Trib Calls for Special Prosecutor. Again.

The editors of the Chicago Tribune have called once again for a special prosecutor for the IRS scandal:

On a matter this serious, the administration can’t adequately investigate itself. Given the amount of smoke now rising from the IRS, many Americans won’t be much interested in what one arm of the administration concludes about other arms, including the IRS, the Treasury Department of which it’s part, and possibly the White House.

That’s why we’ve urged Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor — a phrase that, like “customer support” or “designated hitter,” provokes Pavlovian suspicions. We’ve been skeptical of some special prosecutors and their tendency toward mission creep. But we’ve also seen situations where only a special prosecutor has the independence and credibility to resolve a case that drips with politics, as when then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago investigated (and convicted of perjury and other offenses) I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who had been Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

Why Holder won’t act is a mystery he’s inviting Americans to resolve, uncharitably, in their own minds.

The latest revelations is that emails which may shed light on the matter which were required by law to be retained may have either been irrevocably lost or destroyed.

Only the most partisan can possibly doubt that there is a scandal here. The IG acknowledged wrongdoing more than a year ago and Lois Lerner’s early assertions that the actions were only those of a few rogue agents in a single office have been revealed as either most charitably mistaken or more likely baldfaced lies. The scandal is either the classic one of wrongdoing and subsequent cover-up or monumental incompetence and scofflawry. Either is a scandal.

Public trust in government is at historic lows. That may have been abetted by relentless Republican attacks on government but it’s obvious that the federal government has done itself little good over the last six years. We’re in desperate need of the air being cleared and I’m not really sure what actions or policies will bring that about.

If early indications are any gauge we’re shaping up for a strong anti-incumbent election in the fall. Since rates of retention in office approach 90%, an anti-incumbent wave would mean that only three-quarters of incumbents would be returned to office. I don’t think will quite do it.

81 comments… add one

  • ...

    Jan, if anyone else tried to cheat you like that, you could sue them. Or at least never deal with them again. But what can you do against the king’s men?

    Also, you’d better stop discussing this online. The NSA is taking notes. That’s probably how you got in this mess to begin with.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: Clearly, if they had been doing so impartially, there wole be no need for any of this.

    There are two issues. They used keywords, which seems reasonable on the surface, but can be seen as bias. And there were more groups on the right trying to use that aspect of the law, so more were scrutinized.

    CStanley: Even if it’s just symbolic, I’d like for them to go on record.

    Nothing gets past the chair. Have a vote, that’s how you get them on record.

    : No reason that every member of the executive branch shouldn’t claim their right to silence on every question put to them by Congress.

    You could say the same about any witness in any proceeding, but taking the 5th requires the possibility of self-incrimination, not mere embarrassment, or obstinance. There’s substantial case law involved.

    : If someone from the executive claims they can’t answer questions about their actual duties because otherwise they will incriminate themselves, then those people ars clearly crooks, they should be removed from office, and their bosses should be hauled into Congress to answer the questions.

    Lerner no longer works for the government.

    : Also, granting immunity to get someone to testify about their actual job duties sets a precedent that people committing any potentially illegal acts in government can get a free pass from Congress.

    If there is a conspiracy that involves higher ups, as some have claimed, then a grant of immunity may be reasonable.

  • CStanley

    And there were more groups on the right trying to use that aspect of the law, so more were scrutinized.

    On a percentage basis, the numbers were much higher for the conservative groups and the BOLO triggered a different set of actions for them.

  • ...

    People still work at the IRS who have responsibility for overseeing the work Lerner’s office did. The current Commissioner should be fired for stonewalling and the SecTreas should have his ass plopped down in front of the committee to explain why he can’t find anyone at the IRS from the IT staff up to the commissioner’s office to do a competent and/or honest job at anything. Failing that, impeach the President and remove him freom office for allowing the IRS to be used for his personal gain.

    This is bullshit, and it is obvious bullshit. They are stonewalling, obfuscating and now destroying evidence. It is completely unreasonable at this point to assume anything but the worst of the Administration’s intent and involvement, unless they can prove otherwise.

  • Guarneri

    “This is bullshit, and it is obvious bullshit. They are stonewalling, obfuscating and now destroying evidence. It is completely unreasonable at this point to assume anything but the worst of the Administration’s intent and involvement, unless they can prove otherwise.”

    Ice, you racist slut………

  • ...

    Lol @ Mr. Aykroyd.

  • Zachriel

    Dave Schuler: The latest revelations is that emails which may shed light on the matter which were required by law to be retained may have either been irrevocably lost or destroyed.

