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Live-blogging the House IRS hearing

Steve Miller, former acting Commissioner of the IRS, is testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee. Paul Ryan has just taken him to task for his prior testimony to Congress. Ryan demonstrated that Miller failed to meet his obligation to tell Congress the whole truth in his previous testimony.

In prior testimony, Miller was asked what “targeting” of tax exempt groups was taking place at the IRS. At the time Miller, had been briefed about targeting. However, his answer did not divulge the targeting.

Even Democrats don’t seem to be buying Miller’s attempt to claim that this answer was the whole truth. Their approach is quickly to acknowledge wrongdoing by the IRS and then launch tirades against Citizens United.

The formula — 15 seconds of mock outrage; four minutes of speechifying about the evils of the campaign finance system, and 45 second of blaming Republicans for not giving IRS more resources. But more resources would create the danger of more politicized harassment.

Ryan also asked Miller whether the IRS used the terms “progressive” or “organizing” in identifying organizations to be scrutinized. Miller tried to avoid answering, but eventually acknowledged these terms weren’t used.

Miller nonetheless keeps denying that the IRS acted politically. But Pat Tiberi of Ohio has just shown the disparity between the treatment of liberal and conservative groups in Ohio. Conservative groups were left waiting years for approval while left-wing groups received it within months.

A conservative book club was required to identify the books its members read and to provide book reports to the IRS. You can’t make this stuff up.

Miller is about as disingenuous and slippery as he can be. He rejects the word “targeting” (used 16 times in the IRS Inspector General’s report, which Miller says he accepts) by claiming that there was no bad “intent.” So he is asked whether, intent aside, groups were treated differently based on their name.

Astonishingly, Miller says “no.” Thank God this sleaze is no longer in charge at the IRS. Given his lack of candor, Miller is lucky he’s not been held in contempt of Congress. He certainly is in contempt of its intelligence — and ours.

Miller acknowledges that he promoted Sarah Ingram, the IRS official in charge of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012, to director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office. Asked why, Miller responded that she is “an exemplary public servant.”

Even giving Ingram the benefit of all doubt (and why should we?), major wrongdoing occurred under her watch. Is this the modern bureaucracy’s idea of an exemplary public servant?

Miller goes on to say he does not know whether Ingram was what criteria the IRS was using to select groups for scrutiny. That’s hard to believe. But if it’s true, that’s not exemplary.

The Democrats’ defense of having Ingram in the position of director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office is that the IRS will not have access to medical records. That may be true if the IRS adheres to procedure. But the lesson of this scandal is that the IRS cannot be trusted to adhere to procedure.

Rep. Aaron Schock drives home just how improper IRS questioning of pro-life groups was. Christian Voices for Life was asked whether it provides education on abortion issues on both sides of the question. Miller refuses to comment on the propriety on this inquiry.

The Coalition for Life of Iowa was asked for the content of the prayers of its members. Miller finds this “unusual,” but goes no further.

IRS asked another pro-life group to detail the signs its members use when they assemble in front of Planned Parenthood facilities. Again, Miller fails to characterize in harsher terms than “unusual.”

It’s time for a pet peeve. Miller begins his answer to many questions with the word “so.” The word is clearly superfluous when used in this way. When did it become de rigueur for a certain type of person (often the pompous or ingratiating kind) to preface answers and remarks with this word? And why?

Miller begins a few more answers by saying “so.” That’s my cue to sign off.

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