As we told you, the IRS 'scandal' was phony from the jump...
By Brad Friedman on 6/26/2013, 6:05am PT  

If you had read The BRAD BLOG when the Treasury Department's Inspector General's report on the pretend IRS "scandal" came out, you'd already know just about all of this. We tried to tell ya way back then. You see, unlike the rest of the media, it seems, we bothered to actually read that report before reporting on it. For anybody who did the same, the scam should have been pretty clear.

Now we learn that IRS flagged progressive groups for additional targeted scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status --- just as they did for "Tea Party" groups. But, in the case of progressives, they continued doing so until this month, even after they had stopped flagging "Tea Party"-related groups, according to documents[PDF] released by Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means committee on Monday.

That, of course, is why we also described the pretend "scandal", in a subsequent report, as "nearly as phony as the Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones and ACORN 'scandals'".

As the New York Times describes the newly released documents...

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with "Tea Party" and "Patriots" in their titles also included groups whose names included the words "Progressive" and "Occupy", according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.
But the practice appeared to go much farther than that. One such "be on the lookout" list included medical marijuana groups, organizations that were promoting President Obama's health care law, and applications that dealt "with disputed territories in the Middle East."
Such lists were in use as recently as this month, when [Acting I.R.S. Commissioner Daniel] Werfel took over the agency, far longer than initially thought. I.R.S. officials said Monday that the more recent lists did not include the terms aimed at conservative groups.
The new I.R.S. documents raise questions about how the controversy has been portrayed. They confirm that the applications of "various local organizations in the Tea Party movement" were given special scrutiny. But so were "progressives."

"Common thread is the word 'progressive,'" a lookout list instructs. "Activities appear to lean toward a new political party. Activities are partisan and appear as anti-Republican."

That syncs up with much of what we explained, in our very first report on the IG's report, which, we explained at the time, was flawed.

As we detailed in that story (which was also cross-published by Salon) on what we have long been calling a "fake scandal", the IG was specifically tasked by Congress with two things: Republicans, such as Rep. Darrel Issa, requested the IG examine whether "Tea Party"-related groups (and only "Tea Party"-related groups) were specifically scrutinized during the IRS process to determine whether or not they met the legal criteria for 501(c) tax-exempt status. Democrats requested the IG look at the entire tax-exempt 501(c) system to determine whether the law was being followed in granting status to groups carrying out political work, in violation of the law, under that special, tax-payer subsidized status.

The IG's report [PDF] noted that, yes, the vast minority (about one-third) of the political groups flagged for scrutiny by the IRS were "Tea Party"-related groups. The report did not reveal what type of groups comprised the other two-thirds of the groups that were flagged by the IRS.

Moreover, the IG did not carry out the second report requested by Congress at all, noting in a footnote on page 4 0f the report [page 10 in the PDF] that "A future audit is being considered to assess how the EO [Exempt Organizations] function monitors I.R.C. §§ 501(c)(4)-(6) organizations to ensure that political campaign intervention does not constitute their primary activity."

Of course, since the report's misleading release, Republicans have opportunistically used it to hoax their followers into believing it represented evidence of a Nixonian White House plot to cripple Republican organizations, even though the report offers no evidence whatsoever that Obama or anybody in his Administration or among his political operatives had anything to do with the IRS attempt to get a handle on the tsunami of such groups applying for tax-exempt status after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the infamous Citizens United case.

For his part, President Obama, as usual, began tossing people under the bus, instead of investigating what had really happened. Just after the release of the misleading report, Obama gave a speech describing "outrageous misconduct" at the IRS. What misconduct, we asked then, and again now? So far, no such misconduct related to this affair has been found, certainly no illegalities or political machinations, no matter how much Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the U.S. House Oversight Committee has tried to pretend there has been some.

In fact, it was Issa who tasked the IG, specifically, with investigating whether or not the IRS was targeting Republican-leaning groups.

"An Inspector General spokesman responded that he focused on conservatives because that's what the Republican led committee asked him to do," reported CNN's Dana Bash this week. NPR finally asked, "So why did the IG release a 50-page audit with no mention of progressives being targeted too? A spokeswoman for the inspector general says that's outside of the scope of the audit, which was originally requested by Issa. ... The spokeswoman says the IG was asked to look at the targeting and treatment of tea party groups and that's exactly what the audit did and not much more." And Politico has also finally noticed what The BRAD BLOG reported over a month ago: "'Our audit report answered the questions it was asked to address. Other questions that are now being raised are the subject of additional review,' a TIGTA spokeswoman said."

In fact, to date, the only "misconduct" discovered seems to be by Issa himself. As it turns out, he has been hiding the complete transcript of interviews he conducted with IRS officials since the story came out. But, in the great tradition of Republican hoaxsters such as Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe, Issa selectively edited which parts of the transcript would be released. Last week, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Issa's Democrat counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, finally released the complete transcripts.

What does the full, unedited transcript actually show? It was a self-identified "conservative Republican" in the IRS' Cincinnati office who first approved the criteria used to identify "Tea Party"-related and other political groups for closer scrutiny.

So, to review: A "conservative Republican" IRS worker, working under the Bush-appointed IRS commissioner, helped create a way to try and identify political groups applying for tax-exempt status in order to try and make certain they were following the law which bars political work by such groups. A minority of those groups identified for scrutiny were Right-leaning groups, the rest were Progressive and other groups. The IG didn't bother to tell us about the other groups, because he was not directed to do so by Issa, the man who has since pretended that he has uncovered a massive political conspiracy that goes all the way up to the White House (there is no evidence to support that whatsoever.) Issa then selectively released only certain portions of the interview transcripts with IRS workers in order to keep the charade going. The IG has yet to complete, or even start, the audit requested of him by Congressional Democrats. And the mainstream media, who could have figured all of this out from Day 1, just as we did, by simply bothering to read the IG report, didn't do so.

"At this point in the investigation," Cummings wrote in his letter to Issa explaining why he was releasing the full interview transcripts after Issa had refused to, "not one witness who has appeared before the Committee has identified any involvement by any White House officials in the identification or screening of Tea Party applicants for tax exempt status, and the Committee has obtained no documents indicating any such involvement."

Whodathunkit? Oh, yeah, we did. From the jump. As usual. Back when everyone was enjoying the birth of yet another pretend Obama "scandal".

* * *

ADDENDUM: For the record, here are the specific bullet points we included in our very first report on this, wherein we scolded the President for jumping the gun to declare there had been "inexcusable misconduct" at the IRS, when there was no evidence, then or now, of any such wrong-doing in the IG's report...

Also NOT found in the IG's report:

  • Any evidence that "Tea Party" related groups were identified during this process for nefarious reasons;
  • Any type of identification, political or otherwise, for the groups whose applications were similarly flagged and delayed ("Tea Party" related groups made up only a minority, approximately 1/3 of the groups whose applications were delayed and held for further examination);
  • Any indication or evidence whatsoever that the White House, or anybody outside of the IRS units handling these cases, had anything to do with what happened;
  • Any response to the other question the IG's office was tasked by Congress to investigate, namely: "whether existing social welfare organizations are improperly engaged in a substantial, or even predominant, amount of campaign activity."

A month and a half later, all of those bullet points above still stand. Read The BRAD BLOG. It's good for you.

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