by Editorial Board • Las Vegas Review-Journal
Back in February, President Barack Obama said the apparent targeting of conservative organizations by the IRS was not illegal or politically motivated, but rather the result of “some bone-headed decisions,” and that “not even a smidgen of corruption” was at play. A few months — and developments — later, however, the president’s words are even less believable than they were then.
First, nonprofit watchdog group Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents from the IRS indicating that the agency had been sharing individuals’ private tax data with the White House. (The group was trying to obtain information proving the existence of an independent investigation into alleged unauthorized access to the Koch brothers’ tax returns by former White House senior economics adviser Austan Goolsbee.) When the agency dragged its feet and ultimately denied the request, Cause of Action sued. A judge ruled in Cause of Action’s favor, ordering the IRS to turn over all of the documents by December 1.
Despite the court order, however, the IRS has continued to stonewall, refusing to share the requested records. While the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) claimed initially that the IRS would comply and turn over more than 2,000 pages of documents, it abruptly reneged, saying in a letter to Cause of Action on December 1 that, yes, they did indeed have 2,043 pages of documents relating to the FOIA request, but that Cause of Action couldn’t see them due to federal privacy laws.
So, if you’re keeping score at home, the IRS claimed that turning over the documents would be an invasion of privacy — despite the fact that the agency already invaded that privacy by having the documents in the first place.
These new developments highlight a very cozy and, in all likelihood, very much illegal relationship between the Obama administration and the IRS. We still don’t know the full extent and depth of the IRS targeting scandal, but this case could provide evidence of coordination. For now, we are left with a ton of questions:
What, exactly, was the White House doing with more than 2,000 pages of documents containing private tax data of various Americans? Is the IRS helping the Obama administration go after the “dark money” groups the president and his party have long condemned? And what are we to make of the fact that as many as 30,000 supposedly destroyed emails from former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner have suddenly turned up — emails from January 2009 through June 2011, the time period during which the IRS was ramping up its conservative targeting efforts?
Does the IRS just have really bad luck with computers? Are those in charge of finding the emails incompetent? Or is there something more coordinated and corrupt going on? And, if so, how much did President Obama know about it?
When President Obama took office, he swore that his would be “the most transparent” presidency in history, but his administration’s hostility regarding actual transparency, as well as the free press, remains alarming and unacceptable. All of the requested IRS records need to be made public, and if the Obama administration and the IRS won’t do it, then the Republican-led Congress needs to push for hearings to get to the bottom of the matter.