Who first disclosed the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS?


The question in the headline above is one the right-wing conspiratorialists seem never to ask themselves.

Who blew the whistle on the IRS?

Was it investigative reporters from the mainstream media, as was the case with the Watergate scandal? No.

Was it Fox News or any other conservative news outlet? No.

Was it some member of Congress? No.

Was it some Republican activist? No.

Was it some conscience-stricken leaker at the White House? No.

So who did it?

Answer: The IRS did it.

The inspector general of the IRS had quietly investigated evidence of the targeting of conservative groups, and when it’s report was completed, Lois Lerner, who heads up the tax-exempt division at the IRS, disclosed the report’s existence during an American Bar Association Conference on May 10. Within hours, the story was big news.

Did this big news bring an end to such targeting of conservative groups? No. That ended last spring.

All of this leads to other questions:

If it’s true, as some right-wingers now say,  that this targeting of conservative groups was done at President Obama’s direct or implied behest, why did this same presumably compliant agency blow the whistle on itself?

Why did Lois Lerner alert the nation to the forthcoming release of the inspector general’s report?

If Obama knew about the IG’s report beforehand, why didn’t he take specific steps to soften its potential political impact on his administration?

Perhaps the biggest question in all of this is why so many groups, liberal and conservative alike, get away with posing as social welfare organizations to gain tax-exempt status when their activities are mainly political.



  1. expdoc

    Yes, but how did they disclose it?

    And why did they choose to do it in such an odd way?

  2. expdoc

    Actually, the biggest question of all is why we have such a complicated tax code to begin with?

    It should be much simpler for both individuals and business.

    Of course that will never happen because that would entail politicians giving up their main source of power.

  3. expdoc says:
    May 23, 2013 at 3:42 pm
    Actually, the biggest question of all is why we have such a complicated tax code to begin with?


    Answer: Because for many decades, politicians of both parties have used tax breaks to promote policy goals, i.e. mortgage interest deductions to promote home ownership, subsidies to oil companies to promote domestic energy sourcing, etc.

    Government officals see the tax code as a powerful tool, useful, at least to some degree, in helping solve almost every cultural ill. Often these impacts are significant, but the resultant side effects of lower tax revenues and systematic abuse (see the recent news re: Apple) are poorly predicted and remedied.

    Anyone who thinks this tool will soon disappear from the bureaucratic toolbox is a fool.

    My suggestion is to limit the maximum deduction for both individuals and corporations to half of their baseline tax liability. No U.S. citizen or business should ever be allowed to pay less than half of what the law says they should fairly pay. And no offshore havens allowed, ever.

    Government coffers would overflow, yet politicians would still be able to use the tax code to promote policy. Sounds both patriotic, egalitarian, and fiscally responsible to me. Of course, devious tycoons like Romney would be quite justifiably hosed, although this would not be the true goal of my reform idea – just a delicious by-product.

  4. Robert

    It’s my understanding there was a meeting of some tax organization, what organization I don’t recall (could have been a legislative group), but many were in attendance. At that meeting is where the disclosure was made.

  5. expdoc

    “Devious tycoons like Romney”? Who follow the law and succeed in legal business venture?

    Got it.

    I find it delicious to watch my liberal friends who are Apple geeks be strangely shocked to realize that Apple is just another very succesful corporation, just like the evil Microsoft.

    The real fools are the government officials who manipulate tax code and regulation thinking that they can generate a specific outcome and are repeatedly shocked to realize that they are not the smartest people in the room.

  6. expdoc


    The organization was the American Bar Association.


    When confronted with its worst scandal in decades, the IRS broke virtually every public relations rule on the books.

    The agency could have first informed Congress that it was improperly targeting conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. It could have issued a comprehensive press release. It could have even leaked to a friendly media outlet to get out in front of the story.

    The IRS did none of those things. Instead, it took the highly unusual step of planting a question in the audience at an obscure law conference to get the word out about the controversial program.

