It’s amazing that there are those — including The New York Times — that continue to prop up the flawed finger-pointing of the Internal Revenue Service, blaming a couple of rogue agents out of its Cincinnati office for the unlawful targeting of conservative groups.
The New York Times — along with the IRS — is simply wrong in their assertion that this scandal is based in, and limited to, Cincinnati and not Washington, D.C.
We know Washington was deeply involved. We have letters from Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations, and IRS attorney Carter Hull, and Cincinnati officials have said they were micromanaged by D.C. officials. Now, there is a new admission from another top IRS supervisor in Washington — Holly Paz — who told congressional investigators that she was involved in 20 to 30 of the cases. By the way, her signature is also on letters to our clients as well.
The left is doing all that it can to keep the focus off Washington in this scandal. The latest attempt came just days ago when Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, one of the top House Democrats leading the congressional probe of the IRS, made the proclamation that the “case is solved” — and that it’s time for the nation to “move on.” This disturbing about-face by Mr. Cummings is a reflection of the Obama administration’s desire to sweep this unconscionable abuse under the rug as quickly as possible.
His comments directly contradict what he had said just days earlier when he called for a “thorough investigation” to restore “truth and trust.” He was very concerned during the hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about getting to the bottom of what transpired at the IRS.
But then something happened. Mr. Cummings changed his tune. He cited a congressional interview of someone he termed a “conservative Republican manager” in the IRS office in Cincinnati who said he decided to send “one case” to the technical office in Washington for further review. That apparently was enough for Mr. Cummings to declare the case solved. Forget about the Washington involvement. This singular statement, according to Mr. Cummings, was enough to wrap things up and put an end to the congressional investigation.
No one really thinks the case is solved. The left just wants it to go away.
The declaration that it is time for Congress and the public to “move on” from the coordinated and chilling effort to silence the voices of American citizens by one of the government’s most powerful and supposedly impartial agencies is not only an insult to the targeted groups, but also a total violation of public trust.
After attacking and blaming the victims, some on the left now seem content to pin a multilayered and complex system of abuse and targeting on one low-level manager. The assertion just doesn’t square with the facts.
It’s easier for the left to close the file than to examine the real evidence. We know that this scheme was widespread and had the approval and participation of top IRS officials in Washington. In addition to correspondence being sent from the Cincinnati office, our clients also received questionnaires from the Washington office, as well as two offices in California — El Monte and Laguna Niguel.
In the end, Mr. Cummings did another reversal — walking back his comments that the “case is solved.” He didn’t stop there, though. He actually doubled down on the damaging effect of his original comments, now claiming “The witch hunt needs to end.”
No, Mr. Cummings, the congressional investigation isn’t the “witch hunt” — the targeting of conservative groups was.
Congress is moving forward with its investigation of the IRS — and it should. Our federal lawsuit against the IRS continues. In fact, our legal case against the IRS is expanding. In the days ahead, we will be adding plaintiffs to our federal lawsuit in which we currently represent 25 groups unlawfully and unconstitutionally targeted by the IRS.
Through the IRS’ responses, discovery and placing witnesses on the stand, we will learn the truth. There are many questions that still need to be answered: How did this targeting scheme begin? Who ordered it? How could the White House counsel and White House chief of staff know about this tactic but the president did not?
The American people understand what’s happening in Washington. This scandal reflects what most Americans think — there’s been a serious erosion of public confidence and trust in the Obama administration. A new poll reveals that two-thirds of American voters think the IRS targeted conservative groups as part of a high-level operation to punish political opponents.
It’s time for answers, not excuses. Those accountable for this unconscionable breach of public trust must be held accountable.
Jay Sekulow is chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has filed a federal lawsuit against the IRS on behalf of 25 conservative groups.