But Obama (and media) fall for it again...
By Brad Friedman on 5/17/2013, 4:20pm PT  

"Listening to the nightly news, this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups --- and political intimidation --- in this administration," declared the opportunistic Republican Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee during a hearing today on the "scandal" related to the IRS use of Rightwing words such as "Tea Party" to help identify groups applying for tax-exempt status which might be operating in violation of the tax code.

The key phrase there is: "Listening to the nightly news..."

Rep. David Camp (R-MI) was correct in at least that part of his statement. If you listened to the way this supposed "scandal" is being reported by the bulk of the corporate media, you'd think the poorly chosen criteria used by low-level IRS officials in trying to identify taxpayer-subsidized organizations that might be carrying out political operations in violation of the law, was part of a "culture of cover-up" and "political intimidation" on par with Richard Nixon ordering his Dept. of Justice to target political enemies.

Then again, if you listened only to the corporate media, you --- like the Obama Administration --- also probably thought that the phony, trumped-up "scandals" that led to the inappropriate firing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, the cowardly firing of White House green jobs adviser Van Jones and the outrageous federal defunding of ACORN were also the unhappy result of an endemic culture of corruption by the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party and its insidious political apparatchiks.

Those fake scandals, however, all three of them, were shams. They were eventually identified as such, though only after a great deal of harm to Sherrod, Jones and ACORN had already been done by the Democrats who fell for them and acted out of knee-jerk and cowardly fear to try and contain the perception of "scandal" which was, naturally, helped along by the very loud misreporting of "the nightly news".

The supposed IRS "scandal", as we detailed yesterday both here at The BRAD BLOG and at Salon --- after having bothered to actually read the full Treasury Department Inspector General's report [PDF] before reporting on it (didn't anybody else?!) --- appears almost as phony as those other three "scandals", despite the "outrage" over seemingly non-existent "misconduct", as Obama described it, by IRS employees.

Our general assessment --- based on the IG's findings --- that this "scandal" appears to be an enormous over-reaction to poorly thought out procedures and lousy management by low-level IRS officials, has been shored up since publishing our article yesterday, both by today's House hearings and by scattered media coverage elsewhere.

As usual, with these things, the Republicans cry "COVER-UP!", "OUTRAGE!", "SCANDAL!"; the corporate media credulously, unskeptically and dutifully reports it as such; the Obama Administration knee-jerks out of fear and starts firing people (like the Acting Commissioner of the IRS who wasn't even at the agency during the period in question) in hopes of showing how they are on top of things and will not tolerate such "outrages!"; and Republicans opportunistically use the entire matter to create a phony sense of partisanship, incompetence and tyranny (seemingly opposite notions, but never mind that) on the part of the Administration.

It works every time, it seems, since the very top-tier corporate media, as well as the Obama Administration, keep falling for it over and over and over again...

"Despite repeated attempts," during today's three-hour U.S. House hearing, according to the Guardian, "Republicans on the committee failed to establish a link between the IRS scandal and either the White House or the 2012 Obama re-election campaign."

While Steven Miller, the now-fired Acting IRS Commissioner (it was a George W. Bush appointee who left last year who actually headed the agency during the period in question) "conceded that 'foolish' mistakes were made by people trying to be more 'efficient'," the Guardian reports, adding: "No new major details about the scandal emerged" during hearings which they describe as having "fizzled".

"I do not believe partisanship motivated the people involved in the practices described," Miller testified. "I think what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selections." He explained that the IRS had received some 70,000 applications for tax-exempt status, but that they have just 150 staffers assigned to process them all.

Of course, Miller could be wrong or even lying for some unknown reason, and the IG's report could also be wrong or deficient in uncovering the full story of what really went on --- further investigation is certainly called for --- but no evidence, none, has surfaced at this point to counter the actual information offered by either of them.

In the meantime, a handful of other journalists seem to finally be taking a closer look at what really happened here, now that the bulk of them have already allowed the opportunistic "scandal" genie to escape from the Drudge Report/Fox "News" bottle.

Bloomberg News, for example, reports that several Democratic-leaning organizations also received the same close scrutiny and seemingly invasive questioning from the IRS that "Tea Party" related groups received.

As the IG's report details (to those who actually bothered to read it!), all of this was a part of the federal agency's poorly executed attempt to screen a flood of incoming applications for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) status in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. That infamous ruling, essentially paving the way for unrestricted money for campaign spending, resulted in an exponential increase in political organizations attempting to take part in a tax-exempt "social welfare organization" racket which illegally flooded the 2010 and 2012 election cycles with transparently partisan spending on direct political advertisements and other related efforts --- in violation of the (unenforced) law.

The number of applications by politically-related groups that the IRS was attempting to deal with had doubled between 2010 and 2012, following Citizens United, and the initial, poorly-thought-out attempts to identify such applications by the agency's department tasked with doing so, according to the IG, resulted in the SNAFU ("Situation Normal, All Fucked Up") currently in question.

The IGs report similarly:

  • failed to offer any evidence that nefarious partisan politics played any role in the bad IRS decisions;
  • failed to offer evidence that either the Obama Administration or any of its political operatives had anything to do with any of it;
  • found that "Tea Party" related groups made up only a minority --- just one-third --- of the total number of groups flagged for closer scrutiny (the report doesn't offer the political leanings of the majority two-thirds which were also flagged);
  • and revealed that none of the flagged organizations had their application for tax-exempt status denied (though, as we would later learn, a Democratic-leaning group did.)

As we noted yesterday, new information could still emerge to change our views on all of this. A criminal investigation has been announced by the DoJ, and it's our guess that Republicans won't ever stop pretending this is a "Nixonian"-like administration "cover-up!", even if they are able to see an independent Special Prosecutor appointed (which might be perfectly appropriate here.) We would, however, prefer to fall on the side of not ruining people's lives unnecessarily until actual evidence emerges to support the idea of doing so. That consideration doesn't seem to play a part in the calculations of much of the corporate media, the Republican Party or even the Obama Administration, unfortunately.

At the end of this week of "scandals" --- one ("Benghazi") which is completely fake, one ("IRS") which appears to be little more than a non-criminal bureaucratic blunder that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Obama Administration; and one (DoJ caught massively spying on the phone records of AP reporters) which is very real, but which both Obama and the Republicans seem to feel perfectly fine about --- it appears that in its frantic rush to judgment, the Obama administration has once again, in the case of the IRS "scandal", helped to amplify a non-scandal in order to appear "tough" and "in control" of it.

They never learn. Or they don't want to.

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