Accuracy in Media

It was just two-and-a-half weeks ago that Neil Buchanan wrote a piece for Newsweek that said the IRS scandal involving targeting of Tea Party groups “was fake news all along.”

“Do you remember ‘the IRS scandal?’ If you do, you remember a lie,” Buchanan began.

Buchanan’s news hook was a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TITGA, which, he asserted, “showed that the supposedly scandalous behavior never happened. In other words, the central lie behind this non-scandal has been definitively undermined.”

The report did not exactly clear the IRS. In fact, it said the agency targeted not just Tea Party groups but groups that support a wall on the border, health care or even marijuana legalization. It said it not only delayed their applications, it sought information on donors the groups are not required to turn over because of NAACP v. Alabama, a case in which the Democrats then governing Alabama sought donor rolls of the NAACP.

“The report reinforces that government watchdogs and congressional investigators have confirmed time and time again: Bureaucrats at the IRS, such as Lois Lerner, arbitrarily and haphazardly administered the tax code and targeted taxpayers based on political ideology,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R.-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Buchanan called for former President Obama to take a “victory lap” because “after more than four years of Republicans’ efforts to backfill their absurd claims of a big political scandal, the entire story has (again) collapsed.”

This is “big” and “wonderful news,” Buchanan said, because “anyone who cares even a whit about the rule of law should be delighted to know that the supposed abuse of government power that Republicans have been screaming about since May 2013 simply never happened.”

Two weeks later, the Washington Times reported, “Lawyers think they have finally found the smoking gun in the IRS’s tea party targeting scandal: an email from an IRS agent to her supervisors alerting them that the agency was, in fact, singling out some groups’ applications for extreme scrutiny ‘primarily because of their political party affiliation,’”

An April 1, 2011, email from Elizabeth C. Kastenberg, who worked in the IRS office that dealt with group applications for non-profit status, stated: “These cases are held back primarily because of their political party affiliation rather than specifically any political activities.”

Organizations that sought non-profit status with Tea Party in their names were harassed, ordered improperly to produce information that is not required and had their applications delayed because of their party affiliation.

The email was revealed as part of discovery in a class-action lawsuit filed in Ohio by tea party groups that say the IRS subjected their applications to long delays and illegally snooped through taxpayers’ information.

The agency claimed “this email is not a new document and has been provided to numerous congressional committees in early 2014,” but the Washington Times says its contents do not appear to have been cited in any public reports released by the panels that investigated the targeting.

“Along the way,” Buchanan wrote, “people like me would occasionally revisit the story and conclude that there was still no there there.”

There must be now. The Trump administration, which had inexplicably kept IRS Commissioner John Koskinen despite his reluctance to help with the scandal, suddenly has chosen a successor for Koskinen and begun to settle the various lawsuits by targeted Tea Party groups.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it was “clear” the IRS had used “inappropriate criteria to screen applications” for tax-exempt status for Tea Party and conservative groups during the Obama administration.

Buchanan wrote about the audacity gap between the left and right, which he said makes Republicans the party of ‘yes we can’ and Democrats the party of ‘maybe we shouldn’t.’ “That Republicans are still audaciously claiming that there was an IRS scandal under Obama is one of only many examples of this,” he said.

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