AMERICAN here.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Vox concedes IRS involved in ‘scandal,’ is wrong about most everything else

Of course. And without one ounce more of information – in the mind of a liberal – lack of funding is immediately the fault of Republicans. Liberals now have their *answer* for the “scandal” and will have no need for any further info.

Know how many liberals still blame the attack at Benghazi on budget cuts?

lynncgb on June 18, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Because the IRS always asks what the content of one’s prayer are… it is standard.

How do liberals live with themselves. They are just so dishonest about EVERYTHING!

petunia on June 18, 2014 at 6:37 PM

501(c)(4)

Good place to start for tax simplification.

No tax exempt status for anyone.

MichaelGabriel on June 18, 2014 at 6:38 PM

So, what exactly is the difference between ‘voxsplaining,’ ‘voxspinning,’ and ‘voxlying?’

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 18, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Iowahawk’s take.

tanked59 on June 18, 2014 at 6:51 PM

Ugh. I don’t come here to here about the latest Lefty spin cycle sites. Or HuffPo.

Toocon on June 18, 2014 at 7:01 PM

So, what exactly is the difference between ‘voxsplaining,’ ‘voxspinning,’ and ‘voxlying?’

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 18, 2014 at 6:38 PM

The same as ‘volksplaining’, ‘volkspinning’ and ‘volkslying’?

More their true colors I think.

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 18, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Boy, is Vox going to be upset. The latest budget proposed by the House cuts the IRS budget. Targeting of con groups will necessarily skyrocket and there will be more years of lost emails.

Kissmygrits on June 19, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Please refrain the urge to click on Vox for whatever reasons you think you need to – for a good laugh, to hold them up to ridicule to your readers, etc. If not for conservatives clicking over there, they would be out of business already. Let the marketplace take them down. Don’t help them. Your readership does not care what those twits are saying or voxsplaining. They are always wrong, terminally partisan, and we need them to just run out of money. Every time you click over there, you are inadvertently helping them and putting coin in their pocket. No one cares. Lose the link.

GlobalTrvlr on June 19, 2014 at 1:05 PM