IRS Scandal Joins Other Republican-Created Scandals In Being Debunked When Investigated

As I noted at the start of the year, the Obama administration has been remarkably free of scandals–or at least real scandals as opposed to scandals manufactured by Republicans. Investigations of faux scandals ranging from Benghazi to Grubergate all failed to show any truth to right wing accusations and conspiracy theories. Now we find that not even Darrell Issa, despite often engaging in McCarthyist tactics, has been able to find any evidence for the Republican claims of coordination between the White House and the IRS to investigate conservative groups. The New York Times reports:

An 18-month congressional investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s mistreatment of conservative political groups seeking tax exemptions has failed to show coordination between agency officials and political operatives in the White House, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Despite lacking any evidence to back up the original claims, Issa did attempt to provide some rhetoric to excite conservatives in alleging that conservative groups did receive scrutiny in applying for tax exceptions. What conservatives ignore is that 1) it is the job of the IRS to review tax exemptions by political groups (with far too many probably getting away with unwarranted tax breaks) and that while Issa purposely limited his investigation to scrutiny placed on conservative groups, progressive groups faced an even greater amount of scrutiny by the IRS.

While conducting this investigation, Issa has repeatedly released selective testimony which suggested scrutiny of conservative groups and has refused to release other testimony which doesn’t line up with his claims:

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, who has compared the inquiry about the I.R.S. to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s investigation of suspected communists in the 1950s, was sharply critical of the report.

“It is revealing that the Republicans — yet again — are leaking cherry-picked excerpts of documents to support their preconceived political narrative,” Mr. Cummings said, “without allowing committee members to even see their conclusions or vote on them first.”

The Republican smears against Obama are no longer working out so well with them, and Obama might get the last laugh with his approval now surging to a twenty month high at 48 percent. Just maybe the stronger looking Obama we have seen since the midterm elections, accompanied Democrats who, despite being in the minority are less held back by the conservative members who lost in November, will be a more potent force in fighting the authoritarian right in the upcoming years.

Sarah Palin’s Lost Email

When not inventing conspiracy stories regarding Benghazi, conservatives are preoccupied with conspiracy theories about the IRS, primarily spread by looking at investigations of conservative groups while ignoring similar investigation of progressive groups. The lost email has further excited them, despite a policy of only backing up email on IRS servers for about six months, making the claims of lost email appear quite plausible. Surely conservatives are capable of understanding the consequences of government inefficiency, such as a poor backup policy.

Of course the same conservatives who see a conspiracy here showed no concern over the 22 million lost emails under Bush during the controversy over the improper dismissal of U.S.  attorneys for political reasons (when, contrary to the IRS case, there was real evidence on wrong doing). Similarly they ignore the manner in which the Bush administration broke the law by using outside email accounts to avoid detection.

If we are seeing rampant hypocrisy among conservatives, the most flagrant, not surprisingly, is Sarah Palin. Despite all her attacks on Obama over the lost email (which would have nothing to do with him even if Lois Lerner really was hiding something), Palin had a number of missing email of her own:

Perhaps Palin forgot what it was like to be the subject of a similar investigation exactly three years earlier after her office released her emails to the press. On June 13, 2011, the Anchorage Daily News reported that “Nearly a month of former Gov. Sarah Palin’s emails are missing from the documents released to media organizations last week, a gap that raises questions about what other emails might also be missing from what’s being nationally reported as her record as Alaska governor.”

According to the documents Palin’s office provided, she sent no official emails from between December 8, 2006 and December 29, 2006, in other words her first full month in office. As the paper put it, “That means zero emails during a period during which, among other things, Palin put out her proposed state budget, appointed an attorney general, killed the contract for a road out of Juneau and vetoed a bill that sought to block state public employee benefits to same-sex couples.”

The Anchorage Daily News that the gap was due to Palin’s preponderance to use a personal Yahoo email account instead of the official state account, thereby allowing her to hide certain communication from public view. The first email Palin was on record as sending came on January 2, 2007, one month after she took office.

If the IRS deliberately destroyed evidence of wrongdoing by “losing” emails, that would be unacceptable. So far, there is no concrete evidence that that is what happened. Similarly, Palin’s camp never offered an explanation for the missing emails from her office and we will likely never know if they were intentionally trying to hide specific actions.

Either way, Palin’s decision to focus her anger on missing emails has more than a whiff of hypocrisy.

