There isn't an IRS scandal. It wasn't approved by Obama.

There is a separate entity that oversees the IRS. It is known as the Inspector General for Tax Administration. Look it up.

In organizational terms, the Inspector General for Tax Administration comes under the ambit of the Treasury Department. But it is independent of the Department and all other agencies.

MAY 15, 2013


Five days into the I.R.S. brouhaha, and things are proceeding on two distinct tracks. On the political track, hysteria has taken hold, as evidenced by President Obama’s decision to force the tax agency’s acting head, Steven Miller, to resign. On the substantive front, we now have preliminary answers to two key questions: What did the agency do wrong? And who ordered it to target conservative groups? Notwithstanding Miller’s resignation, which the President himself announced on Tuesday evening, the answers appear to be: not nearly as much as recent headlines suggest; and, nobody in the Obama Administration.

On Monday afternoon, the office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration, which spent months interviewing employees of the I.R.S. department that deals with tax-exempt organizations, and going through its records, released a fifty-four-page report. With President Obama denouncing the tax agency’s targeting of conservative groups as “outrageous” in advance of the report’s publication, and with Republicans trying to cast this as the new Watergate—“My question is, Who’s going to jail?” John Boehner said—it seemed reasonable to expect that there would be one or two bombshells. And there were. They just weren’t of the type that George Will and Mitch McConnell had been hoping for.

As far as Obama’s potential involvement and vulnerability goes—and that’s what everybody in Washington really cares about—here is the key passage in the report (“EO” stands for “Exempt Organizations” and the “Determinations Unit” is the office in Cincinnati):

We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.
“Come on,” I can hear Maine Senator Susan Collins and others saying. Are you so deep into the tank for Obama that you are seriously suggesting a group of low-level bureaucrats in Ohio came up with the idea of setting aside, for special review, applications from groups whose names contained the words “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” or “9/12 Project”? No, I am not making that suggestion. It comes from an agency that Congress created in 1999 to provide independent oversight of the I.R.S. In organizational terms, the Inspector General for Tax Administration comes under the ambit of the Treasury Department. But it is independent of the Department and all other agencies located therein. Since 2004, it has been headed by J. Russell George, a native of Brooklyn and a former prosecutor in Queens, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. The lead author of the report, Gregory D. Kutz, is a career public servant and forensic auditor who used to work for the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Here, again, is the report (“BOLO” stands for “Be On the Lookout”):

[T]he Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO listing criteria before it was implemented. As a result, inappropriate criteria remained in place for more than 18 months.
If you are a Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, or the Senate Finance Committee, all of which are rushing to schedule hearings on this great national scandal, such statements don’t offer much in the way of encouragement.

Never fear! Our intrepid representatives will come up with something. Rather than focussing on the body of the report, today’s Times reports, they are fixing on a single entry in the report’s appendix, which reveals—shock! horror!—that on August 4, 2011, I.R.S. officials in Washington, who by then knew about the Cincinnati office’s targeting of conservative groups, met with the I.R.S.’s chief counsel “so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”

You can see where this is going. Maybe the I.R.S.’s chief counsel, an Obama appointee by the name of William J. Wilkins, informed the Treasury Department’s chief counsel at the time, George W. Madison, who, in turn, told his boss, Tim Geithner, who, as we all know, was one of President Obama’s favorites and could surely be trusted to pass along to him any potentially troubling news. “What we don’t know, at this point, is whether it jumped the fence from the I.R.S. to the White House,” McConnell, the G.O.P. leader in the Senate, said on Monday. “But we do know this: we can’t trust the Administration to be forthcoming on the details of this scandal…”

Good luck with that line of attack, fellas. Doubtless, the various congressional committees will haul up before them a variety of officials from the I.R.S., the Inspector General’s office, and the Treasury Department. But unless they come up with something that’s not in the report, they are going to have a great deal of difficulty making this one stick to Obama.