Welcome to the Club, Tea Party: Previous Political IRS Scandals

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Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, talks with others during a recess from his testimony before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia, U.S., on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The committee was holding hearing about the criteria used by the IRS to identify 501(c)(4) applications for greater scrutiny. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg
Pete Marovich/BloombergFormer IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman (middle), talks with others during a recess from his testimony before a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
The IRS-Tea Party scandal continues to unspool, with former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman telling the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that he learned of the improper political targeting in the spring of 2012, but told neither senior Treasury officials nor members of Congress.

Republican senators didn't sound convinced, according to the Associated Press:

"It's just implausible to me," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in an interview after the hearing. "Bureaucrats don't take risks by doing things that they know will get them fired, or get them disciplined by their superiors."

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said, "It's just hard to figure that there isn't more to this than they are letting on."

"How much did the political calendar influence when they disclosed this?" Thune said. "Obviously it was a presidential election year. Disclosure of something like this would have been explosive."

Explosive, perhaps, but not in fact surprising, given the history of the IRS. The nation's revenue collecting agency has been dogged by accusations of corruption, and cyclically consumed by efforts at reform, since the institution of an income tax to raise funds for the Civil War. And politically motivated uses of the agency's powers are far from unheard of.

So were politics at play in this most recent targeting? It appears we won't find anything out from IRS official Lois Lerner, a career civil servant who has headed the tax-exempt organizations division at the heart of the brouhaha since 2005. Various news organizations have reported that she is taking the Fifth and will refuse to testify before Congress because of the Justice Department's ongoing criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee has just set up a website to solicit information from citizens connected to what it calls "The IRS Political Discrimination Investigation." ("Your story is critical to moving the investigation forward. Taking a few minutes to fill out the form below and share your story will allow the Committee to identify key facts and take action to deal with the failures of the IRS.") Dulling the partisan edge of the story somewhat is the fact that Shulman was appointed commissioner by President George W. Bush.

But special scrutiny of right-wing groups under a Democratic president during an election season is obviously suspicious, and there's precedent for skullduggery at the IRS. Here, with a hat tip to Slate and Time, are some lowlights of the agency's last hundred years.


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8 Comments

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williesueme

If you vote uncommitted in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary the Democratic party will be force to have another primary election if there are too many uncommitted votes.

June 21 2013 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gjohn411

poor poor baggers, having to prove their offshore accounts and fake donations are legal

May 23 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
nthereoff

Nancy Drew is now blaming George Bush. These people run our goverment.scarry isn't it?

May 23 2013 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sirhalllaw

I correctly predicted this 4 years ago. Once Karl Rove used DOJ for his own ends, he involved politics. Politics has no place in prosecution or tax. The violators should be prosecuted and jailed. Larry

May 23 2013 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
xxwwrightxx

Now Nancy PeLOUSY is blaming "Idiot Boy" Bush!!! LMAO at that one!

May 23 2013 at 2:04 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jj2301

All the more reason to go to a flat tax with no exemptions that *everyone* has to pay. No more IRS, no more political with hunts.

May 23 2013 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edmond S. Abrain

We should do whatever we have to to find the truth. The truth will free all of us. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent knowing what really happened in these recent "scandals" will benefit all people who are interested in having a government that serves the interest of the people and only the people.

May 23 2013 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lauramilr

Okay - everybody hates the IRS - but, the Tea Party were a bunch of rabble rousers as well. I just hate to see our country pouring more money down the drain by setting up another panel to "look into" the "problem" - when there never seems to be a conclusion to any of these investigations.

May 23 2013 at 12:01 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lauramilr's comment
xxwwrightxx

What if the next administration doesn't like people named "lauramilr" and send the IRS after you???

May 23 2013 at 1:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
CHARLES

I can't wait for the citizens of this country to start taking matters into their own hands. This type of action from the trash/scum that is the IRS and most government workers is over the top. I say we should ask for a list of all of their workers. I bet they don't go to parties and say, "Me, oh, I work for the IRS". Not only would they be ostracized, but they would also be the butt of all jokes. May they all rot in hell.

May 23 2013 at 10:36 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
sdunnlevelrun

...don't recall...recollect?
...umm..sort'a John Dean alla 1970's eh?
...it's a catch-all for lawyers, politicians, white collar criminals

May 23 2013 at 10:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply