Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, February 18, 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


The “IRS scandal” — the right-wing delusion that the Internal Revenue Service was disproportionately targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and slow-walking their approvals — began as a political hit job by a partisan Republican congressman. It matured into a full-fledged scandal, with President Barack Obama apologizing and the IRS commissioner resigning in disgrace. And it should die after last night, when reports circulated that a federal watchdog had found that progressives groups had also been targeted for scrutiny in the same way over the same period.

It should, but it likely won’t. Bolstered by a closed loop of conservative thought that is fiercely resistant to new facts that overturn existing narratives, right-wing pundits have turned the “IRS scandal” into a catchphrase for the perfidy of the Obama administration. Like the endless efforts to turn the 2012 Benghazi attacks into a scandal, such efforts are not repelled by reams of reporting or fruitless congressional probes. They build their own momentum and coast onward.

In May 2013, the Department of the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration issued a report finding that the IRS had inappropriately provided additional scrutiny to groups with “Tea Party,” “9/12” (a reference to Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project”), and “Patriots” in their names that were seeking nonprofit status. It’s the IRS’ job to review such groups and determine whether their efforts are too partisan to receive that status. But the implication of the Treasury report, rammed home by the right-wing press, was that the IRS was creating additional hurdles for the president’s political enemies: The scandal was not that conservative groups were receiving scrutiny, but that they were receiving more scrutiny than progressive ones. And with that premise in mind, conservative pundits were off to the races, weaving conspiracy theories that the president directed the government to target his political foes and demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor.

But within weeks, other news accounts provided a fuller picture, pointing to IRS documents that showed that groups with “Progressive” and “Occupy” in their names were also targeted for additional scrutiny. The inspector general’s new findings reportedly further that point, reinforcing that groups affiliated with the now-defunct conservative bugaboo the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as groups with names referencing “Green Energy” and “Medical Marijuana,” were also selected for additional review. The problem that the inspector general had uncovered was thus that groups were being selected for additional scrutiny based on their names rather than actual evidence of improper political activity. But that was a problem in the reviews of both conservative and progressive groups.

Why, then, did the 2013 report mention only additional scrutiny for the conservative groups? That was a feature, not a bug. As the inspector general’s spokesperson revealed in June 2013, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), then the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and a notorious partisan, had called for the review, asking for the inspector general to “narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.” It was a set-up. And it worked.

Again, all of this was clear by the summer of 2013. But once the right-wing scandal machine swings into gear, it is virtually impossible to bring to a halt. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait points out, the scandal “has lived on and on in the conservative mind,” with congressional Republicans and conservative pundits from all wings of the party united in their fervent assurance that tea party groups received disproportionate scrutiny from Obama’s IRS.

On Fox, the IRS “scandal” remains part of the litany of horribles conservative pundits invoke to highlight the evils of the former president, along with Benghazi and Operation Fast and Furious and the rest. Democrats “did use the IRS as a weapon to persecute Republicans in order to win re-election,” Fox News’ Jesse Watters explained in July. Damning if true! But it isn’t. Meanwhile, in the more rarefied air of Special Report, Bret Baier was championing his program’s reporting on how the IRS “did indeed single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny” as recently as last month.

The inspector general just removed the last shred of doubt that the scandal was a scam. Don’t expect many on the right to notice.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

  • Share this on Google+0
  • Share this on Linkedin0
  • Share this on Reddit0
  • Print this page
  • 304

25 responses to “Inspector General Debunks (Again) The IRS ‘Scandal’ That Never Was”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    I see nothing wrong with the IRS scrutinizing the eligibility of partisan political groups that apply for tax exempt status. The real scandal ought to be the fact that political parties and interest groups, on both sides of our political spectrum, are benefiting from tax exempt status while every middle class American is squeezed by the IRS every single year. The same goes for religious organizations.

    • Theodora30 says:

      Nor do I think using names of groups as a way to flag those for further review is wrong. The IRS did not have enough resources to check each and every group. This was a perfectly reasonable strategy as long as it was not the only one (random examinations, for example). If I recall, there were a lot more right wing partisan organizations seeking to illegally get the tax examption so a lot more of them were questioned. Next thing you know Republicans will call for fifty-fifty split.

    • PrecipitousDrop says:

      Why “tax exempt”?
      Why not just “tax reduced, pending review”?

      • Dominick Vila says:

        IMHO organizations that receive millions of dollars from supporters should not be entitled to tax exemption.

