FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Non-accountability marches onward at the IRS
How is the great crusade to bring accountability to the IRS coming along? According to Eliana Johnson at National Review, the Director of Rulings and Agreements, Holly Paz, just became “the fifth Washington D.C.-based IRS official involved in the current scandal to leave her position.”
According to the House Oversight Committee, Paz was involved in an internal IRS investigation that in May 2012 concluded that the agency had been discriminating against conservative groups. That was a year before a Treasury Department inspector General’s report reached the same conclusion, but Paz and others at the IRS failed to inform Congress of the findings of the internal investigation. During the inspector general’s own investigation, Paz, who National Review Online revealed is a donor to Barack Obama, sat in on the vast majority of the interviews conducted by the inspector general’s team. House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa harshly criticized inspector general J. Russell for allowing that, saying it was “inappropriate” to include anybody in the agency in the interviews who could have participated in the targeting of conservative groups.
Well, it sure does sound like she had to go. What became of former Director of Rulings and Agreements Paz? Run out of town on a rail? Tarred and feathered? Hung on the rack and forced to read Maureen Dowd columns until her mind broke, and she began referring to herself as “Reek?”
The IRS source says the memo did not indicate whether [Paz] has been moved to a new position, placed on leave, or fired.
Oh. So American taxpayers with unfashionable political views may yet be at her mercy. I don’t see anything in there about punishment or reprimand. Politico also has a story about Paz, and they don’t know what happened to her, either. They inquired with the IRS, but the agency “didn’t immediately respond to questions about the personnel change.”
What about the other four scalps claimed by this scandal in Eliana Johnson’s tally? Did I miss some sort of bureaucratic massacre while I was writing juicy emails to keep the boys at the NSA Department of Omniscience entertained?
Paz is the fifth Washington, D.C.-based IRS official involved in the current scandal to leave her position. She follows Carter Hull, a tax law specialist accused of micromanaging Cincinnati’s handling of tea-party applications; Joseph Grant, the head of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division, who retired on June 3, just eight days after being promoted; acting commissioner Steven Miller, who announced his resignation days after news of the scandal broke; and Lois Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations division and the figure most closely associated with the targeting of conservative groups, who was placed on paid administrative leave after refusing to tender her resignation.
Nope, looks like I didn’t miss anything. No one has been fired over this scandal. If Paz actually did get sacked, she would be the first… and the agency’s reluctance to disclose her fate means they’re not exactly making an example out of her. Carter Hull is retiring gracefully later this summer. Joseph Grant was also allowed to retire without censure or reprimand. The official IRS announcement of his departure, issued on May 16, read as follows:
Joseph Grant, Commissioner of Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division, has announced his plans to retire on June 3rd. Before this position Joseph was the Deputy Commissioner, TE/GE. He joined the IRS in August 2005, as Director of the EP Rulings & Agreements division, became the Director of Employee Plans in 2006, and became TE/GE Deputy Commissioner in 2007. Before that, he was the Chief Operating Officer and a Deputy Executive Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Joseph also served on the staff of the Oversight and Social Security subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Nothing about unacceptable behavior, abuse of power, or political dirty tricks in there! As Johnson mentioned, Grant became head of his department only a week before his retirement was announced. His predecessor, Sara Hall Ingram – who was in charge while that mighty legion of “renegade low-level employees” was busy suppressing the Tea Party vote – was promoted to head of the ObamaCare enforcement division.
Acting IRS Commissioner Steve “Customer Service” Miller was a temporary appointee whose term expired on schedule – he didn’t get sacked or punished. And of course, the infamous Lois Lerner is currently enjoying a paid holiday at taxpayer expense. She didn’t lose her job, and in fact she refused to resign when Miller supposedly asked her to – a request we only know about through a third party, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of the Finance Committee.
I think what Johnson is driving at in her National Review post on Holly Paz is that a few senior officials in D.C. are experiencing some career disruption, which is incompatible with the fairy tale about a few wild and crazy cubicle gnomes in the sub-levels of the Cincinnati office taking Obama’s anti-Tea Party rhetoric too seriously. But in truth, there has been no great push to hold anyone truly accountable, or clean house to prevent such abuses from occurring again. There was some early noise from President Obama about how the politicized abuse of power was unacceptable, but he’s clearly not angry about it. Most importantly, he’s not doing anything to get to the bottom of it. If he sends high-level heads rolling, it would be an admission of wrongdoing… and it might motivate some of the unemployed, publicly humiliated officials to retaliate by telling stories the Administration would rather keep buried. Give it another month, and the White House will begin referring to the story as “old news,” which only bloodthirsty partisans could still be upset about.
The most benign explanation for the IRS scandal is that a bunch of agents and supervisors spontaneously decided to abuse their authority for political ends, to help their beloved President and punish his enemies, while higher officials either remained clueless or looked the other way. If that was true, you would think a lot of people involved would be named, shamed, and cut loose, to restore public confidence in the agency. Instead, we’re left to wonder how many other agencies are filled with Obama loyalists who might “spontaneously” decide to use confidential information for political purposes. Do you suppose anyone like that works for the National Security Agency?