    Crisis managers can only cringe at the fallout that’s sent President Barack Obama into a defensive tailspin and his team scrambling to manage the fallout. The scandal would be tough to confront in the best of circumstances, but the agency’s poor management of the story is being blamed for deepening the sense of crisis gripping Washington.

    “If it’s a minor league team, it’d be below single A. And you’re insulting the minor leagues,” said Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who guided the administration through a series of second-term campaign finance scandals.

    Davis called the decision by Lois Lerner, the director of the agency’s nonprofit division who orchestrated the Q&A during an American Bar Association conference, an exercise in “upside down crisis management.”

    “Now this looks doubly manipulative — fake and you have a bad story,” he said.

    Members of the ABA told POLITICO they were blindsided that their public forum — normally a place for polite questions for government staffers — ended up being used to air some of the IRS’s dirtiest laundry.

    “We had no indication at all,” said Suzanne Ross McDowell, the chair of the ABA group on tax exemptions. “People were totally surprised by the question and even more surprised by the answer. IRS officials know how to deflect questions they don’t want to answer.”

  7. Steverino

    Robert – I believe the IRS was meeting with a group of tax attorneys and just prior to the conclusion of the Q&A session someone asked a question (a plant?) at which time Ms. Lerner spilled the beans.

  8. It is undeniably “devious” to make millions each year – of which you owe about 30% as a taxpayer – and then stash it in Cayman Island banks and blind trusts so that you only pay 13%.

    Who would argue otherwise?

  9. Robert

    Ms. Lerner embarrassed the president. I wonder where her career path will take her now?

  10. “I find it delicious to watch my liberal friends who are Apple geeks be strangely shocked to realize that Apple is just another very succesful corporation, just like the evil Microsoft.”


    Is this a rhetorical statement, or are you citing actual liberals? If true, you need to upgrade your social network… nearly every liberal I know both loves Apple products and despises their heartless labor practices. We are not a bit surprised that Apple has defined the best practices for tax avoidance.

    The same scepticism applies to the vapid “don’t be evil” crapola at Google.

  11. Steverino

    Mitt’s a good example of tax avoidance.

  12. expdoc


    Did Romney break any laws? If not then you cannot call what he did devious. Unless you believe the massive piece of crapola we call the federal tax code is all just an exercise of control and deviousness itself.

    If you believe that, then I agree with you. Oh wait, you said you believe that. So we agree.

    The tax code is too complex and merely an attempt to exercise undue control over the people.

    Taxes are supposed to be collected to raise funds to provide necessary governmental function. That could be done so much more fairly, effectively and efficiently.

  13. expdoc says:
    May 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Did Romney break any laws? If not then you cannot call what he did devious.


    Oh yes I can. In no way did I call him a criminal, but he most definitely violated the spirit of the tax code. And it is doubly devious to scheme the tax code when claiming to be the person most qualified to lead our country.

    And do you really believe the tax code is “merely an attempt to exercise undue control over the people”? Well, your boy Ryan is a vocal proponent of using the tax code to achieve very sincere policy goals (albeit for the benefit of only a chosen few). This is true of every legislator in both parties.

    Just for kicks, find me just one sitting national politician who does not advocate using the tax code to incentivize something they believe is worthy.

  14. wilson

    Luke, do you any Apple products?

  15. To extrapolate on exdoc’s dubious definition of devious…

    Clinton getting nookie with Monica? Legal, and thus not devious.

    Targeting conservatives for IRS probes? Technically legal, and thus not devious.

    Spinning the Benghazi attacks? Quite legal, thus in no way devious.

    Investigating AP reporters for national security leaks? Legal and sanctioned by the courts, thus not devious.

    Glad you cleared up these issues for us. Squirrels all around.

  16. wilson says:
    May 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm
    Luke, do you any Apple products?


    Iphone and Ipod. Are you suggesting I am duplicitous? Guilty as charged. Just don’t call me devious.

  17. Robert

    I think there’s a growing movement to get Holder out of the DOJ. Doesn’t matter, Obama will just put someone in who will continue stalling the prosecution of any of the bankster CEOs. All they have to do is drag it out till the statute of limitations is up is what I’ve read (I think they said that in the Frontline documentary)… what’s that, 2 years max? That’s what they’re doing imo.


