Remember how the IRS “scandal” first started? The inspector general for the IRS issued a report pointing to special scrutiny applied to Tea Party groups, but ignoring comparable scrutiny of progressive organizations. Why didn’t IG J. Russell George provide a more accurate report highlighting trouble for groups on both sides? According to the IG himself, congressional Republicans told him to paint an incomplete picture on purpose.
The result was something of a fiasco: a controversy erupted to great fanfare, but then collapsed when we realized Tea Partiers hadn’t been singled out for unfair treatment, and liberal and non-political groups faced similar IRS scrutiny. The whole “scandal” was a mirage that quickly faded.
But Republicans don’t want to let go, especially after all the fun they had in May. So what happens now? As Dave Weigel reported, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his allies now want another “narrowly-focused” investigation from the IG’s office.
In a letter from Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, the IG is being asked to dig into reporters of tax-exempt conservative groups being subjected to audits. Based on information from conservative non-profits like the Free Congress Foundation, the Leadership Institute, and the Clare Booth Luce Institute, Issa and Jordan ask the IG whether any groups were targeted “for audits or examination based on their political beliefs or ideology.” The answers on this in the first investigation were inconclusive, as were the stories, but they should be grist for something. […]
The last couple of months suggest where this is heading. The Leadership Institute is obviously conservative, and run by longtime RNC committeeman Morton Blackwell, but plenty of liberal groups with 501 statuses are run by partisans – and they weren’t audited in 2011 or 2012, were they?
I’ve seen some suggestion that this means the IRS story is “expanding.” That’s a nice spin, but it’s wrong – this isn’t expansion, it’s redirection.
Issa kept trying to tap a dry well, to the point at which most sensible people decided it was time to ignore him. Desperate, the California Republican has begun digging again, assuring the political world that maybe this time he’ll find something useful.
Perhaps Fox and Peggy Noonan will find these partisan antics compelling, but I’m at a loss to explain why.