Issa and Fox News Continuing to Embarrass Themselves Over IRS Targeting

As the right continues to try to make the IRS’ bad behavior look political, they are seemingly doing nothing more than making themselves look foolish.  Fox News posted two articles at the end of the week (here and here) trying to further suggest the many times debunked notion the mistakes can be traced back to the White House and Darrell Issa also posted an op-ed in the USA Today eluding to the same.  Most of their new argument is based on Thursday’s testimony of two IRS employees, one of which linked the review of groups to the Office of Chief Counsel, who is an Obama appointee.

I suppose this was intended to be breaking news and something new for the country to look at regarding the ongoing investigation.  Just one problem: we already knew the Chief Counsel was involved over two months ago.  Call it lazy research.  Call it an omission.  Call it biased reporting.  Call it what you want.  It just looks ridiculous.

If you look at page 42 of the TIGTA’s report from May 14, 2013, the first entry in the timeline for August 4, 2011, the report clearly states:

Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue. (Emphasis added)

Breaking news folks!  The team at Fox has made it most of the way through one report released 9 weeks ago!  Congrats guys!

As for Mr. Issa, he continues to plant the seed that the targeting was political and goes to the White House at any chance he gets.  In his op-ed, he questions:

Was the targeting of Tea Party applicants directed from the White House or somewhere else outside the IRS?

He then suggests judgement should be withheld until all the info is in but the implication is clear.  There are many ways to word that question and make that point but he clearly refuses to stop linking the scandal to the White House despite having zero evidence.

If you have been paying close attention to the scandal and watched the 5 hours of testimony Thursday, you’ll notice an evolution in the argument coming from the right.  At first, they suggested the targeting itself was political but that has been debunked beyond any doubt at this point and there is no longer an argument there considering the mountain of evidence against it.

Now the argument is the delay in giving the non-profit groups approval was political.  And it turns out this argument may be showing the hypocrisy of the right considering they might be the side that created the problem that led to the delays.

Representative Carolyn Maloney-D, New York.

If you watch the testimony of the Inspector General from Thursday and skip to questioning from Republican Rep. Tim Walberg at around the 46:00 mark, you’ll see him getting an answer he probably didn’t want regarding the delay.  He brings up how some of the work was shifted from an experienced IRS employee to another greener employee and the IG jumps in and points out:

I would just add, Congressman, given the fiscal constraints facing the entire nation, but especially those confronting the Internal Revenue Service, I am not surprised that they would have made a decision like that and they’re, unfortunately, going to have to continue to make some of these…haphazard-types of decisions because of a lack of resources and manpower. (Emphasis added)

In other words, the old conservative strategy of “starving the beast” has worked perfectly for them in that it has created underfunded agencies incapable of doing the work imposed on them by the government and now they get to yell “fire” where they lit the match.

Another tactic of the right in the first testimony was to demonize Lois Lerner further.  So, what do the IG investigators think of Lerner’s actions during their testimony?  She was actually helpful and trying to fix the problem.  When Republican Tim Walberg asked about her actions he received this response (44:47 mark):

Well, she (Lerner) was trying to fix the problem.  She…recognized, then, that these criteria were inappropriate, to use any names regardless of political party, and she was trying to fix it.

She might not have been perfect, but it certainly seems like she wasn’t as bad as the right is making her out to be.

There are two other exchanges I would encourage people to watch from the IG testimony.  The first (at 2:10:12) is Democrat Carolyn Maloney holding up and showing the training manual from the IRS that encourages employees to look for terms like “Republican, Democrat, donkey, elephant, Tea Party, and progressives.”  The IG explains he just received the document last week so this was not included in earlier testimony and reports from his office.

Representative Tony Cardenas-D, California.

The second (at 2:18:16) tip of the hat goes to Democrat Tony Cardenas of California.  He simply asks the IG to identify if he has any evidence regarding accusations by Republicans, such as Representatives Issa and Rogers and Senators McConnell and Cruz, and if any of those outlandish claims have any truth to them.  Answer: nope.  Nicely done Mr. Cardenas!

I’ve said before the IRS acted poorly in this situation but the evidence continues to mount that none of the wrongdoing was political in nature.  And as this evidence mounts, the folks on the right trying to reach for anything they can to prove what isn’t true just look more and more ridiculous as time goes on.  Keep up the good work Fox and Issa!  We surely enjoy watching you show the world your true colors!

