Lawsuit discovery proves IRS lied about targeting conservative groups

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday August 08th, 2016

Busted.

The media tried to tell us two years ago that the notion of the IRS targeting conservative groups had been "debunked" and that the scandal had "fizzled." Neither of these notions was true. If anything, they were self-fulfulling prophecies. The media didn't want to discover the truth, so they didn't bother to dig for it, thus making it plausible (at least in their warped minds) to claim there was no story.

But there was, and what journalistic malpractice tried hard to cover up, a lawsuit by the pro-Israel advocacy group Z Street has uncovered. In the discovery phase of this litigation, we have learned that the IRS engaged in a great deal if obfuscation and foot-dragging designed to hide what transparency would clearly show. Not only were they targeting conservative groups for delays and harassment, they were openly talking to each other about how to do so, and how to hide the fact that they were doing so.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page is one of the few mainstream news sources that still takes its job seriously, and it offered details over the weekend:

The IRS has maintained that Z Street’s application was flagged because the group might be working with organizations inside Israel. IRS Exempt Organizations Determinations Group manager Jon Waddell denied that there was an Israel special policy and said in a December 2010 sworn declaration in federal court in Pennsylvania that flagging Z Street was “appropriate” because “Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that have a ‘higher risk of terrorism.’”

That’s hilarious, since Z Street supports a country targeted by terrorism. But it also is untrue, which the Administration apparently knew before Mr. Waddell gave his statement to the court. In an October 25, 2010 internal IRS memo on the Z Street case produced in discovery, the IRS acknowledged that when Z Street’s application was being scrutinized Israel wasn’t on the list of terrorist countries, and that an agent may have been using an outdated list.

Discovery has also revealed documents that show the IRS made early attempts to shield and obfuscate its special Israel policy. In a November 29, 2010 email, IRS deputy commissioner Steven Miller asked IRS employee Sarah Ingram about “an article on a letter we apparently sent to an org on Israel settlements. What can you tell me.” Ms. Ingram replied that she “Just told Ruth to pull me out when you have a minute. Not doing email on this.”

There are other emails on the subject that have been produced in discovery but redacted to the point that they are unreadable. The IRS is blocking them on grounds that the documents are protected by so-called deliberative process privilege. But that privilege was created to safeguard internal government deliberations not to prevent the public from getting information about government wrongdoing.

IRS employees avoiding e-mail so there won't be a paper trail. IRS lawyers redacting large parts of documents. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on here. Recall that Lois Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment in her congressional testimony, which was strangely followed by a rather lengthy speech about how absurd were the suggestions that she had done anything wrong. The clear pattern we see is that the IRS doesn't want you to be able to look at the information you're seeking, but they want unlimited freedom to claim your accusations against them are ridiculous.

The administrative state believes it can abuse its power on behalf of Democrats in large part because the news media will turn a blind eye to its malfeasance rather than scrutinize them, since the media are unlikely to have any sympathy for the conservatives they target. And for the most part, the administrative state is right about that. But occasionally you will get a skilled attorney who understands how to do in discovery what reporters refuse to do in the course of the charade they call journalism.

The IRS is acting guilty because it is guilty. That is not even a question. The only question is whether enough people are paying attention, or understand why it matters.

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