“IRS-Gate” – One Step Closer
"I Don't Mind A Parasite. I Object To A Cut-Rate One."
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Peggy Noonan reports in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that: “The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office—that had been established—but to the office of the chief counsel.” She also notes that the chief counsel for the IRS is “one of only two Obama political appointees in the entire agency.” Think this isn’t a big deal? Here are the highlights of Noonan’s article:

“(This) is a bombshell—such a big one that it managed to emerge in spite of an unfocused, frequently off-point congressional hearing in which some members seemed to have accidentally woken up in the middle of a committee room, some seemed unaware of the implications of what their investigators had uncovered, one pretended that the investigation should end if IRS workers couldn't say the president had personally called and told them to harass his foes, and one seemed to be holding a filibuster on Pakistan.

Still, what landed was a bombshell. And Democrats know it. Which is why they are so desperate to make the investigation go away. They know, as Republicans do, that the chief counsel of the IRS is one of only two Obama political appointees in the entire agency.

When the scandal broke two months ago, in May, IRS leadership in Washington claimed the harassment of tea-party and other conservative groups requesting tax-exempt status was confined to the Cincinnati office, where a few rogue workers bungled the application process. Lois Lerner, then the head of the exempt organizations unit in Washington, said "line people in Cincinnati" did work that was "not so fine." They asked questions that "weren't really necessary," she claimed, and operated without "the appropriate level of sensitivity." But the targeting was "not intentional." Ousted acting commissioner Steven Miller also put it off on "people in Cincinnati." They provided "horrible customer service."

House investigators soon talked to workers in the Cincinnati office, who said everything they did came from Washington. Elizabeth Hofacre, in charge of processing tea-party applications in Cincinnati, told investigators that her work was overseen and directed by a lawyer in the IRS Washington office named Carter Hull.

Now comes Mr. Hull's testimony. And like Ms. Hofacre, he pointed his finger upward. Mr. Hull—a 48-year IRS veteran and an expert on tax exemption law—told investigators that tea-party applications under his review were sent upstairs within the Washington office, at the direction of Lois Lerner.

In April 2010, Hull was assigned to scrutinize certain tea-party applications. He requested more information from the groups. After he received responses, he felt he knew enough to determine whether the applications should be approved or denied.

But his recommendations were not carried out.

Michael Seto, head of Mr. Hull's unit, also spoke to investigators. He told them Lois Lerner made an unusual decision: Tea-party applications would undergo additional scrutiny—a multilayered review.

Mr. Hull told House investigators that at some point in the winter of 2010-11, Ms. Lerner's senior adviser, whose name is withheld in the publicly released partial interview transcript, told him the applications would require further review:

Q: "Did [the senior adviser to Ms. Lerner] indicate to you whether she agreed with your recommendations?"

A: "She did not say whether she agreed or not. She said it should go to chief counsel."

Q: "The IRS chief counsel?"

A: "The IRS chief counsel."

The IRS chief counsel is named William Wilkins. And again, he is one of only two Obama political appointees in the IRS.

What was the chief counsel's office looking for? The letter to Mr. Werfel says Mr. Hull's supervisor, Ronald Shoemaker, provided insight: The counsel's office wanted, in the words of the congressional committees, "information about the applicants' political activities leading up to the 2010 election." Mr. Shoemaker told investigators he didn't find that kind of question unreasonable, but he found the counsel's office to be "not very forthcoming": "We discussed it to some extent and they indicated that they wanted more development of possible political activity or political intervention right before the election period."

It's almost as if—my words—the conservative organizations in question were, during two major election cycles, deliberately held in a holding pattern.

So: What the IRS originally claimed was a rogue operation now reaches up not only to the Washington office, but into the office of the IRS chief counsel himself.

At the generally lacking House Oversight Committee Hearings on Thursday, some big things still got said.

Ms. Hofacre of the Cincinnati office testified that when she was given tea-party applications, she had to kick them upstairs. When she was given non-tea-party applications, they were sent on for normal treatment. Was she told to send liberal or progressive groups for special scrutiny? No, she did not scrutinize the applications of liberal or progressive groups. "I would send those to general inventory." Who got extra scrutiny? "They were all tea-party and patriot cases." She became "very frustrated" by the "micromanagement" from Washington. "It was like working in lost luggage." She applied to be transferred.

