, Salem, MA


June 11, 2013

Our view: IRS probe should focus on truth, not politics

After reports that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted conservative groups, President Obama said anyone responsible should be held accountable. That seems problematic at the moment, for fear of politics.

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations office, told a House committee last month that she has “not done anything wrong.” That said, she invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify.

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was questioned separately on why he visited the White House 118 times in 2010 and 2011, at the same time those groups were targeted. He said the meetings — “that may or may not have happened” — were probably to discuss ObamaCare. “The IRS has a major role in the money flow,” he said, adding glibly that the White House Easter Egg roll may have been the reason for one visit. Bad timing for jokes, for sure.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, lashed back, “It didn’t come up in casual conversation, after 132 members of Congress contacted you about it? You sure you didn’t bring it up with anyone in the White House?”

The House oversight committee is touting Treasury Department emails that promise to provide interim reports on its investigations of IRS methods as early as March 2012. Yet, these reports were delayed until the IRS announced the results itself in May 2013.

The Treasury inspector general, J. Russell George, has testified that it would be “impractical for us to give you partial information that may not be accurate. It would be counterproductive.” George has testified that Americans need to have trust that the IRS, “is operated with the highest degree of integrity.”

More than half of the respondents in a recent CNN poll say the GOP hasn’t overplayed its hand regarding the IRS probe, but Republicans must tread carefully here, lest they appear to be only interested in notching political points. The American people want the truth, not just a relentless attack to inflict maximum pain on the opposing party.

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