Death and Taxes Now Under One Roof

In news of no particular surprise to anyone, agents at the Cincinnati IRS office from which emanates the scandal surrounding targeted scrutiny of Tea Party, conservative, and limited government non-profits, are declining to take the fall. In interviews with House Oversight Committee investigators, Cincinnati IRS employees revealed that (gasp!) orders to target such groups came from Washington, DC—down to the specifics of how many groups were wanted to make an example of:

When asked for the reason behind the request that cases be sent to Washington, D.C. the employee responded, “He said Washington, D.C. wanted seven. Because at one point I believe I heard they were thinking 10, but it came down to seven. I said okay, seven.”

Another IRS Cincinnati employee revealed that Washington additionally requested two specific applications:

Investigator: “But just to be clear, she told you the specific names of these applicants.”
IRS employee: “Yes.”
Investigator: “And she told you that Washington, D.C. had requested these two specific applications be sent to D.C.”
IRS employee: “Yes, or parts of them.”

Now, the IRS not only can’t contain the scandal to its Cincinnati office, it can’t even contain it to the IRS exempt-organizations unit.

It has now been revealed that at least five contributors to one of the targeted groups, Freedom’s Watch, were themselves targeted as individuals—audited by an entirely separate division of the IRS as a result of being contributors to the conservative non-profit under scrutiny:

At the same time the Internal Revenue Service was targeting tea-party groups, the tax agency took the unusual step of trying to impose gift taxes on donors to a prominent conservative advocacy group formed in 2007 to build support for President George W. Bush’s Iraq troop surge.

And the names of the individual contributors could only have been fed to the individual-audit division from the exempt-organizations unit.

That such enemies-list sharing occurs across divisions in the IRS is predictable: as my colleague William Shughart points out, the not-so-confidential information available from, and harassment powers of, the IRS have proven useful to politicians for decades, and across party lines.

But with the IRS now having oversight of every American’s healthcare—as has been made painfully obvious by the career path of Sarah Hall Ingram—commissioner of the tax-exempt and government-entities division of the IRS during the time period of the scandal now emerging, and now in charge of the Obamacare office at the IRS—one would expect a bit more concern.

I guess the question each needs to consider is: do you want an organization that uses your money to continue to pay the very generous salary and benefits to an executive* now on “leave” for refusing to answer questions regarding her conduct concerning what could be your tax return—or, alternately, resign—to be similarly unaccountable for making healthcare available to you (or not) on a partisan basis?

Oh, that could never happen?

*see: Lois Lerner

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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