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Opinion Blogs
IRS scandal persists despite media attempts to ignore it
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IRS scandal persists despite media attempts to ignore it

IRS scandal persists despite media attempts to ignore it
Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster
IRS official Lois Lerner arrives for a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, to investigate the extra scrutiny IRS gave to Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. Lerner told the committee she did nothing wrong and then invoked her constitutional right to not answer lawmakers' questions. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

IRS scandal persists despite media attempts to ignore it

Lois Lerner e-mails tell us what journalists refuse to.

It was only a few months ago that political reporters across the country started cheering that the IRS scandal had “fizzled,” a word that was used by so many of them it became obvious it was established as a media talking point.

These Obama apologists argued that a list of IRS watchwords for going after groups seeking tax exemptions included some words that pertained to liberals, and therefore the entire conservative argument of IRS bias against conservatives was “debunked” and there was no more reason to cover the story. When conservatives pointed out that, in practice, the liberal groups were regularly getting quick approvals while conservatives were having to endure long waits if they got approved at all – silence.

The scandal had fizzled and that was that.

Fortunately for the nation, a few people decided to keep digging, and this past week we learned of e-mails from Lois Lerner, the IRS director of exempt groups, which clearly show a bias against conservatives and an attempt to cover it up.

The Washington Times reports:

In one 2011 email, Ms. Lerner specifically calls the tea party applications for tax-exempt status problematic, which seems to counter Democrats’ arguments that tea party groups weren’t targeted.

“Tea Party Matter very dangerous,” Ms. Lerner wrote in the 2011 email, saying that those applications could end up being the “vehicle to go to court” to get more clarity on a 2010 Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance rules.

In another email, from 2012, Ms. Lerner acknowledges that the agency’s handling of the tax-exempt applications had been bungled at the beginning, though she said steps had been taken to correct problems.

“It is what it is,” she wrote in the email, released Thursday by the Ways and Means Committee. “Although the original story isn’t as pretty as we’d like, once we learned [that we were] off track, we have done what we can to change the process, better educate our staff and move the cases. So, we will get dinged, but we took steps before the ‘dinging’ to make things better and we have written procedures.”

That email suggests that agency employees knew they had gone overboard in their scrutiny — despite top IRS officials telling Congress that there was no special scrutiny of conservative groups.

In another 2012 email, Ms. Lerner seemed to take sides in a battle between the Federal Election Commission and conservative tax-exempt groups that were engaging in politics, saying “perhaps the FEC will save the day.”

It’s clear what’s going on here. Lerner, who had a history of hostility toward conservatives going back to her days at the FEC, wanted to find ways to create problems for conservatives without it getting a lot of attention, and certainly without admitting it to Congress, which is why she took the Fifth Amendment when they asked her about it.

Yet the media persists in low-keying the story. President Obama has declared it a “phony scandal,” and that means they have their marching orders. If they cover it at all, it’s buried under the things they really want to talk about – like what happened at George Zimmerman’s house today, or why it’s inevitable that Hillary Clinton will become president in three years.

It’s not so much a cover-up as it is a slow walk until the gullible public forgets about it. That’s because, in large part, the media agree with what the IRS is doing. They think conservative nonprofits are really about nothing but electing Republicans, whereas liberal nonprofits are all about “helping people” or “social justice” or whatever. Basically, they see it the way Lois Lerner sees it. That’s why it doesn’t bother them that the IRS is abusing its power to achieve these ends. They like the ends, and the last thing they want to do is encourage the people to rise up against the government’s actions.

Dave Wiegel, a liberal blogger for Slate, provides the rationale for the media to continue ignoring the story:

Is it scandalous? If you don't think a bureaucrat taking this role in the IRS should hold such views, yes. And if, like the WSJ, you see a discrepancy (sic) here between Lerner saying the cases shouldn't go to Cincinnati and the IRS telling Congress, in April, that "rogue agents" in Cincinnati were behind the aggressive targeting—definitely a scandal. But that's what we're sort of left with, a disagreement over whether the IRS should have been nosy about a surge of political groups asking for tax exemption, and whether that nosiness hit the right disproportionately.

A lot of lefty journalists follow Wiegel’s lead, and what he’s told them is that even though IRS bureaucrats are clearly acting inappropriately, a journalist has license to ignore the story as long as he or she remains unconvinced that conservatives were really the target. There’s a “disagreement” over that, he says, and there’s no need to keep reporting or digging for the truth.

We’ll keep the light on this, because they won’t.

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