The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

May 2013: The End of Unreasonable Paranoia


The first Morning Jolt of the week features a furious denunciation of the media’s excuses for losing interest in Benghazi, a look at Mika Brzezinski’s new book, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — and My Own, and of course, the fact that a lot of our once-“paranoid” fears have proven true lately . . .

No Kidding: The IRS Has Had a Vendetta against Conservatives Since 2011

Let’s see here. . . . The Benghazi hearings and reporting about the “editing” of the talking points indicate that the Obama administration covered up the truth about what happened. Then we learned one of the Boston bombers sought out jihadists while in Russia in 2011 and listened to Internet sermons of al-Qaeda fan/cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, while collecting public assistance. Then we learned disclosures from the IRS prove that the federal government targeted groups based upon their political views. Hell of a week for the fears we once dismissed as paranoia, huh? This afternoon we get Elvis’s reappearance and Thursday is scheduled to feature the truth about the aliens at Roswell.

Naturally, today Obama will deal with these shocking headlines in his traditional manner: going to a bunch of Democratic fundraisers in New York City.

And yes, the IRS story is basically as bad as the most paranoid would have you believe; sometimes they really are out to get you.

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those that had “tea party” or “patriot” in their names — as the agency admitted Friday — to also include ones that raised concerns over government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted — nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn’t targeting conservative groups.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don’t make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

The inspector general’s office has been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and is expected to release a report this week. The audit follows complaints last year by numerous tea-party and other conservative groups that they had been singled out and subjected to excessive and inappropriate questioning. Many groups say they were asked for lists of their donors and other sensitive information.

One point to keep in mind: Sometimes no organizational boss has to explicitly say that there’s a great incentive to target a particular political foe. Sometimes these sorts of illegal and unjust incentives simply resonate throughout the culture of an organization. If everyone within a particular office culture (i.e., Internal Revenue Service employees) believes that a particular group is particularly bad (conservatives) and another group is good (liberals), there will be enormous psychological incentives to pursue the “bad” groups, both out of personal beliefs and out of reinforcing groupthink.

There’s a simple, direct method for changing the culture, of course: fire anybody involved.

Tags: Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , IRS , Benghazi


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