For his part, Mr. Hull backed up what he'd told House investigators. He described what was, essentially, a big, lengthy runaround in the Washington office in which no one was clear as to their reasons but everything was delayed. The multitiered scrutiny of the targeted groups was, he said, "unusual."

It was Maryland's Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel's ranking Democrat, who, absurdly, asked Ms. Hofacre if the White House called the Cincinnati office to tell them what to do and whether she has knowledge of the president of the United States digging through the tax returns of citizens. Ms. Hofacre looked surprised. No, she replied.

It wasn't hard to imagine her thought bubble: Do congressmen think presidents call people like me and say, "Don't forget to harass my enemies"? Are congressmen that stupid?

Mr. Cummings is not, and his seeming desperation is telling. Recent congressional information leads to Washington—and now to very high up at the IRS. Meaning this is the point at which a scandal goes nowhere or, maybe, everywhere.”

See: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324448104578614220949743916.html

So – a “high point at which a scandal goes nowhere or maybe everywhere.” Those of us who lived through Watergate recall how that investigation evolved – from a “second–rate burglary” to the exposure of political harassment and sabotage of the then-President’s political opponents that included the involvement of the President himself and all the President’s men. You can be certain that the Republicans – just as the Democrats did from 1972 to 1974 – will be digging HARD to see how high up the complicity goes, to include whether this case involved explicit or implicit (as in the “wink and nod” variety) approval by members at the highest levels of our government.

Noonan concludes her article with the following observation:

“This is the moment things go forward or stall. Republicans need to find out how high the scandal went and why, exactly, it went there. To do that they'll have to up their game.”

Up, indeed.

Latest Activity: Jul 19, 2013 at 12:24 PM

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JimmyMack commented on Friday, Jul 19, 2013 at 16:49 PM

Shucks Sebe, Peggy Noonan!!! Are you kidding me man?!! Though she survived the Ronald Reagan Republican Iran-Contra Scandal of 1986, while writing speeches and providing him with talking points re Iran Contra, she was the one generally responsible for Ronny's 'forgetfulness' and thus giving him 'plausible deniability'. She has had an axe to grind ever since towards Dems.

You wanna talk SCANDAL: Iran Contra resulted in 14 INDICTMENTS within Reagan's STAFF AND A WHOPPING 11 CONVICTIONS!!!

Nothing in the Obama 'scandal' approaches now or later such proportions of wrong doing. Peggy Noonan is an erudite wordsmith whose main distinction is not going to jail with her co-conspirators in Iran Contra.

JimmyMack commented on Friday, Jul 19, 2013 at 17:03 PM

Thinking about it now, Noonan probably helped induce Reagan's onset of dementia and alhziemers.

MikeLongCounty commented on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM

High ranking government officials and possibly the president himself using the IRS to target people and groups politically is one of the most flagrant abuses of power in the history of our country. I have commented on this very little, because in reality, I thought it was more "politics" than anything else, at first. But as more information comes out it is becoming clear that major abuses of power did appear to take place.

sebekm commented on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 13:42 PM

Jimmy: When you can't argue facts you attack the messenger. Peggy Noonan has been - and continues to be - one of the more astute political commentators in the media. She has repeatedly proven to be on point with her political analysis and commentary. But here she is reporting the FACTS. So if anybody has dementia, it is those who bury their heads in the sand in hopes that this problem will just go away.

It won't go away.

MLC: This is EXACTLY the way Watergate unfolded. The movie "All The President's Men" does a great job of encapsulating the way that scandal unraveled, and how a very small portion of the media and public at large believed the story at the outset - until it snowballed as WoodStein dug out the facts.

To me, the cover story that there was "no story" particularly smacked of Watergate. PLUS - what does a first term administration want more than anything else? A second term. National politics is ruthless - and the ins generally will do whatever they can get away with to perpetuate and increase their hold on power. So the motive, means and opportunity was available.

