The Inspector General's report about the IRS unit in Cincinnati that appeared to be targeting conservative groups inappropriately is now out. The WaPo:
Criminal probe of IRS launched as report details targeting of conservative groups - The Washington PostFederal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of whether Internal Revenue Service employees broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status — the latest setback for an agency that is the subject of withering bipartisan criticism and multiple congressional inquiries.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the Justice Department and the FBI began the probe after the IRS acknowledged that it selected conservative groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special reviews.
“We are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations,” Holder said at a news conference.
Also Tuesday, a widely anticipated report by the IRS’s watchdog described the agency’s tax-exempt unit — where the screening of conservative groups occurred — as a bureaucratic mess, with some employees ignorant about tax laws, defiant of their supervisors and blind to the appearance of impropriety.
Here is a digest of the report from the always outstanding Politico:
5 takeaways from IRS report - Kelsey Snell and Lauren French - POLITICO.com
Here are the 5 takeaways they list:
- IRS agents weren't partisan
- Unclear on whether the IRS misled Congress
- Asking about donors crossed the line
- The IRS hasn't fixed all the problems
- No plans to crack down on 501(c)(4) groups
A reminder that this story has been compared to Watergate. Here, by veteran WaPo legend George Will:
George Will: IRS scandal carries echoes of Watergate - The Washington Post
And here and here and here and here:
IRS scandal shows that we've forgotten Watergate's lesson - George F. Will
Watergate revisited: did Obama's tax officials at the IRS target Republicans? - IV Drip - Voices - The Independent
IRS Scandal Echoes a Long History of Political Harassment | TIME.com
Here is what any impartial observer should conclude: This is yet another trumped-up, bogus non-scandal. In fact, of the 3 current scandals doing the rounds, this ranks as the least serious behind Benghazi and AP. The IG report is immeasurably less serious than most people thought it would be 24 hours ago. And yet, in the US, it is playing as the most serious.
Here's the problem. The liberal media and wider liberal commentariat are desperate - desperate - to appear even-handed. They've spent 4 years cheering on Obama. They know this perception is strong out there, and so when this chance comes along to be supportive of conservative groups, they've all jumped into the groupthink boat and are having a field day at the Administration's expense.
In essence, what happened in Cincinnati is that a flood of applications for tax exempt status were coming in the door. The office needed to differentiate those groups that may have been ineligible due to being too political from other groups - like traditional charities - who had no political side to them. And so, as the applications came in, they were tagged "tea party" or "patriot" or whatnot so that they would ping in the system as being in need of further investigation.
As regards those subsequent investigation, the report, somewhat bafflingly, says the IRS shouldn't have asked about the groups' doners (although I'm not sure how that isn't germane to whether the grouping is political.) This is the strongest Politico can say be about it:
5 takeaways from IRS report - Kelsey Snell and Lauren French - POLITICO.comThe Inspector General said donor lists and details were an unnecessary, burdensome request in the vetting process. That may be the biggest victory for frustrated conservatives.
Essentially, that's it. That's the whole "scandal". The report finds no partisanship in this procedure. It's about misguided and inappropriate administrative procedures.
Watergate? Even mentioning it in the same breath shows a stunning, terrifying lack of understanding about history. This is a minor, localised muddle with no political partisanship involved. The report shows that the initial reports on this "scandal" were entirely wrong and massively overblown. The report shows that this is yet again a massive overreaction by the American right, this time aided and abetted by a terrified liberal establishment desperate to show they are non-partisan and even handed. Even Obama himself is having to play this game, pretending to be "outraged".