  18. expdoc

    “Just for kicks, find me just one sitting national politician who does not advocate using the tax code to incentivize something they believe is worthy.”

    And they are all wrong. This is exactly what is wrong with our system.

  19. expdoc

    “Clinton getting nookie with Monica? Legal, and thus not devious.”

    It was the lie, to the American people and under oath, that was at least devious but likely illegal. He can do whatever he wants with which ever cigar he would like as long as he doesn’t lie about it under oath.

  20. expdoc

    By the way Lukey,

    It was you that started with the misappropriation of the word devious, not me. That is somewhat devious behavior in and of itself if you ask me.

  21. Craig Knauss


    I understand where you’re coming from regarding lying under oath. However, perjury is normally reserved for lying to commit a crime, lying to cover up a crime, lying to defame someone else, or lying for some other deceitful reason. Is it perjury to lie about something when there is no negative impact of the lie? For example, if you were under oath and said you were the King of Wisconsin, would that be perjury? The statement would be totally false, but has no impact other than making yourself look like a fool. I doubt you’d be charged with perjury for it.

  22. Robert

    I like this headline from the Huffington Post. People on the left think Obama is a liberal? They think he’s progressive? Then why does the man he selected as AG error against what would be typical left leaning causes and interest? Were we fooled in 2008 and 2012? But anybody is better than a republican, right?

    Like I said, I’m becoming more and more disillusioned to the point I may just stop voting in federal elections. Why should I fool myself when its becoming apparent all I’m doing is voting for the person who can best fool me. If this person were a personal friend and they deceived me more than anything else, would I promote that friendship? Actions speak louder than words. We all learned that early on but somehow we just don’t want to believe it.

    As Maya Angelou says and I may be paraphrasing, “when a person shows you who they are, believe them”.

    THE RECORD: Easy On Banks… Tough On Peace Activists… Went After Pot Shops… Soft On Mortgage Settlement… Sanctioned Drones… Defended Aaron Swartz Prosecution


  23. kevind1986

    The question reeks of dishonesty. You know the reason – just stop assuming your readers are idiots, okay?
    “The admission came before a Treasury Department inspector general report found that workers in the Cincinnati office used “inappropriate criteria” such as the terms “Tea Party” and “Patriots” to target the applications of conservative groups for intense scrutiny.”
    i.e. she knew the truth was on its way out – so she tried to get in front of it. No integrity was to be found that day.

  24. Robert

    Kevin, I don’t disagree that your notion could be a possibility, but I have to wonder why the “planted” comment was deliberately brought up? Couldn’t this situation just as easily been left to go away by simply instructing the personnel to stop the above average scrutiny of NFP applications from what appeared to be conservative organizations?

    I wonder if someone else knew what was going on and she had to get in front of the situation as you note, before it was exposed in an even more damaging manner? Either way, she’s gone, but it appears there’s more going on than daylight has yet revealed.

    From what I’ve heard her say, she says she had nothing to do with the acts themselves but became aware of them and then did a covert investigation of her own, then went public in a very strange way, by planting a comment to be asked from the audience. Somethings not right with this situation and the motives being offered. I don’t think Obama knew anything, but someone directed these employees to do this and we still don’t know who that someone was.

  25. wilson

    Well I notice in the past that Pat uses artiles by Peggy Noonan, so here is one.
    “A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall
    The IRS’s leaders refuse to account for the agency’s corruption and abuse.”

    “I don’t know.” “I don’t remember.” “I’m not familiar with that detail.” “It’s not my precise area.” “I’m not familiar with that letter.”

    “These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They’re surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they’d get away with it.”

    We need more government to protect us from our government.


  26. Brian Opsahl

    So wilson do you remember during the Iran/Contra hearings how Reagan pulled the I don’t remember card…?
    GH Bush said he wasn’t in on those meetings….this is not the first rodeo where this has happened.

    Fact is if you can’t pin this on Obama that he knew about this …then they got nothing..!!

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