Thursday, June 28, 2018

Paul Caron's Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark - Part 1

This post was originally published on Forbes Oct 6, 2015

The interminable IRS scandal is now on Day 880 by TaxProf count. The TaxProf is Paul Caron, a law professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and Editor of the TaxProf Blog.  I consider Paul Caron the dean of the tax blogosphere.  His IRS Scandal series is a valuable reference tool if you want to reconstruct the chronology of the scandal, but I think the series may have finally jumped the shark.

Day 880 of the scandal is about Presidential candidate Ben Carson's call to immediately revoke the exempt status of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) because of CAIR's founder Nihad Awad calling for Carson's withdrawal from the Presidential race because of his view that a Muslim could not be President.

In order to make my case that it might be time for the TaxProf to turn his Scandal Day by Day into an archive, I am reviewing the whole thing and will share some of the high points with you.  This first installment will take your through Day 516 (October 7, 2014).  I stopped there because I saw the post was getting too long, but am delighted to find that happens to leave us at almost exactly a year ago.

The First Hundred Days

The TaxProf IRS scandal series begins on May 10, 2013 with a post titled IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election.
After months of denying that the IRS has been targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny, Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, admitted that the IRS had been giving additional scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from goups with the "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their title. She denied there was any political motivation and blamed the practice on a low-level employee in Cincinnati.
The numbering starts on Day 5 (May 14,2013) with a collection of posts including a video of President Obama throwing his purported minions under the bus.  On Day 27, the precedent is set that will allow the scandal to continue indefinitely as a TIGTA report on conference spending becomes part of the narrative.  The Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration is one of the many Inspector Generals in the federal government.  The thing about internal auditors is that if they don't find something, they think they are not doing their job.  Every TIGTA report will henceforth have a shot at becoming part of the scandal narrative.

Day 29 is of great significance as my contrarian views find their way into the narrative with a link to - IRS Does Not Spend Enough On Conferences.  By Day 68 it was already getting tough to keep track so a link to a timeline by Kelly Erb was in order.  On Day 100, I notice the first hint of the scandal moving to the cover-up stage with a link to Lois Lerner Accused of Using Personal E-mail for Official Business.

And Then They Came For The Veterans

On Day 110 there is a new addition to the narrative - targetting of veterans. This piece has to do with the requirements that veterans groups have to maintain records to show that their members are mostly, you know, veterans.  On Day 113  there is a link to more of my contrarian coverage - Tea Party Patriots Inc And IRS - Who Is Being Unreasonable? Day 127 begins the raft of explosive e-mails that will be such a staple in the coming months.
In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is "very dangerous," and is something "Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on." Ms. Lerner adds, "Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.
Enter Doctor Carson For The First Time

Day 132 (September 18, 2013) provides an interesting contrast to the current Carson controversy, it was found scandalous that the IRS had flagged groups for anti-Obama rhetoric.  (It is worth noting that there were no revocations, because of anti-Obama rhetoric, much less the type of instant revocation that Dr. Carson is calling for.) Dr. Carson, himself makes his first appearance in the narrative on Day 146 as related in this Blaze story as he said that he had his first contact with the IRS after giving this speech.

 On Day 160 , an important player in the disclosure war portion of the scandal enters the fray as Judicial Watch files a lawsuit about its FOIA requests. Day 163 adds a new scandal strand as the National Organization for Marriage sues about disclosure of its donor list. On Day 184 we learn about Darrell Issa issuing a subpoena which promised to yield much more fuel to the scandal fire.

The IRS attempt to issue regulations on the political activity of exempt organizations became a new element of the scandal narrative with stories like this one - Silencing Conservatives - The Administration's Latest Attempt to Censor Political Speech - on Day 224 (December 19, 2013).  On Day 250, we had a dog not barking as the FBI indicated there would be no criminal charges.

Not Even A Smidgen
Day 270  added a new line to the narrative as President Obama chatted with Bill O'Reilly (The extreme Left of my family prays that we are not related to him) as told by The Daily Caller
“So you’re saying there was no corruption there at all?” O’Reilly asked.“Absolutely not,” the president replied. “There were some bone-headed decisions out of a local office.”“But no mass corruption?” O’Reilly persisted.“Not even mass corruption,” a visibly-annoyed Obama replied. “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”
 Will She Or Won't She? Only Her Lawyer Knows For Sure.
Day 298 has everybody at pins and needles over whether Lois Lerner will testify.  And I make another appearance on Day 300 reporting from the Bizzaro world where CREW is suing the IRS for not being vigorous on political spending by social welfare groups.  On Day 301, we learn that Lois Lerner would be taking the fifth and that, at least in public, Elijah Cummings and Darrell Issa are not best buds.