Cries Over Lois Lerner’s Lost Email Look Like Just Another Conservative Conspiracy Theory

Conservatives 1) love to act like the victim and 2) have been desperately trying to make it appear that there have been scandals which they can attribute to the Obama administration. As the Obama administration has been remarkably free of scandals, they have had to invent several. The IRS scandal first appeared to be something to be concerned about, until we realized that while Republicans like Darrell Issa were only looking at conservative groups which had problems with the IRS, it turned out that both conservative and progressive groups received extra scrutiny. This hardly comes as a surprise in light of the ambiguous tax regulations which deny tax breaks for political organizations when engaged in political activity.

Conservative conspiracy theorists typically work by using limited information to suggest something is not right, when the full facts often contradict this. There is no way I, or anyone else, can say for certain what happened to Lois Lerner’s lost emails, but once the full facts are reviewed, rather than the distorted reporting on many conservative sites, it looks far less likely that anything improper occurred. I’ve seen some claims that the email couldn’t really be lost because they are all backed up, but this just simply is not the case. The New York Times reports:

The I.R.S. initially provided 11,000 of her emails that it deemed directly related to the applications for tax exemption filed by political groups. Under pressure from Republican leaders, Mr. Koskinen later agreed to provide all of Ms. Lerner’s emails but said that doing so might take years. Since then, the I.R.S. has provided roughly 32,000 more emails directly from Ms. Lerner’s account.

After the agency discovered that its initial search of Ms. Lerner’s emails was incomplete because of the computer crash, it recovered 24,000 of the missing messages from email accounts on the other end of Ms. Lerner’s correspondence, the I.R.S. said.

Although Mr. Koskinen had indicated in congressional testimony that I.R.S. emails were stored on servers in the agency’s archives and could be recovered, the agency said Friday that was not the case.

The I.R.S. said that because of financial and computing constraints, some emails had been stored only on individuals’ computers and not on servers, and that “backup tapes” from 2011 “no longer exist because they have been recycled.”

Don’t trust the left-leaning New York Times? The right-leaning Politico reports the same practices with respect to email:

The IRS explains in the letter that it has not always backed up all employee emails due to the cost the agency would incur for allowing 90,000 employees to store their information on the IRS’s internal system.

Currently, IRS employees have the capacity to store about 6,000 emails in their active Outlook email boxes, which are saved on the IRS centralized network. But the letter and background document sent to the Hill Friday said they could only store about 1,800 emails in their active folders prior to July 2011.

When their inboxes were full, IRS employees had to make room by either deleting emails or archiving them on their personal computers. Archived data were not stored by the IRS but by the individual.

Such archived emails on Lerner’s computer were what were lost when her computer crashed.

“Any of Ms. Lerner’s email that was only stored on that computer’s hard drive would have been lost when the hard drive crashed and could not be recovered,” the letter reads.

Overall, more than 250 IRS employees have spent more than 120,000 hours digging up documents and emails for congressional investigators, spending $10 million.

On the one hand this does not look like a very efficient way to back up data. On the other hand, considering how many offices there are of the federal government throughout the country, the cost of backing up everything, including all email, indefinitely would be staggering. Not many government offices have the budget for this, but maybe the NSA still has record of the lost email.

I’m sure there are many conservatives who still won’t believe that email can be lost until they hear it on Fox or from Rush. In that case, how about what may have been as many as 22 million lost emails under Bush during the controversy over the improper dismissal of U.S.  attorneys for political reasons. There is a key difference here. While the Republican claims in the IRS case have been debunked, there was a real scandal and impropriety in the Bush White House which led directly to Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. In addition, the Bush administration broke the law by using outside accounts to avoid detection and circumvent laws regarding maintaining email in the Executive Branch.

If there was a conspiracy to hide emails,it doesn’t make sense that it would be email from before 2012 which is missing. Steve Benen put it into perspective:

For Republicans and their allies, this sounds like a convenient way to deny investigators access to Lerner’s emails. But note, the IRS has already produced 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, from 2009 to 2013, and were able to piece together 24,000 Lerner emails from the missing period based those who’d been cc’d in various messages. This is hardly evidence of a cover-up.

For that matter, note that Republicans and conspiracy theorists are principally interested in Lerner’s messages from 2012 – the election year. The computer crash affected emails from before 2012. If the IRS intended to hide potentially damaging materials from investigators, and it was willing to use a made-up technical problem to obscure the truth, chances are the agency would have scrapped Lerner’s emails from the relevant period, not emails from before the relevant period.

