IRS commissioner: Hey, turns out it was mainly just two "rogue" employees who targeted tea partiers

Via Mediaite, it took a few days but at last we have some fall guys. It’s ludicrous, of course, to think the problem was limited to two people — the IG report last night specifically blamed ineffective management and, as Guy Benson reminds us, we already know that knowledge of the harassment went all the way up the chain — but pay attention to the fine print in the video clip at 1:22. Miller, the commissioner, apparently acknowledged that the IRS’s mishandling of this went beyond the two “rogues.” Evidently they’re setting up to put most of the blame on the two employees and then appease critics with some perfunctory “mistakes were made” shinola-eating from the higher-ups. All we need now is for some IRS exec to whine that the agency’s gotten too big to manage effectively and the self-serving scandal narrative will be complete. An obvious question: When they say the employees went “off the reservation,” are they suggesting that they’re prepared to acknowledge that they had a malevolent political agenda as opposed to just being “overzealous” in policing 501(c)(4)s or whatever? I’m keen to know what “going rogue” means in this case.

Meanwhile, Sean Higgins asks a good question: Why do the IG report’s timelines of what happened in this case begin with a heavily redacted entry?

On top of page 13 is a graph titled “Figure 5: Timeline of Events and Delays Involving the Processing of Potential Political Cases (******1***** through May 2012)” that redacts the first item, not even giving a date. A spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee confirmed the “****1****” item was Treasury’s style for redactions.

The mystery date was apparently February 25, 2010, based on two appendixes in the back of the report…

The rest of the report references dates earlier than February, 2010, in laying out how the IRS came to target Tea Party groups. But the reference to February in both appendixes indicates something particularly noteworthy happened then in the evolution of the IRS’s policy. What was it?

A spokesman for the IRS referred any inquiries to the Treasury Department. A spokeswoman a Treasury referred the Examiner‘s question on the matter to its Inspector General. The IG’s office has not responded to a request for comment. (UPDATE: IG spokesman David Barnes emails: “As noted on the cover page of the report, some items have been redacted because the information could identify a specific taxpayer.”)

Why redact the entire entry rather than just the name of the taxpayer, though? Keep your eye on that February 2010 date, too: The NYT has a story out this afternoon noting that the GOP is interested to know how early IRS leadership, and even Treasury Department leadership, learned that this was going on. Quote:

It is clear that the I.R.S. headquarters in Washington was far more involved in the effort than initially portrayed. A “sensitive case report” on Tea Party targeting was sent from Cincinnati to Lois Lerner, the head of the I.R.S.’s division for tax-exempt organizations, and another Washington official on April 19, 2010, more than a year before previously thought. Ms. Lerner told reporters on Friday that she learned of the effort in early 2012 through news media reports of Tea Party complaints.

Even before then, in mid-March 2010, 10 Tea Party cases appear to have been brought to the attention of another senior I.R.S. official in Washington, just two weeks after the Cincinnati effort began, according to the inspector general’s audit.

How were the “rogue” employees operating “off the reservation” if Reservation HQ in D.C. had an idea of what they were up to as soon as two weeks after they started doing it? Stay tuned.

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