Still waiting for accountability as IRS ‘scandal’ unravels

Still waiting for accountability as IRS 'scandal' unravels
Still waiting for accountability as IRS 'scandal' unravels
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Republican officials and the Beltway media gambled on the IRS “scandal,” betting heavily on its viability and seriousness, convinced that the odds were in their favor.

With each new revelation, it’s clear the gamble did not pay off.

The House Oversight committee’s top Democrat on Friday will release new evidence that the Internal Revenue Service targeted both progressive and conservative groups for extra scrutiny during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a draft letter to committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that congressional investigators have discovered training materials from an July 2010 “Screening Workshop” that prove IRS agents were told to be on the lookout for groups from both sides of the political spectrum.

A PowerPoint presentation from the workshop told IRS processors to screen for names that look like “tea party,” “patriots,” ” 9/12 Project,” and “progressive.” It noted that such groups “may be more than 50% political,” which could disqualify them from tax-exempt status.

This follows evidence from last week that IRS scrutiny was not ideologically based at all, which followed evidence from the week before that groups on the left were subjected to identical treatment as groups on the right.

Everything about this entire political controversy has been discredited; all of the allegations have proven baseless.

Ideally, this would a 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.

If I had a nickel for every unnecessary Nixon comparison, every headline about the White House in “crisis,” every soundbite about “enemies lists,” “cover-ups,” the “second-term curse,” and using the IRS as a political weapon, I could retire comfortably.

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.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, the walkbacks from the politicians and commentators who were wrong never appear, because that’s just not how our discourse seems to work. The political world treated Scandal Mania as a toy for several weeks, which eventually grew tiresome, which in turn led to a search for something new to play with.

As Jon Chait put it, “The entire scandal narrative was an illusion.” But instead of the Beltway acknowledging this, we see largely the opposite – there is no effort to look back and explain to voters that Scandal Mania was itself a mirage, and the widespread disgust was misplaced.