When all the facts are considered, Lois Lerner no longer looks like a modern day Rose Mary Woods. It all looks like just another weak attempt by conservatives to portray themselves as victims, and one more unfounded conservative conspiracy theory.

Reality Versus Republicans On The Affordable Care Act

Last fall was a wonderful time for Republicans. Their fortunes changed quickly after it looked like they were in serious trouble over another threat to shut down the government. Then started out a failure and there were stories about people receiving letters canceling their insurance coverage.

The Republican luck didn’t last. The web site was fixed (with some work still to be done). Most of the people who received cancellation letters were either able to continue their current plans or receive better coverage at a lower rate. The Republicans made further predictions of doom for Obamacare but their predictions failed to come true and the Affordable Care Act is doing better than most supporters predicted. Instead of the unfavorable news headlines of last fall, we are now seeing headlines such as this one at The Hill: GOP struggles to land punches at ObamaCare insurance hearing.

Republicans struggled to land punches against ObamaCare in a hearing Wednesday, as responses from insurance companies deflated several lines of questioning.

Democratic lawmakers were emboldened to defend the Affordable Care Act with renewed vigor and levity, creating a dynamic rarely seen in the debate over ObamaCare…

But Republicans were visibly exasperated, as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee’s allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium.

Four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate.

Contrary to Republican claims that one-third have not paid their premium, reports available so far from insurance companies range from 80 percent to over 90 percent. As payment is not due for everyone who signed up at the last minute, and there is a ninety day grace period, we will not have an exact figure for a while longer. There is enough information to verify the White House claims that at least 80 percent are paying and debunk the Republican claims of only 67 percent.

The fact-checkers continue to demonstrate how Republican campaigns are based upon lies. For example, Glenn Kessler’s column  exposes both Rand Paul and a Nebraska candidate for lying about the Affordable Care Act.

Of course the facts will not keep Republicans from claiming that customers aren’t paying their premiums, denying the number who have signed up, or even denying the benefits of obtaining health care coverage. False attacks on the Affordable Care Act are the same as Republican attacks on Obama’s birth certificate, Benghazi, or the IRS. While all these claims have been shown to be false, Republicans will keep up their lies because they fire up their base to vote, and Republicans have no concern about the facts.

Remember, Republicans are also the party which includes people who deny well-established science ranging from evolution to climate change. The world has probably never seen a more ignorant group in government than today’s Republican Party.

Update: More disappointment for the Republicans reported by The New York Times:

House Republicans summoned a half-dozen health insurance executives to a hearing Wednesday envisioned as another forum for criticism of the Affordable Care Act. But insurers refused to go along with the plan, and surprised Republican critics of the law by undercutting some of their arguments against it.

Insurers, appearing before a panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, testified that the law had not led to a government takeover of their industry, as some Republicans had predicted. Indeed, several insurers said their stock prices had increased in the last few years.

The executives also declined to endorse Republican predictions of a sharp increase in insurance premiums next year, saying they did not have enough data or experience to forecast prices. And they said they were already receiving federal subsidy payments intended to make insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income people.

Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, sounded a bit disappointed at the end of the hearing. He marveled at the subdued testimony and complained that no one at the witness table “wanted to be forthcoming.”

But Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, appeared delighted.

“These companies were not the biggest supporters of the law,” she said. “They still oppose many provisions, but they do not live in a Republican echo chamber. They live in the real world.”

The Surprising Lack Of Scandals In The Obama Administration

The recent scandals released about Chris Christie remind us of how often we expect to find scandals in government. Power does corrupt. We have become so accustomed to scandals at the top levels of government that it almost comes as a surprise that the Obama administration has been so free of scandal. Some observers almost take it for granted that a scandal must happen sooner or later. For example, back in 2011 Brendan Nyhan described this as an aberration, waiting for an inevitable scandal to occur:

Obama has been extremely fortunate: My research (PDF) on presidential scandals shows that few presidents avoid scandal for as long as he has. In the 1977-2008 period, the longest that a president has gone without having a scandal featured in a front-page Washington Post article is 34 months – the period between when President Bush took office in January 2001 and the Valerie Plame scandal in October 2003. Obama has already made it almost as long despite the lack of a comparable event to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Of course when speaking of the Obama administration as being free of scandal, I am speaking of real world facts, not the fantasy world of Fox and the right wing noise machine. They have invented plenty of scandals, but in every case their claims were contradicted by the facts. Just this week we had the Senate Intelligence Committee report which debunked the Republican conspiracy theories regarding Benghazi.

