In a congressional hearing into revelations that the IRS targeted conservative groups, one congressman pounced on the agency’s fired chief’s insistence that the targeting was not politically motivated.
Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois said, “On the one hand you’re arguing today that the IRS is not corrupt, but the subtext of what you’re saying is, ‘Look, we’re just incompetent.'”
There is already evidence that by searching for groups that included the names “Tea Party” or “Patriot” for special review, the IRS was, in fact, targeting conservatives.
The larger debate over whether 501C(c)(4) groups should be engaged in direct political activity at all is an important one, but at the same time is irrelevant because of the targeting that is clearly discriminatory and possibly illegal. All of that raises the issue of what else this agency, with its vast power and access to the most private information of millions of Americans, may be doing.
The fact that treasury officials were briefed about the inquiry back in June of 2012 raises more doubts about what those in the administration knew, and when they knew it. Whether the IRS probe, in fact, reveals corruption or mere widespread incompetence or both remains to be seen.
This scandal is one that seems unlikely to fade and suggests that at minimum reform of basic IRS procedures are needed.