My weekend column is on the IRS scandal. It contains a chronological error: I describe a key email, in which a top IRS lawyer concedes that IRS headquarters in Washington has been directing the illegal harassment of conservative groups, as being dated July 2012. It is actually from July 2010.
In the column, I write:
These [IRS e-mails uncovered by Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit] include one from a top IRS lawyer in Washington succinctly explaining that “EOT [i.e., the revenue agency’s “Exempt Organization Technical unit” in Washington] is working Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy.” This was in July 2012, which is to say, in the key final months of Obama’s reelection campaign. “Tea party applications” were requests by conservative groups to be granted tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. By selectively setting aside their applications, delaying the conferral of tax-exempt status to which the law entitled them, and putting them through inquisitions that violated their constitutional rights to political speech and association, IRS headquarters prevented them from raising funds and organizing as an effective opposition. [Emphasis added.]
I was confused because the Judicial Watch report describing the e-mails (which I link to in the column) refers to this one as from “One key e-mail string from July 2012.” I’ve now learned from Judicial Watch that July 2012 refers to when the e-mail string made its way to the Treasury inspector general, whose report the next year first exposed the scandal. The error is still on me, though, because the e-mail itself (and the elaboration on it in Judicial Watch’s report) report the correct date two years earlier.
To be clear, my error merely misdates the timing of IRS Headquarters’ admission that Washington had been running the show on the targeting of conservative groups. I never contended that the harassment started that late. It has been well known that the harassment was going on well before July 2012.
In the excerpt above, I’ve italicized the sentence highlighting that 2012 was the stretch-run of the Obama re-election effort. It is correct both that July 2012 was the campaign stretch-run and that the IRS harassment ongoing at that time was enormously—and, I’d submit, quite intentionally—helpful to the Obama campaign. Indeed, the fact that the admission was two years earlier than I dated it in the column is obviously more damning for the IRS and the administration: As I point out in the column, both Lois Lerner and President Obama claimed in 2013 that the targeting of conservatives was a rogue operation by a subordinate office in Cincinnati; clearly, it had been well known for three years in high-ranking circles that this was untrue—the illegal harassment was a headquarters operation through and through.
Nevertheless, I am going to correct the date of the e-mail and remove the italicized sentence since it just confuses matters. I will also link to this post so that any reader who wants to see the erroneous passage and understand why it has been corrected can do so.