The Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative nonprofits is one of the worst federal government scandals in recent memory. And yet . . .
As Kimberley Strassal points out today in today's must-read, the scandal has all but vanished from public discussion and no one at the powerful agency has yet been held to account. It may even be the case that the targeting of conservative nonprofits continues.
According to Strassal, a lower court judge took the IRS at its word that the targeting had stopped. But in a more recent hearing of two cases by groups of nonprofits that were damaged by the targeting federal judges David B. Sentelle and Douglas H. Ginsburg "weren’t so easily rolled."
The judges determined that those two groups are 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups, which are subject to far less scrutiny than 501(c)(3) charities, yet are still being harassed by the IRS five years later. The judges were told that not only are the groups still on ice, but that their actions are still being “monitored” by the federal government.
As one lawyer for the plaintiffs noted, despite the IRS’s claim that it got rid of its infamous targeting lists, there is “absolutely no showing” that the agency has in fact stopped using the underlying “criteria” that originally “identified and targeted for mistreatment based on political views.”
The hearing also showed the degree to which the IRS has doubled down on its outrageous revisionist history, and its excuses. IRS lawyers again claimed that the whole targeting affair came down to bad “training” and bad “guidance.”
They blew off a Government Accountability Office report that last year found the IRS still had procedures that would allow it to unfairly select organizations for examinations based on religious or political viewpoint. The lawyers’ argument: We wouldn’t do such a thing. Again. Trust us.
. . .
At one point, an incredulous Judge Sentelle noted that the IRS might be more believable if it had ever shown “a bit more contrition.” He said: “The Court would have to be awfully ignorant not to recognize that there has likely been an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of American citizens by the IRS, and the IRS to this day seems very resistant to acknowledgment of that.”
The House Judiciary Committee has announced that it will hold hearings on the conduct of IRS head John Koskinen. This is a smug bureaucracy in dire need of reform–or better still, of tax reform that vastly reduces its power and size.
It is arguable that the IRS' targeting of conservative organizations contributed to President Obama's re-election–and so we know one party that will not be eager to put the kibosh on the friendly bureaucrats at the IRS.