When Paul Waldman wrote about how the Republican claims about Solyndra didn’t hold up, he entitled his post Obama Administration Oddly Scandal-Free, again suggesting how the presence of scandals has become what is expected. Paul Waldman recently reviewed this topic again in a post entitled The Scandalous Lack of Obama Administration Scandals. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan, who also provides many of the earlier links in this post). He set up these reasonable conditions for what constitutes a scandal:

So let’s take a look back and see what happened to all these affairs that never turned out to be the scandals conservatives hoped they would be. Just to be clear, when I use the word “scandalous” in this list, I don’t mean “bad.” When you say, for instance, that there has been little evidence of anything scandalous occurring in Benghazi, conservatives often reply, “Four people died!” Indeed they did, and that was terribly tragic, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a scandal. Two hundred and forty-one Americans died in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call that a “Reagan administration scandal,” because while there were some bad decisions made with awful results, there wasn’t any criminality or corruption or cover-up, the things we usually associate with scandals.

To make a truly meaningful administration scandal, you need two things. First, there has to be some kind of criminal or morally atrocious behavior somewhere, which we can put under the general heading of “malfeasance.” People doing their jobs poorly isn’t enough to make it a scandal. Second, you need the involvement of highly-placed administration officials. Only an affair with both features is a scandal. If a ranger at Denali National Park in Alaska is found to be running a moose-based prostitution ring, that’s only an administration scandal if people high up in the administration knew about it.

Waldman looked at all those scandals which truly dishonest politicians such as Darrel Issa are wasting tax-payers money with faux investigations on. (I am linking to this in case anyone doubts that this attitude really comes from the Republican Party, and not just the clowns in the right wing media who are making these bogus claims.) Waldman looked at Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, and aggressive leak investigations. In each case, the conservative claims have not held up. He concluded:

So what can we conclude from all this? There are three possible explanations for the lack of a major scandal in the Obama administration. The first is that something truly horrific has gone on, but as of yet it hasn’t been discovered. The second is that the scandals we know about haven’t been fully investigated, and will eventually yield more wrongdoing than we currently understand. And the third is that the administration has not, in fact, committed any horrible crimes. Which seems most likely?

That isn’t to say that they haven’t made plenty of mistakes, because they have. And there are three years left in Obama’s term, so you never know—maybe someone will discover that he’s having an affair with Jennifer Lawrence, or that Valerie Jarrett is a mole for the Yakuza, or that those FEMA concentration camps are real. But there’s also the chance that he’ll end his term without any major scandal, which would be quite something.

A final note: The question of whether we should think of NSA spying as a scandal in these terms is a complicated one that I’m going to have to leave for another day.

And he didn’t even mention the widely held conservative belief of a conspiracy to pass off a foreign-born Muslim Socialist as an American citizen.  Claims of an affair with Jennifer Lawrence from the right are not that far-fetched in light of this. As for NSA spying, I think this falls in the category of policies we disagree with, but not a political scandal.

Regarding the lack of scandal in the Obama administration, the simple explanation might be what Andrew Sullivan previously suggested–that he is not corrupt. I suspect that the explanation might also come down to a difference in how different people see government and where they have come from. Scandals may have become more prevalent in Republican administrations because many on the right oppose the American system of government and do not see it as a force which can be used for good. To them, government is evil and they see nothing wrong for using it for their own ends when in power. In contrast Obama sees the actual functions of government as something worthy of pursuing as an end in itself. Many top government leaders come from positions of wealth and power and seek to increase this as much as possible. Even top positions in government are not necessarily enough for their lust for power. For a former community organizer and someone who not long ago was no more powerful than a member of the Illinois State Senate, the presidency is enough.

This is all quite frustrating for those on the right who seek to attack Obama as corrupt, forcing them to make up a long list of fallacious attacks.

The Obama Scandals, A Look Back At The Fiction

Jonathan Chait looks back on those days not very long ago when the media was obsessed by scandals involving the Obama administration now that the claims of scandal have been debunked.

