Rep. Issa Decries Release of IRS Transcripts that Undercut His Selective Leaking

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-California)

Darrell Issa, arguably California’s most visible Republican in the House of Representatives, called the ranking Democrat in the Oversight Committee he chairs “reckless” and “irresponsible” for leaking a transcript that contradicts pieces of a transcript Issa leaked the week before concerning the IRS kerfuffle that has engaged the public, but thoroughly captivated the right-wing.

Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland enraged Issa when he made public Tuesday the entire five-hour transcript (here and here) (pdfs) of an interview with the IRS manager in Cincinnati whose office targeted for scrutiny conservative groups like the Tea Party seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The conservative Republican manager pointedly rebutted Issa’s allegations that the White House proposed or directed his office’s activities.   

John Shafer said he was the one who flagged the first application for tax-exempt status by a Tea Party affiliate in February 2010, back when court rulings were unleashing a flood of organizations seeking to take advantage of the shifting law. He turned it over to a subordinate. Cases were occasionally elevated to Washington for review, he said, but only when they were “high profile” with complications, like avowed political interests that are prohibited by the law.

Shafer said it was one of his screeners that developed the algorithm for sorting out political sounding names, like Tea Party, but that he did not hear about it for a year.    

The interview contrasted with the narrative that Issa has tried to craft in his committee hearings and as a regular on Fox News. Issa contends that the Obama administration used the IRS to target as political enemies groups that raise and distribute funds on behalf of conservative causes. A week ago, Issa released parts of testimony from an IRS agent in Washington who reviewed some of the Cincinnati office documents, an action which he said proved his case. 

Issa claimed that his leak was different than Cummings’ leak because the Democrat, by releasing the entire transcript, was providing a roadmap for political operatives in the IRS to escape apprehension.

Holly Paz, who worked in the D.C. office of the IRS tax-exempt unit, said she reviewed 30 or 40 of the documents, which critics took as a contradiction of White House claims that the entire affair was contained to the Cincinnati office. But as Paz made clear in the interview, it was her job to review applications from outlaying areas and she was unaware of what criteria Cincinnati used to select its groups for review. When D.C. found out about the filtering, they ended it.

While Issa scuffles with fellow committee members and conservatives use the “scandal” to promote a flat tax and disembowelment of the IRS, the media has focused on IRS behavior that affected very small groups and denied none of them their tax-exempt priviledge.

Meanwhile, big-money political organizations have run wild.

The understaffed, and media-cowed, IRS does very little to hold the 501(c)(4) groups accountable to the law, which requires that they not participate in political activity, like endorsing candidates and funding campaigns. “Social welfare” organizations, like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing just that. 

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

“Conservative Republican” at IRS Defends Treatment of Tea Party (by Kevin Drawbaugh and Kim Dixon, Reuters)

War against Issa Heats up, as Cummings Releases IRS Transcript (by Joan Walsh, Salon)

Cummings Challenges Issa on IRS Transcripts (by Josh Hicks, Washington Post)

The Real IRS Scandal (Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker)

Why Did IRS Ignore Karl Rove’s Tax-Exempt Organizations while Targeting Small Conservative Groups? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman, AllGov)

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