January 14 2014
The Internal Revenue Service is getting, as a Wall Street Journal headline puts it, “a pass” in the investigation of the tea party targeting scandal. Are you surprised?
The news report yesterday that the FBI will file no criminal charges against any IRS official into the investigation into the agency's targeting of tea party groups is disappointing—not because no charges will be filed but because it looks as if the investigation is a sham. Strangely, the investigation will continue a few months. Does this sound make-believe to you?
The Obama donor and White House visitor put in charge of what should be a thorough investigation into one of the most powerful of federal agencies may be the most honest person in the world. I don't want to cast aspersions. But it's hard not to. Things just don’t look right.
The Wall Street Journal editorial points out:
Cleta Mitchell, a prominent lawyer who represents several conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, reports that the FBI hasn't contacted any of her clients. That's like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled.
Not every scandal is a crime, but if the report is right it means no one will be held accountable in any meaningful way for the misuse of the taxing power of the state. This is why Americans don't trust government.
Monday’s report said that that, unless new evidence is unearthed, the IRS scandal will be treated as a case of government mismanagement, not criminal behavior. But, says the New York Post in an editorial, we really, really need to know what happened, criminal or not:
[C]riminal liability never been our priority. All along our position has been that federal agencies such as the IRS should be held accountable the way the Founders intended: through our democratic system.
For the IRS outrages extend well beyond the targeting of individuals and groups opposed to President Obama’s agenda. High on that list is the way the woman at the center of this storm, Lois Lerner, basically took her own version of the Fifth at hearings, telling Congress she’d done nothing wrong but wasn’t planning on saying anything else.
Maybe the FBI is right, that it’s just all a big misunderstanding, that IRS officials were only at the White House for Easter Egg rolls. Even so, our Constitution doesn’t leave accountability to the judgement of the FBI. To the contrary, our system holds that the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress, have the right to know what their government is doing.
You would think that, in the light of the IRS' enormous power and the gravity of the allegations of abuse of this power, the Obama administration would appoint the most overtly objective person possible to get to the bottom of what happened. But that is not how this administration operates.
If, indeed, the Obama administration is protecting the IRS, it has good reason to do so: the IRS is the agency charged with administering ObamaCare. Byron York has a great piece on the potential for intimidation in this arrangement. It seems that the IRS doesn’t have (for the time being) the power to slap liens on bank accounts and do other highly persuasive things associated with this agency, but, as York notes, there is one power the IRS always has: the power to intimidate.
It is the most intimidating agency in the government, and that is why it is profoundly important that this investigation, if an investigation is really being conducted, should get to the bottom of the IRS scandal and lay out what went on to an increasingly frustrated citizenry. Don't hold your breath.