Tag: Lois Lerner


Color me surprised:

The Justice Department won’t charge Lois Lerner, a former Internal Revenue Service official, over Tea Party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, closing a nearly 2 1/2-year investigation with a determination that IRS officials bungled the matter but committed no crimes.

“Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia, leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote to Congress on Friday. “But poor management is not a crime.”

The announcement ends a major phase of the IRS controversy, angering Republicans and Tea Party activists who had pressed for prosecutions.

I guess it’s no surprise that the Obama Administration’s DOJ’s investigation cleared the Obama Administration’s IRS. But it’s important to note what the report does not say. It does not say that conservative organizations weren’t targeted. It merely concludes that this targeting was the result of incompetence rather than the result of criminal conspiracy.

The report is short. They interviewed a ton of people, looked over a few hundred thousand documents but could not find a smoking gun that indicated a deliberate political targeting of conservative organizations. What they did identify was a bumbling incompetent organization that took various shortcuts to do their job that resulted in targeting of political organizations.

(I’m not a big believer in conspiracy theories for precisely this reason: government is too incompetent to organize a proper conspiracy. As Dave Barry once said regarding the supposed Roswell aliens:

It`s not that I don`t believe the government would TRY to hide dead aliens; it`s that I don`t think the government would SUCCEED, since every time the government tries to do anything secretly, as in the Iran-contra arms deal, it winds up displaying all the finesse and stealth of an exploding cigar at a state funeral. If there really WERE dead aliens, I figure, there also would be daily leaks about it from High Level Officials and huge arguments among influential congresspersons over whose district the multimillion-dollar Federal Dead Alien Storage Facility would be located in.

The Obama Administration is not exactly known for their airtight conspiring.)

The report notes that Lerner took action in stopping this. But her actions came very late in the game and could have come much earlier had she been properly supervising her agency. That’s … not exactly an exoneration. They also note that they found no evidence that she deliberately crashed her hard drive, destroying thousands of documents. That’s … not exactly an exoneration either. So even on its own terms, this report isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Lerner or the IRS.

But I’m not seeing why we should take this on its own terms, really. Its main conclusion is that no IRS employees would go on record saying there was political targeting and that no documentation they saw drew this conclusion. It takes a lot of pride in noting that some of the IRS employees it interviewed were critical of Lerner or openly admitted to being Republicans. It’s almost overboard in its effort to portray itself as fair. But this crosses me as a very surface-level investigation.

Furthermore, the conclusions are very caged in the inability to prove criminal intent. I’m not in favor of bringing charges that ruin people’s lives when there is no hope of conviction. But I should note that this standard is usually not applied to civilians. If you fail to pay your taxes, the IRS won’t let you off the hook because there’s no evidence you did it on purpose. And they certainly won’t accept that your hard drive mysteriously crashed. That would bring an obstruction charge.

I’m also reminded of the mantra that it’s not the crime that ruins politicians, it’s the cover-up. The IRS played smart here, granting unfettered access to their employees and documents (apart from the hard drive that mysteriously crashed). By not overtly obstructing justice, they kept themselves clear of criminal charges.

So in the end, this report can be summed up as, “The IRS cooperated and we didn’t any convincing evidence of criminal activity. It looks more incompetence to us.”

That’s … not exactly an exoneration.

Lerner Takes the Fifth

Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the IRS controversy over the targeting of Tea Party groups, took the fifth amendment again today, causing a contentious end to the hearings. There’s been a lot of foolishness thrown around in the wake of this. I’ll point you, once again, to Ken at Popehat

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments to the effect of “why should Lois Lerner take the Fifth if she has nothing to hide?” Ironically these comments often come from people who profess to oppose expansive government power, and from people who accept the proposition that Lerner was part of wrongdoing in the first place — in other words, that there was a government conspiracy to target people with the machinery of the IRS for holding unpopular political views. Such people do not seem to grasp how their predicate assumptions answer their own question.

You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.

Pardon me: if you accept the proposition that the government targets organizations for IRS scrutiny because of their political views, and you still say things like “why take the Fifth if you have nothing to hide”, then you’re either an idiot or a dishonest partisan hack.

Ken also gets into whether Lerner making a statement effectively waived her fifth amendment rights. The answer is that it’s not clear: court precedent is a bit murky on the subject. As I am devoted to an expansive view of civil liberties, I would err on the side of her not having waived her fifth amendment rights. I despise government weasel efforts to get around the clear intention of our Constitutional liberties. Saying she waived her rights is the kind of government lawyer trick I despise.

Watching the proceedings, however, I was struck by a parallel to the Iran-Contra Affair and, in particular, Ollie North. North’s testimony was compelled by granting him immunity because the Democrats were absolutely determined to get Ronald Reagan. When it turned out that Reagan hadn’t done anything wrong (at least nothing that could be proven beyond Democratic ranting and raving), they prosecuted North anyway. His conviction was thrown out since it’s rare that courts allow compelled testimony to be used against someone and you really can’t revoke an immunity agreement because you didn’t get what you wanted.

