The Democrats have come up with one of their cleverest moves ever: indignantly pretend that the IRS targeting of tea party groups is a phony scandal and then make new IRS rules that perpetuate the targeting of tea party groups—and any other group that might be pesky in the midterms

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel explains:  

President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election.

They've been at even greater pains this week to ensure that the same conservative groups are silenced in the 2014 midterms.

That's the big, dirty secret of the omnibus negotiations. As one of the only bills destined to pass this year, the omnibus was—behind the scenes—a flurry of horse trading.

One of the biggest fights was over GOP efforts to include language to stop the IRS from instituting a new round of 501(c)(4) targeting.

The White House is so counting on the tax agency to muzzle its political opponents that it willingly sacrificed any manner of its own priorities to keep the muzzle in place.

The maneuver centers on a new IRS rule that was put forward and added to the omnibus bill by the Treasury and the IRS in the “hush of Thanksgiving recess.” It would reclassify as “political” various educational and cultural activities in which nonprofits have traditionally engaged without losing their tax-exempt status.

It's IRS targeting all over again, only this time by administration design and with the raw political goal—as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) notes—of putting "tea party groups out of business.”

This is mind-bogglingly cynical, but you have to marvel at the discipline and guts it takes to pull off something like this. It boils down to this: the IRS scandal explodes, the internal investigation finds no wrongdoing, and the administration finds a way to institutionalize the original abuses.

Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks characterizes the move this way:

Now, rather than preventing future intimidation tactics, the IRS is proposing we formalize these abuses as agency-wide practice.

Kibbe also has a succinct summary of the content of the new rules. The rules, according to Kibbe, are vague and would allow the agency to “regulate out of business” groups that might formerly just been targeted. This raises political hard ball to a new level and makes a government agency a political tool to quash free speech.