Day 304 , we heard from George Will
The idea that politicians should write laws restricting people critical of them is as perverse as the idea that the sprawling, opaque IRS bureaucracy should be assigned to construe and apply such laws. 
I am forever grateful to George Will for introducing me to the works of James Gould Cozzens, so I can't let his comments pass by.
On March 11, 2014 the House Oversight Committee issued its report on Lois Lerner's Involvement in the IRS targeting of tax-exempt organizations.

On Day 327, you might have thought there was light at the end of tunnel.
In a stunning bipartisan agreement, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chair Darrell Issa and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings committed to aggressively pursue investigations into the IRS's targeting of conservative groups in advance of the 2012 presidential election.
Sadly, it turns out that Day 327 was April 1, 2014.

The Things That Never Went Anywhere 

On Day 336 a new wrinkle to the scandal narrative was unveiled as we start hearing about things that Lois Lerner wanted to do that never went anywhere with this Bloomberg story about her pursuit of Karl Rove's Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.  Lois Lerner's failed attempts to do something about political spending from here on in will be melded into the scandal narrative.  Somehow it is missed that she was promoted to her position during the Bush administration by a Bush appointed IRS Commissioner and just about everything she tried to do during the Obama administration came to naught.

Day 342  brings up discussions of granting Lois Lerner immunity.  Day 348 had stories about an actual conservative organization losing its exempt status over political activity -The Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty.  It is worth noting that the IRS found "a pattern of deliberate and consistent intervention in political campaigns", not a single anti-Clinton statement.

Day 355 we find Janet Novack writing about how the real IRS scandal is about the agency being too resource starved to perform its core mission.

On Day 357, George Will writes about civil forfeitures for structuring adding another scandal narrative, that will be enthusiastically embraced by the defenders of Kent Hovind then near the end of a long prison sentence in part for structuring.

Day 365, the first anniversary, is all about Lois Lerner being held in contempt of Congress.  I think it is clear except for the odd bits here and there - veterans and conference expenses for example - the first year is mainly about the Tea Party targeting and Lois Lerner. Also, I think if you will spend the hours I just spent you will agree that Paul Caron's coverage is pretty balanced.

A New Year Of Scandal Begins With Calls For Immunity For Lerner

Day 369 gives us a piece by Paul Caron, himself - The Media Ignore IRS Scandal - (As someone who took Greek in high school I have to admire the prof for knowing that the word "media" is plural)
Today's news media are largely ignoring the IRS scandal, and it is impossible to have confidence in the current investigations by the FBI, Justice Department, and House committee. I am not suggesting that the current scandal in the end will rise to the level of Watergate. But the allegations are serious, and fair-minded Americans of both parties should agree that a thorough investigation needs to be undertaken to either debunk them or confirm them.
Step one should be to give Lois Lerner full immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. And then let the chips fall where they may.
I've heard it said that Professor Caron's continued coverage shows a conservative bias, but here he is clearly putting the ball in Issa's court, a ball which will never be picked up.

On Day 378 we have Neil Buchanan who largely disapproves of Caron's scandal day by day approach agreeing that offering Lerner immunity might be the way to go - A Conservative Law Professor Points The Way Out of the Scandal That Never Was
One would think that the lack of any new evidence, after a year of herculean efforts by conservative activists and elected Republicans, would cause all but the most committed scandal mongers to move on. Some activists, however, pointed for support to the TaxProf Blog, an “aggregator” website that provides links to tax-related news items (and items relevant to law professors at large), providing those links generally without comment, and thus without political spin or commentary. 
 Professor Caron used every political signal in the book, and permanently compromised his public reputation, to implore conservatives to prove what he suspects is surely true, but which only suppositions currently support. One must hope that his compatriots honor his sacrifice and listen to him.
And Then They Came For The Zionists

I appear again on Day 385 covering a decision that allows a suit by Z Street, a Zionist group to move forward .  It is all about IRS having a "special Israel" policy.  On Day 397 another element is added with revelations of IRS transmission of data to FBI.  It does not appear that the FBI ever did anything substantive with all the data, but "No harm. No Foul." is not operative in IRS Scandalland.

Day 502 was big as Lois Lerner opened up to Politico. He "I didn't do anything wrong" would reverberate along with the President's "smidgin".

Getting Ready To Jump The Shark

On Day 509 we get a report on the purported documentary UnFair Exposing The IRS which while purporting to be a documentary was something of an infomercial for substituting the income tax with a 30% sales tax.  Now the scandal narrative is becoming not so much a narrative about the scandal as a narrative about the scandal narrative.

Day 516 brings us something on the pre-Lerner scandal which I dubbed Goolsbeegate which was triggered by a remark by Austan Goolsbee in 2010 about Koch Industries being an S corp (which it is likely not).  The litigation about how it is that TIGTA determined that Goolsbee's remark was not a result of improper disclosure is still ongoing.
There are still quite a few developments to come that are related to the core scandal, so I will not call Day 509 a shark jump, but it is getting close.
To be continued.

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