Do you remember how all-consuming the “Obama scandals” once were? This was a turn of events so dramatic it defined Obama’s entire second term — he was “waylaid by controversies,” or at least “seriously off track,” “beset by scandals,” enduring a “second-term curse,” the prospect of “endless scandals,” Republicans “beginning to write his legislative obituary,” and Washington had “turned on Obama.” A ritualistic media grilling of Jay Carney, featuring the ritualistic comparisons of him to Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, sanctified the impression of guilt.

After providing evidence as to why the IRS scandal was not a true scandal involving Obama, Chait resumed:

Why did we think the agency was targeting only conservatives? Because apparently Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, ordered the agency to audit its treatment of tea-party groups, and only tea-party groups. The IRS dutifully reported it was indeed targeting tea-party groups; everybody assumed it was doing no such thing to liberal groups. The IRS inspector general is defending its probe, but the IRS’s flagging of conservative groups seems, at worst, to be marginally stricter than its flagging of liberal groups, not the one-sided political witch hunt potrayed by early reports.

What about the rest of the scandals? Well, there aren’t any, and there never were. Benghazi is a case of a bunch of confused agencies caught up in a fast-moving story trying to coordinate talking points. The ever-shifting third leg of the Obama scandal trifecta — Obama’s prosecution of leaks, or use of the National Security Agency — is not a scandal at all. It’s a policy controversy. One can argue that Obama’s policy stance is wrong, or dangerous, or a threat to democracy. But when the president is carrying out duly passed laws and acting at every stage with judicial approval, then the issue is the laws themselves, not misconduct.

The whole Obama scandal episode is a classic creation of a “narrative” — the stitching together of unrelated data points into a story. What actually happened is this: House Republicans passed a twisted account of a hearing to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, who misleadingly claimed to have seen it, creating the impression that the administration was caught in a major lie. Then the IRS story broke, which we now see was Republicans demanding a one-sided audit and thus producing the impression of one-sided treatment. In that context, legitimate controversies over Obama’s civil-rights policies became the “three Obama scandals,” exposing a government panopticon, if not a Nixonian administration bent on revenge.

The collapse of the Benghazi story happened very quickly, when Jake Tapper’s reporting found that Karl had peddled a bogus story. (It’s notable that the only misconduct in both the Benghazi and the IRS stories was committed by House Republicans.) But the scandal cloud lingered through the still-extant IRS scandal, which in turn lent the scandal odor to the civil-liberties dispute. Now that the IRS scandal has turned into a Darrell Issa scandal, we’re left with … an important dispute over domestic surveillance, which has nothing to do with scandal at all. The entire scandal narrative was an illusion.

The biggest scandals here are that Republicans are misusing their positions to fabricate scandals, including hiding testimony from the American people which doesn’t support their false narrative.

Claims of Anti-Tea Party Conspiracy Fall Apart With Revelations That IRS Also Targeted Progressive Groups

After the disclosure that the IRS had been placing Tea Party groups under extra scrutiny for tax breaks, Republicans thought they had a real scandal. When the facts didn’t support their claims, they tried everything from fabricating fake facts to hiding the actual facts which came out in Congressional testimony. Their claims of a conspiracy orchestrated by the Obama White House took another blow when Bloomberg reported that the IRS was similarly taking a closer look at progressive organizations:

The Internal Revenue Service used terms such as “progressive” and evidence of advocacy on Israel to flag groups’ tax-exempt applications for extra attention, complicating what had been seen as targeted scrutiny for small-government groups.

The IRS’s disclosure yesterday of 15 redacted versions of its Be On the Lookout document, or BOLO, bolstered its contention that delays experienced by Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status were a symptom of mismanagement and not politically motivated action.

As other evidence has also demonstrated, low-level career bureaucrats were taking shortcuts, faced with interpreting poorly written laws which determine tax-exemption based upon whether an organization’s activity are primarily political. While it is necessary to treat all groups equally, it comes as no surprise that IRS agents suspected that organizations with words including Tea Party and Patriot might be primarily engaged in political activity without any direction from the White House.

