Congress Ethics The Media

Nothingburgers and Fake Outrage

When an apparent scandal breaks the safest thing for any politician to do is to declare their outrage and demand an investigation, but in the case of the IRS, I have a feeling the impending investigation will disappoint a lot of critics if this report from Bloomberg is any indication.

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

In a statement late yesterday, the tax agency said it had pooled together the politically active nonpartisan applicants — including a “minority” that were identified because of their names.

If there is any scandal here at all, it’s that some Tea Party groups were flagged for extra scrutiny along with Democratic groups simply because they had “Tea Party” in their name.

Some call that targeting. I call it common sense.

Ultimately none of the Tea Party groups had their applications for tax exempt status denied while at least one Democratic group did. And if we find out that several low level employees of the IRS were responsible for this, I wouldn’t call that much of a scandal. At least not in the sense that it will have any impact on the administration’s agenda. It may, however, make the IRS even less likely to scrutinize the avalanche of tax exempt “social welfare” groups brought on by Citizens United in the future.

On the subject of the Associated Press, President Obama asked Senator Chuck Schumer to reintroduce the media shield bill this morning according to New York Times reporter Charlie Savage.

Personally I’m not ready to shed any tears for the Associated Press if they did in fact disclose information that may have exposed the identity of an undercover CIA agent who infiltrated Al Qaeda in Yemen.

That is not whistleblowing. And we used to be outraged by things like that. For instance when Valerie Plame was outed by the office of the vice president.

Will Congress revive and improve the media shield bill? Probably not as it was congressional Republicans who asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Associated Press.

  • trgahan

    Benghazi , the IRS, and the AP events will only remain scandals to the people who from this point on close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears, and keep repeating “LA LA…Obama is a Kenyan Socialist..LA LA..America loves the current GOP platform…LA LA LA…only non-Americans vote Democrat…LA LA LA”

  • linusbern

    Gosh, it must just be awful to be profiled by an agent of the government because of something like your name. Now I begin to see why conservatives have always been so outraged by the concept of profiling.

    This looks like another Shirley Sherrod to me. The admin falls over
    themselves to apologize and punish because of an accusation from Repubs,
    and when they get around to looking at it, it is a big nothing burger,
    except that now, people in the IRS apparently have to worry about going to prison if they investigate Republicans.

  • i_a_c

    There was discussion over whether or not the subpoena for the AP phone records was signed off by a judge or grand jury, or whether it was a more dubious administrative subpoena that only requires the signature of a DOJ official. Well, I finally found the answer (on Page 2).

    A grand jury was empaneled in Washington’s federal court this
    year to begin hearing evidence in the case. In February, at the request
    of national security prosecutors in Machen’s office, the grand jury
    issued subpoenas for telephone companies to turn over records for the AP
    reporters in Connecticut, New York and Washington for the two-month
    period before the story was written.

    If that’s the case then there’s really not a whole lot left for me to be outraged about. The DOJ was not seizing records left and right just because. And yes, if the Republican hypocrites that hate the press and demand tough justice are really serious about this latest non-scandal, let’s pass the shield bill. I would welcome it.