As more of the facts come out, I predict that this case will be shown to be one where key personnel in the Obama administration (to include political appointees and career civil servants sympathetic to the adminitration) deliberately targeted conservative groups with intent to deny them federal funding and provide significant advantage to those favorable to the administration in the 2010 and 2012 national and local elections. The GOP hasn't done a particularly good job in explaining the significance of this - IMHO. Hopefully they will continue to push the message as involvement by the higher-ups is revealed.

JimmyMack commented on Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 at 16:19 PM

She is a tainted messenger Sebe. I ain't denying she gets on Face the Nation, Meet the Press and other such shows while writing for the Wall Street Journal. She has a mountain of journalistic street creds.

But where Conservative Republican and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnel FAILED at "making Obama a one term President" which he promised to do BEFORE Obama took office, Ms. Noonan is just as partisanly tainted in ruining BHO via the pen and not on the Senate Floor.

wayne44 commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 09:30 AM

It is amazing that anytime the Obama administration is caught in a bad situation President Reagan and President Bush are brought up. It's like saying because they made mistakes or bad judgements that the Obama administration gets a pass. Two wrongs don't make a right matter how its spun.

JimmyMack commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 10:54 AM

It is done wayne44 because it provides a certain perverted measuring stick as to what legitimately and\or legally rises to the level high crimes and misdemeanors or is just plain partisan politics. Each Administration it seems has it's "scandal" to deal with. That's just the way it is.

What is necessary to point out if only here on these pages is that this tri-fecta of "scandals" regarding BHO is nothing more than Partisan hype and does not rise to the Nixonian levels of high crimes and misdemeanors.

sebekm commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Yes, Jimmy - I agree: It IS a "perverted measuring stick." The Obama scandals ARE NOT "partisan hype." There is acknowledged wrongdoing in all of the tri-fecta scandals, the extent of which has yet to be fully revealed.

As to "tainted messengers," Jimmy: THEY ALL ARE - when they are reviewed by their opponents. I have read Noonan for years and she reports facts honestly, and adds her opinions, which all pundits do. But the thrust of her article that I've quoted are FACTS - events that have transpired in IRS-gate that form the basis for a greater understanding of the scope of the wrongdoing that is being disclosed here.

Watergate was defended by Nixon's supporters in 1972 and 1973 EXACTLY the same way as the Obama administration is defending the current scandals plagueing the President. That's what I see. I also see the same drip, drip, drip as the opposition pulls out more and more evidence of wrongdoing and the involvement moves higher up the chain. There is still no evidence of direct involvement by the President or his closest circle of advisers, but we now have the activities in this scandal reaching one of two political appointees of the President in Washington, D.C.

Sounds like a "cancer" growing to me...

JimmyMack commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 13:00 PM

I know Sebe. But, I'm a bettin' my chips that they all will die on the vine. WE are soon to be at mid-term elections, immigration reform is important to BOTH sides, all this Republican Congress has done is pass 33 bills canceling Obamacare. They are at danger of imploding due to voting demographics and their own Tea Party, and in a practical and very real sence...do you think they will vigorously pursue the impeachment of America's First Black President??!! Considering where we are now at on Race Relations and with all the many Al's, Jessee's et. al. out there this tri-fecta is destined for vine death.

sebekm commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 14:40 PM

No impeachment. But ObamaCare may die on the vine. I think it's only a matter of time, but I could be wrong. As to the scandals, remember that Watergate took more than 2 years to come to fruition, and the constant creep toward the White House in IRS-Gate reminds me of that. The key question is: why would the Democrats do it?

The answer is: to gain a bigger advantage over the Republicans in election and reelection operations. Remember - this one is about denying tea party and conservative groups federal funds and tax-exempt status - which was quickly given to the liberal groups - so that they couldn't run their campaign operations as well as the operation. THAT SMACKS OF THE "DIRTY TRICKS" THAT MADE THE NIXON CREW FAMOUS. You don't have to have a "smoking gun" where the President says "go do this" - the simple understanding that it was being done and everybody up the line looks the other way is enough to enable complicity in wrongdoing.