For what it’s worth, I think we’re seeing a similar drama play out now. The wrong-doing — at least that which can be proven — is primary confined to Lerner’s office. The Administration might have known or suspected what was going on, but there is no provable link (and before you say it, the IRS commissioner did not meet with Obama 157 times). And let’s face it: given the cult of personality built up around Obama and the culture of corruption that is rife in his government, it’s utterly believable that government flacks were acting on their own to advance the Administration’s political interests. It wouldn’t be the first time or the tenth time the Administration has let a part of the government “go rogue” because it benefitted them.

I think the Republicans know this. If they suspected they could get Obama, they would have granted Lerner immunity a year ago to get her testimony. But if the only person that Lerner’s testimony would burn is Lerner, there’s little political value to it. So every now and then, they hold a hearing, make some noise and go home.

And that’s a pity. Apart from wasting time and money, it does little to illuminate how this happened, how it can be prevented in the future and what oversights need to be put into place. This isn’t a game. The IRS wields a scary amount of power over the individual, including the ability to confiscate assets without a conviction. Whether this business hurts the President or not is kind of a side issue. If employees of the IRS are using the formidable power of the agency to advance any political agenda — whether directed by the White House or not — this is something that can’t be stopped fast enough.

(The behavior of the Democrats and their allies, of course, is utterly contemptible. They are still trying to pretend that this isn’t a scandal or, worse, that it was justified because the Tea Party is trying to destroy America. Even the bacteria in my stomach can see that they would be screaming the heavens down if this were a Republican Administration. It’s disgusting.)

Lerner should be granted immunity. If you think this was directed by the puppet master Obama, she could get immunity so we can prove it. If you think this was a rogue office advancing a political agenda with the Administration looking the other way, she could get immunity so we can figure out how to stop it. If you think is a whole lot of nothing — you possibly being an Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome sufferer who doesn’t care about the rule of law as long as the Tea Party gets it in the ass — she could get immunity so that this goes away.

I don’t like saying that since, as I noted, I think Lerner is probably the chief villain in this saga. But I would much rather get to the truth and prevent this from happening again than drag this out for another year in the vain hope that we will, one day, be able to nail her hide to the wall.

Hey Mr DJ: Un-Accountability Edition

Don’t ask me why I went a month with no music threads. You see, I have taken a cue from our Masters and decided that if The Powers That Be are allowed to hopelessly bungle the government’s attempt to control 1/6th of the US economy while inflicting higher costs on millions of Americans, lay workers off even while reaping record profits, rape the entire world’s privacy rights through the once-magical and promising power of the World Wide Web, and commit any other number of ethical, moral, and legal infractions with zero explanation or a single pink slip for any single asshole who got us into this situation in the first place; I just don’t have to either.

Feels good. Go ahead and add me to the ever-growing list of people to hang from a lamp-post when all is said and done. Just please don’t string me up anywhere near Lady Gaga or Lois Lerner, I beg of you. My sense of shame hasn’t completely evaporated yet and I’d hate to be photographed with the likes of them.

Doing your own thing for fun and profit and profit regardless of how much it harms society-at-large is all the rage among our elites, almost a sport. It’s much as how they used to hunt foxes, except now we in the middle and lower classes are either the poor fox or the miserable hounds and horses helping run it down.

It’s not so much that I hate them, but that I hate that nobody even tries to stop them. Time and time again, “affluenza” protects those crooks, perverts, and greedy fucks in government and the corporate world from the prison time they deserve while the populace demands more and more crumbs; grateful for every one it gets even though it’s just a crumb.

Nothing is going to get right in this country until WE decide that it has to, you know. Makes you wonder when our society is going to grow up, grow a pair, and start paying the bills.

So let’s turn the supposed season of goodwill toward men on its head and glorify the I Got Mine ideology of our betters.

No dedications or explanations why. Merry fucking Christmas, as my mother likes to say.

1. Music about getting way with everything up to and including murder.

2. Artists who broke up the band and became fabulously rich going solo.

3. Do your own thing and screw the thread. Everybody else is out getting their own nut. Why not you?

For Government: The Trickster by Radiohead

For Big Business: Cool Blue Reason by Cake

For the Iluminati, Masons, aliens, or other shadow organization of your choice: Exopolitics by Muse

For 1%: You Only Get What You Give by New Radicals

For Hollywood: I Don’t Care About You by Fear

For Us: Who Will Save Us Now by Pleistocene

And no bitching at me for questioning either your precious grand nanny Barack Obama or your sainted corporate entrepreneurs and pirates. None of them care about you and they are delighted that you waste your time passionately arguing about meaningless fringe topics that do not threaten what’s theirs. Now go look at Miley Cyrus’s shocking new album art, you peasants.