During last Friday’s hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, former Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, responding to a question from Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), declared that the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny and delayed approval for their requested 501(c) (4) status was “absolutely not illegal.” Many found that nearly as jarring as when White House flack Dan Pfeiffer announced on May 19, 2013 that “the law is irrelevant,” but they shouldn’t have been surprised.
Given the lawlessness of the Obama administration, Mr. Pfeiffer was simply stating their obvious view. As for Mr. Miller, his former boss, then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman declared in March 2012 testimony before Congress that that there was “absolutely no targeting” by the IRS of conservative groups. Then, on May 22, 2013, before Rep. Darryl Issa’s (D-CA) Oversight Committee, he said if he knew then what he knew now, as in that there was targeting after all, he wouldn’t have said that.
It’s sort of like Obamacare’s penalties weren’t taxes, until they were. Are you noticing a pattern? White House mouthpiece Jay Carney has done an unintentional standup routine, now going on 2 weeks, featuring a cringe-inducing rolling disclosures of changing stories about what the White House knew and when they knew it. Most recently, on May 20, 2013, he told us that White House counsel, who is effectively Obama’s personal attorney, was told about the Inspector General’s audit that found improper targeting by the IRS on April 24, 2013, and that she shared that with White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough and “other members of senior staff.”
He didn’t elaborate about what that phrase means, but the bottom line is that Jay assures us that the Big Guy didn’t know about this inappropriate conduct by a federal agency that is part of the Executive Branch. Mr. Carney didn’t tell us how he knows that. He just knows, for now. Until this month, Mr. Shulman was able to declare that there was “absolutely no targeting.” Like Mr. Carney, he never investigated what was actually going on before he made that bold assertion. He just knew. Then, he knew his first statement was inaccurate.
Some cynics might question Mr. Miller’s bold assertion that there was nothing illegal about what the IRS did in view of Ms. Lois Lerner’s decision to take the 5th before Rep. Issa’s committee on May 22, 2013. Ms. Lerner is IRS Exempt Organizations Division director. Yes, she still has her job, and she’s going to be called back before Rep. Issa’s committee [Since this was written, Ms. Lerner has been placed on administrative leave with pay — Editor].
Obviously, she’s got some ‘splainin’ to do, but I’m not prepared to say that her taking the 5th proves that she broke any laws. As a recovering (as in non-practicing) lawyer, I know better than that. I also know better, though, than to say conclusively, that given what we know now, no laws were broken by employees of the IRS. Here are a few that occurred to me as I watched the hearings and read press reports about this growing scandal.