Tomorrow is Tax Day, and millions of Americans — myself included — will see a large drain from our bank accounts to satisfy our obligations to Uncle Sam. So far, though, we have not seen Uncle Sam fulfill his obligation to drain the apparent political corruption at the IRS, even with two Congressional investigations into the targeting of the administration’s critics in the tax-exempt department under Lois Lerner. Barack Obama claims that there isn’t “a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS, but the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward scoffed at that defense on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday. “There’s obviously something here,” Woodward said, and called into question the investigative techniques used by the House panels after George Will laid out five issues already brought to light in testimony:
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The investigation to take last first, has stalled because the Justice Department has already leaked its conclusion, which is that no one would be prosecuted. It rises to that level because the Internal Revenue Service is the most intrusive and potentially the most punitive institution of the federal government and has been thoroughly politicized. Let me give you five things we know that she’s done right now. She said the delay on approving conservative groups is caused by a serious uptick in applications. The inspector general of the IRS says that is just not true. She said the Tea Party group was very dangerous. In Texas and Kentucky and probably elsewhere, IRS employees have violated the Hatch Act by using federal resources for campaigning and obviously for Barack Obama.
WALLACE: Can we — I just want to point out — because the office of Special Council came out this week with a report and they said, now, there weren’t vast cases although in Dallas they apparently — they were wearing campaign buttons and there are screen saver said Obama and stuff like that. But there was at least one case where if you called the helpline this person was in effect tell you when you should vote for Obama and not for the Republicans because they’ll keep you in this mess. On the IRS helpline. So, (INAUDIBLE) with you recitation, I’m (INAUDIBLE).
WILL: Confidential taxpayer information of the organization, the National Organization for Marriage was leaked to a rival group. And finally, when Senator Schumer and Durbin and others were exerting the IRS to be more political in their application of views, she said with regard to Crossroads GPS, the most important conservative group, we are working on a denial of the application. Not expediting, not coming to a quick conclusion, but we are working on denial of it. That’s why this rises because as Bob Woodward remembers, the Watergate scandal was fundamentally in the words of John Dean using the machinery of the federal government to punish our enemies.
WALLACE: All right, Mr. Woodward, you know something about scandals. And if that’s forgetting them, how serious is the IRS scandal and, you know, I think one of the key questions is, does this really begin and end with a midlevel bureaucrat who we never heard of a year ago named Lois Lerner?
BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there is obviously something here. And the question is does this committee know how to investigate? And they’re worried about this one person who has invoked her Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions and you have congressmen on the committee going on and saying we have evidence she’s involved in criminal activity. I don’t think you should cross that line. The second thing is there’s always one person who’s not going to talk. And when you conduct an investigation like this, I have not gone into the details, you need to find people who will talk. And there are always people who will do this. And, you know, we should dig into it. There should be answers. It’s quite correct. And for the president to take that position is very, very unusual and say there is not a smidgeon of evidence here. I mean George has got a good list — I think, actually, there’s more. And there’s a question and you’re right, the IRS particularly this week as we know will file our tax returns has a big place in everyone’s life. And they have immense power. And the power of the federal government to come and say we’re auditing you or we’re going to do something to you, I mean it’s a ten ton truck coming at you. And it’s the sort of thing that the leadership and the White House should take a position. Look, we will not tolerate this.
Brit Hume blamed the media for its lack of attention:
HUME: Chris, the same set of facts that Bob and George have described would have touched off, I think, in previous days a media firestorm. What we had was kind of a campfire in most of the media, which was doused before very long and the story has been basically dormant. We at Fox News have continued to pursue it and some other media outlets have as well. But when that kind of firestorm occurs, it creates an atmosphere in Washington where for the administration with a message to try to promote day by day, you can’t get it out. You can get nothing out. We can all remember what it was like. And that creates a hothouse sort of atmosphere, in which all investigations end up being accelerated. There are minute details leaked, they get reported and the thing develops a life of its own and ultimately the combination of things, you know, brings the issue out and you get to the facts. It has not happened here.
Those who wonder why that may be the case should refer back to Sharyl Attkisson’s discussion with Howard Kurtz this weekend.
Bloomberg’s editors say the IRS should “get … out of politics (mostly)”, griping that both Republicans and Democrats shot down proposed regulations that would force the IRS to do the opposite:
Last year, the IRS issued draft guidelines to help clarify which activities are considered political. One might think that both Democrats (who like to complain about secret money in politics) and Republicans (who like to complain about the IRS intruding into politics) would welcome this move, or at least not oppose it.
One would be wrong. The agency received more than 150,000 comments on the proposed new rule, a record. Groups on the left and the right deluged the agency with objections, arguing that such regulations would prevent them from even conducting voter registration drives and issuing voter guides that rate candidates on issues. Even if that’s the case, so what? Such political activity should be funded by political committees subject to disclosure rules, not social welfare organizations.
Issuing more regulations and creating more ways to intervene in politics is a funny way to advise the IRS to “get out.” The IRS should just end tax exemptions from those running advertising for political purposes, and Congress should eliminate direct-contribution limits to candidates and political parties. That would encourage the money to flow toward political accountability rather than away from it, and would have the extra added benefit of truly getting the IRS out of the role of political-speech referee.