First Read put this and another faux scandal in perspective:

IRS controversy loses its punch? In the past week, we’ve seen two revelations that have taken some of the punch out of the IRS controversy. First, per the testimony of a self-described conservative Republican IRS frontline manager in Cincinnati, the employee had no reason to believe the Obama White House played any role in seeming to target conservative-sounding groups, confirming the inspector general’s conclusion. Then yesterday, we discovered the IRS “used terms such as ‘progressive’ and evidence of advocacy on Israel to flag groups’ tax-exempt applications for extra attention, complicating what had been seen as targeted scrutiny for small-government groups,” Bloomberg News writes. “The IRS’s disclosure yesterday of 15 redacted versions of its Be On the Lookout document, or BOLO, bolstered its contention that delays experienced by Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status were a symptom of mismanagement and not politically motivated action.” Bottom line: The IRS controversy/scandal looks much more like an agency controversy/scandal (where wrongdoing was committed by bureaucrats) than a full-blown political controversy/scandal (where it goes all the way to the top). And in retrospect, that also applies to those Benghazi talking points.

Conservative Principles versus Hypocrisy on Big Government

One of the biggest myths in politics is that Republicans support small government. They invariably use calls for small government to oppose most programs when out of office, but government shows tremendous growth whenever Republicans are in power. This includes both new programs and wage and price controls under Richard Nixon to the major expansions in government spending under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Of course Republicans tend to be selective when discussing big government, ignoring both unfunded wars and their push for greater government interference in the private lives of individuals.

Ezra Klein had a post yesterday entitled How Republicans stopped worrying and learned to love big government. This title could actually have been used many times over the past decades and for a variety of policies. Ezra used this for just one particular hypocrisy on the part of Republicans, a “demand that the federal government start predicting the deficit 30 years into the future.” Ezra outlined the difficulties in making such projections, and pointed out how this demand contradicts a key Republican belief:

A core insight of conservatism is that central planning fails because economies are too complicated for governments to effectively predict. But if you believe the government can usefully predict the path of the economy not just over the next 10 years but over 30, then you should be begging the government to intervene more directly in economic affairs.

Conservatives are generally correct in this criticism of central planning, as long as this idea isn’t used, as many conservatives do, to argue against any government regulation of the economy. This contradiction is also somewhat analogous to another hypocritical argument being made by conservatives lately regarding the IRS handling of Tea Party applications for tax breaks. While Republicans generally, and again often correctly, complain about how big and unwieldy the federal government can be, they also argue that Barack Obama must have been aware of, and actually directing for sinister purposes,  what low level IRS career bureaucrats were doing wrong because they are part of his administration.

Conservative economics actually do include some core beliefs which make sense. However, modern conservatives tend to fail to understand how these principles apply to the real world, while liberals tend to agree with these conservative beliefs where they make sense (despite the many straw man attacks seen on liberal views from the right).

Conservatives Spreading Fake Story To Invent IRS Smoking Gun

The recent IRS scandal provides a good example of the way in which the right wing noise machine spreads misinformation. Here they have a real abuse–the increased scrutiny of conservative organizations applying for tax breaks. Too many conservatives cannot settle for what is actually there and insist upon trying to turn it into a Watergate-style standard, which it doesn’t come close to being. From the actual evidence so far we have lower level bureaucrats in the IRS taking short cuts. We have no evidence of a case of a president using the IRS to harass political enemies, as was done by Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Now the conservative claim to have found a smoking gun, but it has blown up in their faces.

The Daily Caller checked public visitor records and believed that they found that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times since Obama took office. To the paranoid conservative mind, this must have meant that Obama was meeting with Shulman plotting how the IRS would harass conservative groups.

There are so many holes in this story. The 157 episodes documented are times in which Shulman was cleared to visit the White House or Executive Office Building. This included everything from meetings regarding the IRS’s role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to possibly the annual Easter Egg Roll with his kids.  This does not mean meetings with Obama to plot attacks on conservatives. Plus, while this represents times in which Shulman was cleared to visit the White House and Executive Office Building, there is only confirmation that he attended eleven events.

Conservatives have also tried to compare this bogus 157 number to the number of times his predecessor visited with George Bush. We will never know. The Obama White House remains less transparent than many of us hope, but it is a considerable improvement over the Bush White House, which didn’t release the visitor logs the way that Obama did.


Quote of The Day With Seth and Amy

“Really, Tea Party? Really? You’re surprised that you’re targeted by the IRS? You named yourself after a group of people who proudly and historically violated tax laws! Look, if I had a vanity license plate that said ‘Weed 420,’ I might expect to get pulled over now and then.” –Amy Poehler

“And really, politics aside, should we be surprised that the IRS takes special attention to the tax forms of the Tea Party? Judging from the terrible spelling on their protest signs, attention to detail isn’t really their thing.” –Seth Meyers