The Usual Suspects

The House seems to be entirely given over to IRS hearings. Today the Ways and Means Committee is hearing testimony from “victims” (I’m seeing newspaper headlines about “IRS Victims,” even though it’s a matter of opinion whether anyone was actually victimized) that include tea party, anti-reproduction rights, and anti-gay marriage groups. Social welfare organizations, my ass.

From Atlantic Wire,

Tom Price of Georgia called Eastman’s testimony, “absolutely chilling.”

Eastman’s testimony, it’s worth noting, focused on a separate IRS issue. The National Organization for Marriage plans to sue the agency for apparently leaking confidential donor lists to The Huffington Post. This prompted Eastman to note that, after the fight over Proposition 8 in California, donors to the campaign faced public harassment. Eastman worried that the recent leak would scare donors, that it might “keep them from donating again to the political fight that we’re in the middle of.”

Which at its heart is the problem. The IRS’ efforts to filter Tea Party groups appears largely to have been a shorthand for flagging groups that were likely engaging in undue political activity. Blumenauer asked the witnesses if they understood where the line was drawn on what political activity was allowed; no one asked provided such an understanding.

Charles Pierce:

You will note that among the social-welfare activities organized by these fine social-welfare advocates was a warning to people to mind their social welfare against the encroachment of our old pal, Agenda 21, the secret UN plot to steal all our golfs. (There’s some cool stuff in there, too, about keeping the Muslims and their sharia law away from your social welfare of your community, too. And something about The Hunger Games.)

One more time — social welfare, my ass. See also Steve M.

Ron Fournier takes Darrell Issa apart.

Issa shifted focus to the IRS’s admission that its agents targeted conservative groups for review of their tax-exempt status. “Well, first of all, we’re looking at the IRS for how big the problem is,” he replied. “As you know as late as last week the administration is still trying to say there’s a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington.”

Note what Issa is doing. He does it all the time–start an unsubstantiated allegation with an absolute declaration (“when in fact”) and follow it with weasel words (“the indication is”). This smear-and-caveat technique allows him to ruin reputations without being called a liar.

Do read the whole thing.

Dana Milbank:

Congressional investigators have not produced evidence to link the harassment of conservative groups to the White House or to higher-ups in the Obama administration. But the lack of evidence that any political appointee was involved hasn’t stopped the lawmakers from assuming that it simply must be true. And so, they are going to hold hearings until they confirm their conclusions.

Ed Kilgore thinks the witch-hunters have about a week “to make the IRS investigations interesting and/or revelatory before it begins to look like conservatives are quite literally just talking to themselves, at which time the whole thing could backfire.” But, y’know, I don’t think they’re going to stop. Remember the Clinton Administration, when it seemed the only word that ever came out of a Republican’s mouth was “Whitewater,” until they discovered Monica. IMO they’re going to keep at this IRS thing until something juicier comes along, or until there’s a Republican in the White House.