Highlights of IRS Manager’s Testimony: What Issa Doesn’t Want us to Know

The full transcript of the testimony of the IRS manager in charge of the screening unit for 501 c 4 groups was released yesterday in two parts (part one here, part two here) against the wishes of House Oversight Committee Chairman and witch-hunter/fear-monger, Darrell Issa.  The testimony speaks for itself so let’s have it do the talking.

(The “Q”s are the questions from the committee and the “A”s are the manager’s answers.)

From page 28, regarding the manager’s party affiliation:

Q    What’s your party affiliation?

A    I am a conservative Republican.

From page 61, regarding personal/political views coming into play in screening:

Q    …was it your impression that (name withheld) flagged the case, the Tea Party case for you on February 25th, 2010, because of his disagreement with their political views of the group?

A    We…never discussed…any political…personal aspirations whatsoever.  His determination of the case was that…we needed additional information that was not complete and that the fact that he recognized that it had been something that had been in the media, that we may want it to make sure that…EO Technical didn’t believe this was…warranting a high profile decision.

Q    Did you decide to elevate the case…because you disagreed with the political views of the Tea Party organization in the application?

A    No, I did not.

From page 75, regarding pulling certain cases based on name of group:

A    So, in answer to your question, no, I did not instruct that if you had “Tea Party” in a case that it would automatically go to another group for screening…

Q    You wouldn’t instruct your screeners to pull out all of the cases just because they had “Tea Party” in their name?

A    Not to my knowledge.

From page 79, regarding searching for certain criteria:

Q    So is being in the Tea Party movement or being a Tea Party organization part of the criteria used to identify similar cases to the February 25th case identified?

A    There was no criteria.  Each case is again reviewed and the determination is made on the facts and circumstances within that case.

Q    You stated previously you didn’t tell anyone to do a search.  How did you expect your screeners to identify similar cases?

A    …if a screener has…the ability to do a search, I really was not able to control their thought pattern or their initiative…

Q    You didn’t give the specific instruction?

A    I did not say go out and search.

In other words, even if the targeting was political by an individual screener, the order was not given from his superior.

From page 103, again regarding whether a criteria-based order was given to single out cases for review:

A    It was not a criteria-based anything.  It was…what issues are you finding.

From page 105, regarding what the screeners could do with cases in terms of follow-up on a regular basis:

Q    What does secondary screening mean?

A    Secondary screening would be looking at a case that hopefully we could merit closed, and we would send it to secondary screening for someone to take a look at who had more time than my initial screeners…So because my screeners were not in a position of even picking up the phone to verify an issue, it was sent on in many instances in other areas to secondary screening.

In other words, the people initially picking the cases out for further review had little to do with what happened next so the idea they could successfully target groups politically and know what was going to happen after that is very slim.  The screeners had no control over whether a group definitively received more scrutiny but could recommend a further review for potential followup.

From page 108, regarding manager meetings on political targeting:

Q    Do you recall ever discussing in this early time period from February 2010 to May 2010 the Tea Party cases at these manager level meetings?

A    I do not.

From pages 110-111, regarding the manager’s responsibility of screening the cases:

A    My function, again, was to look at these initial cases within a span of a few days and put them in the proper bucket and just go on with my work.  Whatever went on after I bucketed these cases, it was what it was.  I was not intimately involved in any of that.

Not only did the screeners have no control over the extended review process and whether it really happened, neither did the manager.  In other words, with the checks and balances in place in the IRS, even if political targeting went on at the initial phase, it could easily be stamped out going into the next step which would also not be the last needed to send out the questionnaires some groups received.

From pages 140-141, regarding whether the manager believed the White House was involved:

Q    In your opinion, was the decision to screen and centralize the review of Tea Party cases the targeting of the President’s political enemies?

A    I do not believe that the screening of the cases had anything to do other that consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development….

Q    Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?

A    I have no reason to believe that.

Q    Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to centralize the review of Tea Party cases?

A    I have no reason to believe that.

Finally, from page 176, after being asked about the “criteria” referencing Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 Project:

A    This…is not my criteria.  I have said before I asked the three senior agents in my group, when they reviewed cases, what would they look for for a potential auto revocation case.  (Emphasis added)

In other words, the words used for the criteria did not come from above but actually came from below the manager, further reinforcing the fact the White House had nothing to with it and was not doing this to target political enemies.

As I’ve said before, the IRS picked a bad way to select cases for a period of time and it has been corrected.  But this was never at any point politically motivated.  End of story.