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Update: The IRS' auditor has explicitly confirmed that - as is argued below - conservative, and not progressive, groups were targeted.
In the last few days, much of the political left has rushed to the defense of the IRS. Salon has gleefully announced that the “scandal is entirely bogus,” claiming that the IRS targeted progressive groups and not just conservative ones.
Some Democratic legislators, like Rep. Elijah Cummings, are now displaying an “enthusiasm for defending the IRS,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Cummings has urged the public to move on from the scandal, calling scrutiny of the IRS “a witch hunt.”
Yet if progressive groups were targeted – and this remains doubtful – they were subjected to incomparably less scrutiny than conservative organizations. According to Washington-based IRS supervisor Holly Paz, IRS officials openly used the term “tea party” to describe the dozens of cases they allowed to remain untouched for more than a year.
During this period, the IRS approved dozens of applications from groups whose names included words like “progressive”, “liberal” and “equality.” Even the New York Times says that the IRS "approved these groups at a fairly steady rate from 2010 through 2012.” Media Trackers - a conservative applicant that had been delayed for 16 months - was approved in three weeks after it reapplied under the name “Greenhouse Solutions.”
The question “Who’s going to jail?” is as pertinent now as it was when this scandal came to light. IRS officials fundamentally violated Americans’ trust in government, and not one is known to have been fired – let alone brought up on criminal charges - as a result. Instead, key players in the scandal – like Holly Paz and Lois Lerner – seem to have been placed on administrative leave. It’s an interesting sort of “witch hunt” that punishes its victims with paid vacations.
Moreover, details about the full extent of the IRS' corruption are still emerging. Rep. Darrell Issa has released a report alleging that IRS higher-ups awarded lucrative contracts to their close friends, paying them hundreds of millions in contracting fees. One of these contracts went to a firm owned by Bruce Castillo – a close friend of Gregory Roseman, IRS Deputy Director of Acquisitions.
In February, Castillo denied having a personal relationship with anyone at the IRS. The House Oversight Committee, however, has obtained hundreds of text messages between him and Roseman - many containing obscene jokes, including quotes from the movie “The Hangover” (pg. 60).
Our society trusts government employees to serve the public. Yet our public servants have abused that trust on a large scale - and are not being held accountable. The IRS scandal is very real – and it should be far from over.