According to an article
in today's New York Times
, the scandal over the IRS' handling of tax-exemption applications is likely to boil down to simple bureaucratic incompetence and overwork:
Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical.
Over three years, as the office struggled with a growing caseload of advocacy groups seeking tax exemptions, responsibility for the cases moved from one group of specialists to another, and the Determinations Unit, which handles all nonprofit applications, was reorganized. One batch of cases sat ignored for months. Few if any of the employees were experts on tax law, contributing to waves of questionnaires about groups’ political activity and donors that top officials acknowledge were improper.
It's also telling that critics of the administration have switched their emphasis from the actual behavior of the IRS to the administration's handling of the scandal, and even that is becoming an uphill struggle: Republican leaders have acknowledged that they have no evidence that President Obama ordered the IRS to target conservative groups. From this article from NBC news:
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said the IRS controversy amounted to evidence of a "culture of intimidation" by the administration. But he and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., admitted they lacked evidence that the targeting of conservatives was ordered by the White House.
"We don't have anything to say that the president knew about it," said Camp, who chairs the House committee looking into the IRS controversy, on NBC's "Meet the Press."
It's unfortunate that the critics' focus is on making political hay from this, rather than on the legitimate questions raised by the behavior of the IRS in this instance:
- Why have they not gone after the major 501(c)(4)s on both right and left, which spent half a billion dollars on the last election?
- And do we really want the IRS, of all agencies, to become the arbiter of political speech?