    The data problem was reported in 2011, two years before the scandal broke.

    CStanley: On a percentage basis, the numbers were much higher for the conservative groups and the BOLO triggered a different set of actions for them.

    That doesn’t necessarily imply bias. The right had a lot of new groups run by highly energized dilettantes.

  • CStanley

    That doesn’t necessarily imply bias. The right had a lot of new groups run by highly energized dilettantes

    Nonsense. It doesn’t just imply bias, it’s probative of it. The criteria that the IRS is supposed to use is percentage of activities that are political, full stop. Even that is problematic, but to accept them making decisions about who is more or less likely to overstep the bounds, is ridiculous. To ask that is to send an engraved invitation to partisan abuse.

  • Guarneri

    >>>>>>>>

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: It doesn’t just imply bias, it’s probative of it.

    That is not correct. If the applications are faulty, such as the explanation as to why they should be tax exempt, then they will be scrutinized, and further inquiries made.

    What’s interesting is how they claim their political activities were inhibited, all the while attesting to the IRS that the groups were formed primarily for non-political activities.

  • CStanley

    That is not correct. If the applications are faulty, such as the explanation as to why they should be tax exempt, then they will be scrutinized, and further inquiries made.

    Except that is not what happened. They were singled out, profiled, if you will, for “applying while conservative”. If the agency were just selecting random groups for enhanced scrutiny, and then moving applications through a chain of heightened scrutiny based on initial red flags that weren’t based on partisan criteria, then that would have been appropriate.

    What’s interesting is how they claim their political activities were inhibited, all the while attesting to the IRS that the groups were formed primarily for non-political activities.
    These aren’t apolitical groups. It is permissible for nearly half of their activities to be political advocacy. Now I would agree that this is a stupid basis for tax exemption, but obviously partisans on both sides can and will take advantage of this structure and it is completely inappropriate for the IRS to put it’s thumb on the scale. And having obvious partisans in these sensitive positions is particularly egregious.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: If the agency were just selecting random groups for enhanced scrutiny, and then moving applications through a chain of heightened scrutiny based on initial red flags that weren’t based on partisan criteria, then that would have been appropriate.

    So? Do you have evidence this wasn’t the case?

    CStanley: These aren’t apolitical groups. It is permissible for nearly half of their activities to be political advocacy.

    They have to be “operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements”. Many of them are obvious front-groups for funneling campaign money.

    Regardless, they still have the right to be treated equitably.

  • So? Do you have evidence this wasn’t the case?

    Zachriel, you’re beating a dead horse. The IG found cause to believe that the IRS had acted wrongly more than a year ago. There’s no use in insisting that nothing untowards happened at this point.

    I don’t think there’s any longer any reason to debate over whether the IRS acted wrongly (since the IG found that it had) or whether it was just in one office or the actions of a few rogue agents. Why re-litigate it?

    At this point there’s a legitimate investigation into the degree to which IRS officials have obstructed investigation and to how high the wrongdoing rises. I happen to think that it does not reach the White House but the White House, the IRS, and Democratic Party officials, generally, are acting so guilty it lends credence to an otherwise iffy case.

    All of that supports the case for a special prosecutor.

  • ...

    “There’s no use in insisting that nothing untowards happened at this point.”

    And yet, that has been done for a year now by those that support this president having completely unchecked power to do whatever the Hell he wants.

  • CStanley

    I’m guessing that Zachriel’s rue litigation might be related to the fact that Democrats on the oversight committee tried to litigate the TIGTA report last summer.. By bringing fort a document that included progressive keywords as BOLO terms.

    My take on that is, if this was the case then why didn’t the agency defend itself with that when the IG was investigating the matter? If they were innocent of bias and had prepared BOLO terms purposely from across the political spectrum, then it makes no sense that the IG would have issued a critical report with recommendations for remedies, nor that the agency would have accepted and acknowledged the criticism.

  • ...

    Hey Drew, a question: Think the IRS record keeping protocols would pass SOX muster?

    Thank god they got that passed to make big organizations keep to the straight and narrow.

  • Zachriel

    Dave Schuler: The IG found cause to believe that the IRS had acted wrongly more than a year ago.

    As you said, it has already been determined that it was inappropriate to use politically-charged keywords. We agree. So? The claim is that there was a conscious effort to bias the approval process, and that this effort was led from high political office.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: By bringing fort a document that included progressive keywords as BOLO terms.

    That would certainly suggest there was no conscious bias.

  • CStanley

    CStanley: By bringing fort a document that included progressive keywords as BOLO terms.

    That would certainly suggest there was no conscious bias.