        • PrecipitousDrop says:

          I agree, Dom. Full-boat taxation on every penny garnered by political and/or religious organizations — just like any other corporation.
          My only concern is for the few religious organizations that really do provide measurable benefit to the sick, needy, or those in transition from incarceration. It seems cruel to reduce resources to these worthy recipients by a taxable percentage.
          For the rest of it though? Faith-based administrations, lobbyists, owned investments, real estate assets, advertising, etc.,? We should apply the same tax rates, rules and consequences any other similarly sized business now faces. For instance, hold Westboro Baptist Church to the same tax rates and consequences as any other retail chain — less a reduction for their cost of any programs that can be proven to result in measurable improvements to the lives of secular, equal opportunity beneficiaries.

  2. FireBaron says:

    Two items to remember:
    1. Right-Wing Media has never allowed facts to get in the way of their promulgation of perfidy against any Democrat, more particularly those named Clinton, or any Democrat that happens to be a Person of Color.
    2. The more often and the louder they repeat those promulgations of perfidy the more they get accepted as truth. Because if it wasn’t true they couldn’t say it, right?

    The only way around these are going to be in the civil courts with charges of defamation of character and slander. And all the lawyers have to do is present every falsehood issued by one of these guys. They could start with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh. Eventually they could work their way over to others, but let’s start with the big three.

    • idamag says:

      I have wished they would be charged for lying about people, starting with John Kerry and those despicable “Swift Boat” jerks.

  3. idamag says:

    I am apolitical. I do not believe in political parties. I don’t need one to tell me how to vote. However, I am coming to the conclusion that the republican party is speeding toward fascism.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      I don’t have issues with different parties but unfortunately some people are so partisan it clouds their judgement on crucial issues. While I identify more closely with Democrats I can agree with the moderates in the GOP on some issues. These days it’s truly mind boggling to see people put party before country particularly when it comes to Russia. Some of Trumps most diehard supporters can’t see any fault in him while most of us see a mentally ill man who poses a grave danger to our nations security and is in collusion with Putin. Unless more people can take off their partisan blinders they’ll realize too late that our country will have fallen like the Roman Empire did

      • idamag says:

        Sadly, that could happen. Or worse, like nazi Germany did.

        • S.J. Jolly says:

          The Roman Empire and Nazi Germany fell to foreign invasions. A better metaphor for the USA might be the ongoing internal disintegration in Venezuela.

          • idamag says:

            “…and nazi Germany fell to foreign invastions?” Where did you study history? Germany was the invaders. first they invaded, and with the aid of Russia, conquered Poland and using the anti-semitism in Poland they proceeded to annihilate all the Jews. Then they took over Czechoslovakia, They conquered France and Hungary offered themselves up to Germany. Most people only remembered we were attacked on Dec 7, 1941, by Japan. What they do not know is that Germany declared war on us that date. Since we had war declared on us and we were attacked by Germany’s ally, we had not recourse but to fight back or we would all be under nazi rule.

  4. Richard Prescott says:

    A potential legal term for lying could be called slander. Can one “slander” a non-human? As in a government agency.
    Interesting question I don’t have a real answer for, but it would be interesting to apply it to Fox News, or CNN.

  5. Tom S says:

    We knew this long ago. Why didn’t Dems hammer back??

    • PrecipitousDrop says:

      Did you lose your hammer?
      Here. I have an extra one.
      Save this article and use as needed, OK?

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      If you watched the Congressinal House and Senate sessions, The Dems all but let 2 quarts of blood from each wrist trying to force the GOP hicks to stop distorting this lie.

      In fact, the same bunch of hick politicians Chaffetz, Gowdy, Cotton, Nunes were all in on this lie and when the IRS panel was “interrogated,” the scene looked like something out of the McCarthy era Communist witch hunt.

      • Tom S says:

        I did see some snippets, but they never got any significant mike time on national media. Not surprising as there is no “liberal media” – it is all owned by conservatives. We’re almost Lucky, I guess, that our Media outlets are not more like the old “Pravda” … or Fox.

        Alan Grayson for ‘Tip of the Media Spear’!

        • Eleanore Whitaker says:

          In reality, men of power believe they are above the law. We know that not to be true. So when these ultra right wing conservatives believe they can just take over media and call anything they don’t agree with “liberal” just because truth flows all too freely for their warped, greedy minds, doesn’t mean we condone their attempts to brainwash the entire or society.

