Democrats must be thrilled that the allegations involving the IRS deliberately targeting conservative groups in order to intimidate them or prevent them from participating in the political process have largely faded from the public mind. The left is content to insist that the agency has been absolved of any wrongdoing – not because it was actually cleared of any misconduct, mind you, but because the agency may also have unfairly targeted liberals as well as conservatives. That’s some defense.
But the IRS scandal uncovered in the spring of 2013, when Lois Lerner preemptively apologized for targeting conservative groups after planting a question about that as yet unknown controversy at a routine press conference, has not disappeared. As recently as December of last year, former House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) sixth and final report on the IRS targeting scandal accused the tax collection agency of incubating a “culture of bias.”
The Washington Post’s report on Issa’s final condemnation of the IRS is indicative of how the members of the political press, in particular, have written off the scandal as nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt.
“The report failed to show the White House coordinated with IRS officials to target conservative groups, a charge several Republican lawmakers made when the controversy first broke,” The Post reported. “Issa, who suggested then-White House press secretary Jay Carney was a ‘paid liar’ for suggesting a small number of IRS officials pursued this strategy on their own, made it clear the administration kept the committee from reaching a final answer on the question.”
The Post’s focus is on the inability of conservatives to link the IRS’s alleged targeting to officials within the administration. The Post declined to review Lois Lerner’s admission of fault prior the release of an inspector general audit that would challenge her conduct, the credulity-straining tale of Lerner’s lost computer files, or the fact that the IRS was coordinating with the Department of Justice with the aim of prosecuting politically active groups. In fact, the details of the IRS scandal are still being uncovered as a result of FIOA requests filed by groups like Judicial Watch.
No matter. The press has determined that the IRS scandal has been defused. It was a determination they were resolved to make as soon as the damaging scope of the IRS’s abuse of power came to light in nearly two years ago. But the targeting of conservatives is not the only scandal in which the tax agency finds itself caught up. Issa’s charge that the IRS is plagued by corruption seems accurate when the latest revelations are considered. According to a new investigation conducted by the tax administration inspector general, the IRS has rehired a variety of individuals it previously dismissed for poor conduct, including their failure to abide by U.S. tax law.
“The IRS rehired hundreds of former staffers with conduct issues, even bringing ex-employees with tax issues back into the fold, a new federal audit has found” The Hill reported.
Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration said that the IRS generally followed the federal guidelines, which take into account whether a potential employee has a criminal record or failed a drug test, when bringing back former staffers.
But other staffers rehired had documented conduct issues from previous tenures at the IRS, including purposefully not filing their taxes, wrongly authorizing taxpayer information and lying on official forms. Of those rehired, roughly one in five then went on to have further performance problems.
“In all, the inspector general found that more than one in 10 of the employees that the IRS rehired between January 2010 and September 2013 — 824 of 7,168 — had prior employment issues,” the report continued. “Of those, 141 had documented tax problems.”
If Republicans want to make the IRS a political issue in 2016, and they should, they will have ample evidence of the agency’s suboptimal performance and corruption to cite when doing so. The IRS as an institution is in desperate need of reform, and any politician who would both defend this conduct and the agency’s use of outmoded technology will find their counterargument — that the IRS only needed more taxpayer funds — not especially convincing.