Remember when the IRS story looked, way back in May, like a legitimate political controversy? With every passing revelation, the misguided uproar looks a little sillier.
The ranking Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee ranking member, Sander Levin, D-Mich., released new information Tuesday from the Internal Revenue Service to provide further evidence that progressive groups were singled out for scrutiny as were conservative groups.
The documents include an IRS training presentation that instructs IRS employees to screen tax-exemption applications for Democratic leaning “Emerge” organizations alongside “progressive” and “tea party” organizations.
Three organizations tied to the national Emerge America organization – Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts – sought tax-exempt status in 2011. They were denied – the group, which helps recruit and train Democratic women for electoral politics, was deemed too political.
And so, when it came time for the IRS to scrutinize organizations, it instructed IRS employees to screen for “Emerge” along with “progressive.” If the tax agency were singling out conservatives, as Republicans and a few too many reporters claimed, this obviously wouldn’t have happened.
Making matters slightly more amusing, the same new materials show the IRS had a “Be On the Look Out” warning that called for heightened scrutiny to “ACORN successor” organizations.
Levin said in a statement, “Once again it is clear that the Inspector General’s report left out critical information that skewed the audit’s findings and set the stage for Republicans to make completely baseless accusations in an effort to tarnish the White House. These new documents make it clear the IRS scrutiny of the political activity of 501(c)(4) organizations covered a broad spectrum of political ideology and was not politically motivated. Republicans should stop trying to twist the facts to fit a faulty ‘enemies list’ narrative and instead join in the effort to fix the mismanagement problems at the IRS tax-exempt division as I have called for since day one.”
Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) added, “This new information should put a nail in the coffin of the Republican claims that the IRS’s actions were politically motivated or were targeted at only one side of the political spectrum.”
And yet, even now, the right continues to insist there’s an IRS “scandal” that only conservatives can see.
Just last week, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) had a lengthy op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, arguing that that administration needs to “come clean” on this terrible “scandal” and “cover-up.” I was tempted to write a post fact-checking the whole thing, but (1) the entire op-ed was one long falsehood intended to exploit public ignorance; (2) I find it hard to believe Portman or the staffer who wrote the piece actually believes what it says; and (3) the op-ed had no real impact because it’s suddenly dawning on the mainstream that there is no “scandal.”
What was annoying has since become tiresome. Republicans were so heavily invested in this controversy that they feel the need to keep up appearances, but it seems they’re just going through the motions – no one could honestly take the story seriously anymore.
To reiterate a point from July, this would be a great time for at least some accountability. There were countless Republicans and mainstream pundits – left, right, and center, from Limbaugh to Jon Stewart – who were absolutely convinced that this story was legitimate and President Obama bore responsibility for the wrongdoing we now know didn’t exist.
And yet, the scandal that evaporated into nothing has led to precious little introspection among those who demanded the public take it seriously. The political world flubbed this one, and instead of acknowledging that, it’s simply moved on as if it hadn’t made a mistake.
It’s a real shame.
So, I guess we’ll start hearing more about Benghazi again soon?