          Today’s investigative journalists who abide by the same rules and regulations of journalism as Walter Cronkite, Douglas Edwards, Edward R. Murray and others, would be labeled liberals by these nuts.

          What Americans with brains need to stay ahead of is the lies packed into every sentence posted, published or broadcast by the ultra right wingers like nutbagger Bannon and Breitbart.

          If Bannon is the face of today’s conservatism, his icon is one of a low life big mouth anti government Fascist seeking nothing more than to BE the only voice in this country. To Bannon, not even Trump is a real threat. Bannon knows that the mouth is more powerful than the dollar.

  6. The extremists in politics are determined to make this on-going circus act by FOX and other delinquent media fanatics a prelude to turning America into a Banana Republic or a system resembling Russia or China. Any group intent on controlling the levers of decision-making by any nefarious means or otherwise is a danger to humanity.

  7. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    If ever there was proof of collusion between Russian hackers and the Republican Party, this IRS scam proves it. We have no proof that this entire scam was not proliferated by Russian hackers with Republicans thrilled when it was first released.

    Is there any American but the anti government right wing who want nothing more than an end to our democracy who believes the rabid right wing Republicans went on and on and cost taxpayers millions just like the did years earlier when they also lied and tried to criminalize Hillary for WhiteWater?

    Would you trust any right wing Republican to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth and NOTHING but the truth, given their Gangster Liar they put in the White House?

    It appears now that we have pigeon holed the right into the same slot of liars as Trump, Boozer Bannon and the rest of the hick Corn Pone and Mutton Chops of the Confederacy.

    All we have gotten from Republicans since Reagan is severe hardship on the middle class, refusal to accept women’s equality, constant flushing of more than half of all tax dollars to corporations and their Republican states and war war war war….all for Republican Big Business profits.

    • S.J. Jolly says:

      Big-money individuals and corporations are cycling money into political power, and political power into money, in an endless greed for ever more wealth and power. The Republican Party in deep in their pockets, and the Democratic Party lesser so. Onward to a new Roman-type Empire, where a few ultra-wealthy families own or control everything of value.

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        If there is one thing I have greatest faith in after observing CEOs, COOs, CFOs, GMs and their Bds or Dirs., it is that image in my head sitting there taking meeting minutes due to the fact that I was the ONLY employee in these companies with ace steno skills. (140 error free wpm). rofl.

        So, Let me share what I saw and heard. First off, they’d all walk in trying not to look as self important as they felt. They would sit down at a huge highly polished oak table in “descending” order. CEO first always. To his right, the CFO. To his left, the COO. If there were divisional GMs, they were next in line. Then, almost at the opposite end of this long, long, long “conference” table, came the Bd. of Directors. Not all of whom were employees of the company, but in fact were high mucky mucks in their own, sometimes competing companies.

        On a day to day basis, by personal observation, these guys and make NO mistake, in 4 plus decades, none were women, would play this odd little corporate game of slice and dice, mostly using their employees as the bait.

        Want to get a raise up on the GM? Cut benefits. Want to bypass the CEO, get dirt on how the profits decreased under his regime. On and on the games went until the rules of the game of slice and dice had employees wondering who they could trust. In reality? They could trust no one.

        The point here is that in every gentleman’s game of cutting throats or as the Mafia calls it, “gutting fish,” someone always goes down because the guy salivating just one level in power beneath Mr. Top Gun at the helm would sell off his own kids to grab power. On and on it goes. Where it stops, nobody but the peasants starving in the streets below know.

        No greedy empire EVER lasts. It didn’t for the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians or the Chinese Dynasties. And it won’t for Trump, Republicans or Bannon.

        Right now, Republicans are planning full government takeover of the court systems by as McConnell stated this week, “replacing all liberal judges.” So the Republican Party becomes the only law in town?

        Good. I hope they are ready to lose another Civil War. Republicans believe they can ride high in the saddle and their asses won’t ever get saddle sores. Not on our tax dollars. Those tax dollars brought down dictators faster than lightening in England, France and Spain.

        Some men never learn that humans cannot EVER be robots they can FORCE to obey. That possession of free will is why brainwashing doesn’t work and Trump’s brand of “fake” “fake” “fake” never will either.

        What the Republicans want is a TOTALLY Republican government. Of the Republicans, FOR the Republicans, BY the Republicans. Good. Try it and see how fast the revolutions start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.