Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-OH) (R) cuts ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) off during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Issa vs. Cummings, Round XXVII

Updated
Poor Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). The hapless chairman of the House Oversight Committee came up with all kinds of creative ideas about the IRS and assorted “scandals,” all of which turned out to be baseless – and at times, kind of silly.
 
But hope springs eternal. Issa now has a brand new IRS-related attack, and this time, instead of taking the offensive against the White House or Obama administration officials, the California Republican is going after the ranking member of his own committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), whom Issa recently tried to literally silence during a faux hearing on the faux IRS controversy.
 
Issa asked conservative media to find his new scheme interesting and Fox News quickly obliged, making Cummings its “new punching bag.”
Monday night, he and other Democratic members of the House Committee investigating the IRS over allegations that it targeted conservative groups took a pounding on Megyn Kelly’s show over recently released emails.
 
Tuesday morning, the beatdown intensified on “Fox & Friends,” which kept flashing headlines like: “Where’s the Outrage? Media ignores Cummings role in IRS scandal.”
 
“There’s explosive new evidence,” host Elizabeth Hasselbeck said, introducing a discussion of Cummings, “that he was leading the charge against conservatives the entire time” that he was part of a panel that was supposed to be investigating the IRS for allegedly treating conservative groups unfairly.
Just on the surface, when Republicans and their allies can’t seem to decide on their Villain of the Week, it’s usually a sign of desperation. In the IRS matter, the fact that the right keeps bouncing from one suspected bad guy to the next, as one claim after another gets debunked, doesn’t inspire confidence in the integrity of the “scandal.”
 
But more specifically, the larger problem with Issa and Fox turning their guns on Cummings is that the attack is demonstrably ridiculous.
 
Dana Liebelson summarized the issue nicely.
One of the groups that Issa is concerned may have been unfairly targeted is True the Vote, an organization whose mission is to root out voter fraud. At least as early as February 2012, the IRS was requesting information from True the Vote about its activities, including any for-profit organizations it was associated with.
 
A few months later, in August, Cummings contacted the IRS to notify the agency that his own staff was planning to investigate the organization. On October 4, 2012, his office sent the first of a series of letters to True the Vote requesting information about its activities. Cummings was concerned that the group was engaging in voter intimidation and partisan activities, such as making a $5,000 donation to the Republican State Leadership Committee. Cummings asked the IRS for “publicly available information” about the group in January 2013.
Issa (and news organizations that choose to believe Issa) see this as a great outrage, because as they see it, Cummings might have helped put True the Vote “on the radar screen” of the IRS. I’m not sure why that would be a scandal even if it were true – lawmakers refer matters to various federal agencies for investigation all the time. Indeed, Issa himself, urging the IRS in 2009 to investigate – wait for it – ACORN.
 
But in this case, it’s wrong anyway, since there’s documented proof that the IRS took an interest in True the Vote and its alleged voter-intimidation efforts months before Cummings contacted the agency. What’s more, all Cummings did was seek additional public information on the group.
 
Issa further complains that Cummings was working in secret, “colluding with” the IRS without notifying the Oversight Committee which Cummings helps lead. But that’s wrong, too – Cummings actually gave Issa a copy of the correspondence he sent and posted it online at the time.
 
Adding insult to injury, Issa already had all of these materials, but conveniently kept the documents to himself when launching his attack against Cummings, hoping news outlets would run with half a misleading story. (He does that a lot.)
 
Naturally, the question then becomes why Issa would launch an attack he knows to be false. Only the flailing committee chairman knows for sure, though I suspect it has something to do with generating election-year headlines on Fox News such as, “Where’s the Outrage? Media ignores Cummings role in IRS scandal.”
 
There is no Cummings role, there is no IRS scandal, and there is no outrage, but other than these minor details, Issa and Fox are in great shape.
 

Darrell Issa and IRS

Issa vs. Cummings, Round XXVII

Updated