Last spring, the IRS “scandal” was all the rage. The White House’s detractors and much of the Beltway media was quite certain the story was Watergate, Iran-Contra, Teapot Dome, Abscam, all rolled into one mega-scandal.
And then it all collapsed. The tax agency didn’t single out conservatives for unfair scrutiny; there was no conspiracy; and the news organizations that were obsessed with the story when it looked bad completely lost interest when it looked meaningless. The smoking gun was a water pistol, and the political world moved on past the discredited allegations.
All the while, lingering in the background, was an FBI probe, with federal law enforcement investigating to determine if any laws were broken. Care to guess how that turned out?
F.B.I. investigators do not believe Internal Revenue Service officials committed crimes in the unusually heavy scrutiny of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, a law enforcement official said Monday.
Prosecutors for the Justice Department who have been overseeing the case have not made a decision about whether to file charges against the officials – although that would seem unlikely given the F.B.I. investigators’ conclusion, according to the official, speaking anonymously because he could not talk on the record about a continuing investigation.
The IRS faux-scandal, which has died with a whimper, is actually in the news quite a bit right now for a couple of reasons. The first is the Republicans preoccupation with comparing President Obama’s handling of the IRS story with Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) handling of his bridge scandal. But as the FBI’s disinterest helps remind us, there is no equivalence here – the Christie administration, as the governor himself now admits, engaged in actual misconduct. The IRS story, on the other hand, is a mirage.
And then there’s House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
The far-right congressman will likely have to give up his committee gavel at the end of this year, so whatever witch hunts he intends to pursue while he still has power will have to come quickly.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in 2014 will pursue the IRS scandal, the deadly Benghazi attack and the botched Fast and Furious operation in what will likely be his last year as the House GOP’s chief investigator.
By all appearance, Issa is making an awkward transition from a powerful committee chairman into a tragic caricature of himself. Watching him jump up and down, vowing to use his final year as Oversight Committee chairman to beat dead horses, I’m reminded of Mortimer Duke towards the end of “Trading Places,” throwing a tantrum: “Now, you listen to me! I want trading reopened right now. Get those brokers back in here! Turn those machines back on!”
Watching a defeated man in a deep sense of denial is amusing when portrayed by Don Amache. It’s a lot less funny when it’s Darrell Issa.