Corruption: As the layers on the IRS scandal are peeled back, it’s become increasingly clear the law has been broken and the White House may have been far more deeply involved than claimed. Time for a special prosecutor.
A House investigation has found that, far from being a case of “rogue agents” in Cincinnati as the White House has claimed, the IRS harassment of conservative groups appears to have been directed from the very top in Washington, D.C.
IRS employees say they were made “acutely” aware as far back as 2010 that President Obama wanted to go after tea party and other conservative groups, the Washington Times reports. Not wanting to disappoint, they did what they thought they were supposed to do.
“As prominent politicians publicly urged the IRS to take action on tax-exempt groups engaged in legal campaign intervention activities,” the House report said, “the IRS treated tea party applications differently.”
That’s bad enough. But other newly discovered IRS documents, USA Today reported Wednesday, “show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ’emotional’ statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.”
A 2011 IRS document named 162 groups — along with comments by IRS lawyers in Washington. Just 11 of those were liberal or “progressive” in political orientation. The political bias is absolutely clear.
Not only were local IRS officials pressured from Washington to investigate conservative groups, they did so using explicit criteria: Any group critical of Obama and his administration got investigated and had its application for tax-exempt status put on a slow track. It would be sidelined for the election.
No, a smoking gun linking the Oval Office to explicit orders to investigate the tea party hasn’t been found — not yet, anyway. But it may be that one wasn’t needed.
The political signals were quite clear. The pressure on the tea party and other groups began right after Obama, in his 2010 State of the Union address, lambasted the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision.
Shortly after, Democrats in Congress started pushing the IRS to go after tea party and related groups — which the IRS promptly did, just in time for the 2012 election.
We’re glad to see that Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, isn’t letting go of the scandal. He’s not done yet. But it needs to go further.
Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, still gets an IRS paycheck. But in a just-released Feb. 1, 2011 email sent to fellow IRS exec and Obama supporter Holly Paz, she calls the tea party groups “very dangerous,” adding hopefully: “Perhaps the (Federal Election Commission) will save the day.”
Not exactly the words of an unbiased public servant.
Hardly a month goes by without other such blockbuster revelations of IRS misconduct. This scandal reeks of criminality and, at the very least, constitutes an attempt by a government agency to sway the 2012 election.
Enough. We need a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of this, once and for all.
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This article was written by the editorial board of the Investors Business Daily.