During the pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Obama adamantly rejected the suggestion that the IRS was used for political purposes by singling out Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption, saying the IRS targeting scandal had “not even a smidgen of corruption.”
But according to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal, there seems to be much more than a smidgen of corruption in the IRS scandal. The article cites a June 14, 2012 email unveiled by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. The missive is from Treasury career attorney Ruth Madrigal to key IRS officials in the tax-exempt department, including former director Lois Lerner.
The email cites a blog post about the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups and reads: “Don’t know who in your organizations [sic] is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off-plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting.”
Interesting for sure. The IRS typically puts out a public schedule of coming regulations, and Mr. Camp noted that in this case “off-plan” appears to mean “hidden from the public.” He added that committee interviews with IRS officials have found that the new 2013 rules were in the works as early as 2011, meaning the Administration has “fabricated the rationale” for this new regulation. [Emphasis added]
Hidden from the public? But this is the most transparent administration in history.
Rep. Camp added that everything his committee has discovered contradicts the White House argument that the IRS scandal was caused by legal “confusion.” The current rules governing 501(c)(4)s have existed, unchanged, since 1959. Prior to 2010 the IRS processed and approved tax-exempt applications in fewer than three months with no apparent befuddlement.
The IRS hyper-scrutiny of conservative groups only began in 2010 amid the Obama Administration’s larger political attack on political donors like the Koch brothers, and emails show that IRS officials were acutely aware of this political environment. In February 2010, for example, an IRS screener in Cincinnati flagged an application to his superiors noting: “Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.”
From then on applications were routed through the offices of Mrs. Lerner and Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, and long approval delays ensued. Extensive interviews and emails show that neither the initial Cincinnati interest, nor the subsequent Washington delay, was in any way driven by “confusion.”
This new development does not prove corruption and does not directly implicate the administration, but the noose is certainly getting tighter.