    Except that it was then determined that those other terms did not lead to the “special treatment” that the conservative group received.

    It’s like a guy admits to committing a crime, and then is convicted for it…but on appeal, his lawyer produces an appointment card showing he had a doctor’s appointment scheduled at the time that the crime was committed. That might “suggest” that he had an alibi, except for the fact that he already went on record admitting that he didn’t keep the appointment.

    Here’s the IG testimony, relevant part is the last two paragraphs.

    http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/congress/congress_07182013.pdf

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: Except that it was then determined that those other terms did not lead to the “special treatment” that the conservative group received.

    “whether TIGTA saw any evidence that IRS employees were politically motivated in their creation or use of the inappropriate screening criteria. I stated unequivocally, quote ‘[W]e received no evidence during the course of our audit to that effect’ Unquote.”

  • CStanley

    Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.

    Especially since the interviews with the Cincinnati staffers took place with their DC supervisor, Holly Paz, in the room. I have no idea why the IG agreed to that.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.

    It’s your citation! You offered it as proof that there was a partisan motive.

  • CStanley

    No, I offered it as proof that:
    “it was then determined that those other terms did not lead to the “special treatment” that the conservative group received.”

    That is proof that the cases were handled with bias, but it doesn’t go as far as establishing the motives for the bias, or who imposed it into the system.

  • Zachriel

    Zachriel: That would certainly suggest there was no conscious bias.

    CStanley: Except that … Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.

    There’s no doubt there was a surge of Tea Party activity whose primary motivation was political and partisan.

    Nevertheless, just as it might make superficial sense to target blacks for extra scrutiny when there is a surge of crime in the black community, subjecting all Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny has at least the appearance of bias.

  • CStanley

    It’s good that you at least acknowledge the problem with profiling, but consider also that this profiling was to try to disallow the status of these organizations altogether, not just to try to catch them in the act of wrongdoing. To use an analogy to race and crime, it would be more like an organized attempt to prevent black people from moving into a neighborhood, rather than comparing this to police taking a more active role in policing blacks over whites. Both of those are problematic, but the former is even less defensible.

    And that’s not to even mention that it’s dubious, at best, to assert that conservative groups have a higher probability of breaking the tax rules on political activity than do liberal groups.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: It’s good that you at least acknowledge the problem with profiling, but consider also that this profiling was to try to disallow the status of these organizations altogether, not just to try to catch them in the act of wrongdoing.

    So you are claiming there was a conscious effort at political bias. You provided one citation, which directly contradicted this claim.

    CStanley: And that’s not to even mention that it’s dubious, at best, to assert that conservative groups have a higher probability of breaking the tax rules on political activity than do liberal groups.

    The Tea Party represented a highly motivated group of dilettantes who have little respect for process, and have a tendency to think that finding a loophole is a meritorious endeavor. So yes, conservatives groups at the time were much more likely to try to evade tax rules on political activity.

  • Cstanley

    There is plenty of reason to infer the political motivation, but as of this time it is not proven. Conveniently the evidence that could prove or disprove that inference has disappeared, but I’m sure it’s just an unfortunate coincidence.

    “group of dilettantes”
    “So yes, conservatives groups at the time were much more likely to try to evade tax rules on political activity.”

    At least I’m providing citations. Where are yours?

  • Cstanley

    I am thinking I should stop trying to change your mind about this though. If partisan Democrats want to run with defending this behavior from the IRS, I’m sure it will go over well with voters.

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: At least I’m providing citations.

    Sorry. Thought the growth of the Tea Party was common knowledge.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ‘Citizens United’ ruling unleashed a torrent of new political spending and 501(c)4 groups became a popular conduit for some of it, on both ends of the political spectrum, but especially for conservatives.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/13/us-usa-tax-irs-criteria-idUSBRE94C03N20130513

    “About 85 percent of the money that was spent by nonprofits in the 2012 cycle, as reported to the FEC, was paid out by conservative groups.”
    http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/05/501c-factsheet/

  • Zachriel

    CStanley: At least I’m providing citations.

    Sorry. Thought the growth of the Tea Party was common knowledge.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ‘Citizens United’ ruling unleashed a torrent of new political spending and 501(c)4 groups became a popular conduit for some of it, on both ends of the political spectrum, but especially for conservatives.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/13/us-usa-tax-irs-criteria-idUSBRE94C03N20130513

  • Zachriel

    “About 85 percent of the money that was spent by nonprofits in the 2012 cycle, as reported to the FEC, was paid out by conservative groups.”
    http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/05/501c-factsheet/

Leave a Comment