Saturday, June 21, 2014

Is it time, yet?

The following facts are indisputable:

In May, 2013, in response to a planted question put to her at a forum sponsored by the American Bar Association, Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had targeted conservative groups based on their political beliefs. This was the conclusion of a then soon to be released report of the Treasury Inspector General. This targeting took the form of intense scrutiny of applications for tax exempt status received from such groups . That extra scrutiny resulted in extraordinary delays in processing those applications and the inability of the applicants to raise money to pursue their policy goals during the 2012 election cycle, as is their constitutionally protected right.

Later in May, 2013, when called upon to testify before a Congressional committee concerning her actions as a high level employee of the IRS, Lerner first stated that she had not violated any laws or regulations, and then declined to answer questions on the grounds that doing so would tend to incriminate her.

In November, 2013, Congress directed the IRS to produce documents concerning the actions of Lerner and others who were or may have been involved in the matter, including emails.

In March, 2014, the IRS Commissioner claimed that it would take "years" to comply with the committee's request, because the emails were taken off the individual employee's computer and "stored somewhere".

That statement is apparently no longer an operative statement.

The IRS now claims to have lost Lerner's emails for a large portion of the relevant period. It also claims to have lost the emails of six other individuals which had been requested by Congress to be produced. The explanation given for the loss of the requested emails is that no action was taken to preserve them, which resulted in the older emails being isolated on individual computers being used by each of the individuals, followed, in each of these seven instances, by hard drive failures causing the irretrievable loss of all data on each hard drive. Despite their own regulations and those of the National Archives and Records Administration requiring multiple backups, the IRS claims that no such backups exist, and, further, that the failed hard drives have been destroyed.

Conservatives find Lerner's admitted actions in targeting groups based on their political beliefs abhorrent. Those conservatives were, at least initially, joined in their disgust by liberals, from the President, to the Democratic Party's political leaders, to the chief of the legislative section of the ACLU to editorial boards across the nation. This is consistent with the outrage (on both sides of the aisle) when President Nixon tried and failed to use the IRS to punish his political opponents.

Over the course of the last year, however, things have changed, and it appears that those Democratic expressions of outrage and disgust are also no longer operative statements.

The President has announced (without the benefit of a completed investigation by the FBI or anyone else) that there is not a smidgen of corruption (February, 2014).  And yesterday, we were treated to the spectacle of Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee saying that the investigation into what only last year was "unacceptable behavior" (Obama, May, 2013) "about as troubling as it gets" (Michael Mcleod-Ball, ACLU, May, 2013) "an outrageous abuse of power" (Baucus, D. Montana, May, 2013) and "un-American" (Manchin, D., W. Va, May, 2013) is now a "phony scandal" (Treasury Secretary Lew, July, 2013) and "an endless conspiracy theory" (Doggett, D. Texas, May, 2014)  for which an apology is due not to the targeted conservative groups, not to the American people, but to the IRS.

And finally, a prediction, rather than a fact:

Both the nation and the Democratic Party will be hurt by IRS scandal. Democrats will be hurt because a the actions taken were intended to and did in fact benefit liberals (primarily if not entirely Democrats) by silencing conservatives through an egregious abuse by the IRS of its authority. The actions were taken while a Democratic President was in office, under an IRS Commissioner appointed by that President and confirmed by a Democratic controlled Senate.  The nation will be hurt because a perception that the IRS is politically biased will impair its ability to do its job (administration of the tax laws) and will reduce the voluntary compliance by taxpayers needed to make our tax system work.  The way to minimize and repair the damage to the nation is to present all of the facts to the people and punish those involved.  Do that and the reputation of the IRS as unbiased will be restored.  However, doing that requires investigations which will damage the political fortunes of the Democratic Party, on whose watch the scandal occurred.

To summarize:

The IRS admits doing something which everyone agrees is an abuse of its enormous power. A failed attempt to do the same thing was enough to credibly (and properly) threaten President Nixon with impeachment.

The investigation into the improper actions of the IRS, which will aid the nation but damage the Democrats, has not been completed due, in large part, to delays by the IRS itself in producing documents requested as part of the investigation. That can reasonably be characterized as stonewalling, which is a tactic used frequently by this administration when faced with requests to which it would rather not respond.

But John Lewis (D-Georgia), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) don't think the scandal or the circumstances under which the missing emails were lost is worth investigating. They think the IRS is due an apology. That would be an apology for actions which have been characterized by people across the entire political spectrum as outrageous and un-American.

My conclusion is this:

What was once an impeachable offense if merely attempted is now, when fully implemented, nothing but a crackpot conspiracy theory according to Messrs. Lewis, Neal, Becerra, Doggett and Blumenauer.

I have a question based on that conclusion:

Are Lewis, Neal, Becerra, Doggett and Blumenauer putting their political party's interests above those of the nation?

And just to remove any doubt, yes, I think it might well be time to question their patriotism.

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