Understanding the IRS scandal

My daughter Eliana has what I believe to be an important update on the IRS scandal that has just been posted at NRO. As Eliana explains, Democrats and their media adjunct to the contrary notwithstanding, the scandal didn’t originate in Cincinnati. It originated in Washington, DC, within shouting distance of the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the White House. Precisely where in Washington we have yet to determine, but we are making progress. Eliana writes:

The heart of the effort to target tea-party and other conservative groups, we are learning, occurred in Washington, and that is likely why five D.C.-based IRS officials who are connected to the targeting have retired or resigned, or been replaced or put on administrative leave, since news of the scandal broke in mid May. They include Holly Paz, who last week, according to an IRS source, was replaced as director of Rulings and Agreements, the division that oversaw the targeting of conservative groups; Washington lawyer Carter Hull, who is accused of micromanaging the processing of tea-party cases, and who, according to IRS sources, requested his retirement package on March 12; the commissioner of the agency’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities division, Joseph Grant, who retired on June 3; former IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who resigned days after news of the scandal broke; and the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner, who was placed on administrative leave only after refusing to tender her resignation, according to Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. All five are or were based in the IRS’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The testimony of Cincinnati-based IRS employees released [last] week by the House Oversight Committee helps explain why so many employees in D.C. who are associated with the current scandal are quietly departing the scene. We have learned that the controversial and inappropriate “lookout” list created in the Cincinnati office was probably compiled as a response to requests from Washington for tea-party files. One Cincinnati employee, Gary Muthert, told the committee that he began singling out tea-party applications at the request of a supervisor who told him that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.” Muthert, sources say, was a member of the group that screened all applications for tax exemptions and passed those identified as tea-party applications along to specialists for extra scrutiny. He sent seven tea-party applications to Washington in May 2010, according to interview transcripts, because his manager told him that “Washington, D.C., wanted seven.”

Thus, it was IRS employees in Washington, according to Muthert, who ordered agents in the Cincinnati office to focus their attention on the applications of tea-party groups. That would explain why those Cincinnati employees devised a way to screen such applications, and why they added keywords to a “Be on the Lookout List,” for which Cincinnati employees have been pilloried by the inspector general, their bosses in D.C., and the Obama administration.

Please check out Eliana’s NRO column “Stop blaming the ‘rogue agents.'”

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