It's harder to ferret out the facts and prove this scenario, but the investigation is on track and the drip, drip, drip is heading UP.

JimmyMack commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 16:27 PM

Well Sebe, you may turn out to be correct, and this won't be the first time I bet the House and Lost, but...as I keep saying...It's a new world Charlie Brown. News is 24\7, there is a new headline EVERYDAY; Trayvon, tsunamis, volcanoes, cruise ship foul ups, 10 year kidnap victims discovered, NSA leaks, Doma defeat, gay marriages, marijuana legalization,....throw all that in with a do-nothing Congress that keeps giving itself pay raises in the faces of their constituents while only fighting Obama Care etc...AND then they decide to 'front burner' investigations of BHO and you've got a Republican SUICIDE of Biblical proportions.

Like I said, I've bet the House before and lost. However, I am going ALL IN for
The Big Heartbreak: Vine Death for the tri-fecta, on this one.

Feel free to claim my chips if I am wrong.

wayne44 commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 19:40 PM

I go back to Benghazi. If that wasn't a crime it was at least a failure of leadership and total incompetence on the part of the Obama administration. 4 people dying because of those reasons certainly shouldn't let this administration off the hook. Where is the Partisan hype? Doesn't the American people and the families of those who died deserve to know exactly why no aid was dispatched during the 7 hour attack?

Funkentelecky commented on Sunday, Jul 21, 2013 at 22:10 PM

Great Post Chief and very informative comments by all contributing bloggers.

JM, just to set the record straight McConnell didn't issue the 1 term threat until BHO deserved it after March 23, 2010 :D

sebekm commented on Monday, Jul 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM

wayne44: Benghazi is the other elephant in the room. What the Dems fear the most is that it will be shown that it was a failure of MRS. CLINTON'S LEADERSHIP that contributed to the deaths of our people over there. They are frantically working to insulate her from any aspect of this conclusion - despite the fact that the incident happened on her watch and that she SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE "TO TAKE THAT CALL AT 3 0'CLOCK IN THE MORNING" (as her campaign spot in 2008 suggested when she was running against candidate Obama in the Democratic primaries).

JimmyMack commented on Monday, Jul 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM

You are right about when Mc Connell said he wanted to make Obama a one term president. My bad.

However the more important point to be made is that he put defeating Obama AHEAD of all the other issues facing America.

McConnelll is a hate monger of the Jesse Helms mode.

sebekm commented on Monday, Jul 22, 2013 at 19:00 PM

Just because somebody wants to defeat President Obama doesn't make them a "hate monger." There are plenty of people who believe that President Obama and his policies and priorities are THE most important issues facing America - as in they are really BAD for this country. I can remember that was the case from 2000 - 2008 when the Democrats were pounding Dubya, his priorities and his policies. His "lies" where "people died" was the rallying cry from the left - along with their characterization of Bush as a piece of slime, stupid, ignorant, crooked, incompetent, lazy, a liar, and all the rest.

If McConnell is a "hate monger," then so are all of the Democrats who heaped it all on Dubya. I see total parity in the actions on both sides. Just because one President was white and the other was black shouldn't automatically trigger the race card when somebody criticizes President Obama. The Dems want to have it both ways here - as in total insulation of the President from criticism by attributing any negativity to racism. I don't buy it. IMHO - a whole bunch of the President's domestic policies are wrecking this country. I don't care whether he is black or white. I would criticize him either way.

JimmyMack commented on Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 14:05 PM

Jesse Helms once stated from the well of the Senate Floor, "that he did not know how safe it would be for President Clinton if he visited North Carolina."

Can you imagine a sitting Senator indicating that the safety of the President of the United States might be jeopardized if he visited his state??!

Jesse Helms was a Republican Party hate monger of the highest order. And Mitch McConnell is of the same cloth.

It's partisan hate directed towards any and all Democrats be they be black or white or female gender.

sebekm commented on Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 14:49 PM

I'm no fan of Jesse Helms, but there are just as many "hate mongers" in the Democratic party as in the Republican party - by your definition.

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