Charity begins at the IRS

By DeusExMacintosh

Steve Miller quits over IRS targetting of conservative charities

The head of the US tax agency has quit after it emerged his staff singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny, President Barack Obama has announced.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had asked for and accepted the resignation of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Acting Commissioner Steve Miller, he said.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Mr Obama told news media.

The scandal has been one of several to rattle the White House in recent days.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder faced four hours of questioning at a Congressional hearing on the IRS, the secret seizure of phone records from the Associated Press news agency, and the attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Mr Holder told the House judiciary committee that it would take time for the FBI to determine if any laws had been broken by IRS personnel…

Senior IRS officials told the watchdog that the decision to focus on conservative groups had not been influenced by any individual or organisation outside the agency.

Some Republicans, including two high-profile governors, have called for a special prosecutor to investigate.

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters earlier on Wednesday: “My question is, who’s going to jail over this scandal?”

At least three Congressional panels are planning hearings, and House oversight committee chairman Representative Darrell Issa said he had asked five mid-level IRS employees be made available for questioning.

BBC News

For more background on how American charity law has been mis-managed by the IRS and electoral donation rules flagrantly abused by political groups, see this excellent piece in The Washington Post.

H/T: Skepticlawyer via facebook.

(This is also the weekend chit-chat post…)

14 Comments

  1. kvd
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    re the WaPo story, you can argue all day about how harshly or leniently any legislation should be either written or enforced, but that is quite a separate discussion from the one at issue here: that any such law should be apolitical.

    Much more on point, again from WaPo, is this editorial.

  2. Posted May 18, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Interesting week. I guess it may be another instance of cognitive bias, but I thought Abbotts budget reply speech was very well put together and presented. Without scaring the horses he has presented the voters with a way out of the morass and that’s something that Swan couldn’t achieve. When he presented 4 deficit budgets, promised a surplus, then not only delivered another deficit but promised 4 more deficits he left voters wondering if indeed this was a permanent state of affairs. As somebody who’s politics were honed through Hawke/ Keating it really surprises me that Labour can be as inept as this crowd are.

  3. Posted May 19, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Sooling the law onto your political enemies?
    This is how Obama will be remembered.
    The silver lining: At least he now won’t be remembered primarily for his incompetence.

  4. Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Steve,
    One presumes that a chief law officer would be above political interference. Have things changed or is it just that we see the past through rose coloured glasses? How do you guard against this sort of event in the future?

    I guess these are questions for the lawyerly types as well.

  5. Posted May 19, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Senior IRS officials told the watchdog that the decision to focus on conservative groups had not been influenced by any individual or organisation outside the agency.

    Silly people. You’re supposed to set up an external party to make absurd accusations if you want to do politically targeted tax audits.

  6. Herding cats
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    um, in the absence of intelligent policy – try a distraction. The MSM is more than happy to oblige.

    It’s a pity that Mr Obama seems to be ‘running scared’ of the MSM. Am not sure what the actual facts and detail are, but looking deeper behind the “headlines” .. it seems that the ‘tea Party’ and affiliates were trying to ‘fudge the rules’ regarding “tax free” associations – and the American IRS were, indeed, well within their ‘right’ to question and investigate the plethora of applications.

  7. kvd
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    desipis I can’t get past the WSJ paywall, but from another source I can read

    In March 2006 the Wall Street Journal reported that Public Interest Watch has been heavily funded by ExxonMobil. Steve Stecklow reports that PIW’s “most recent federal tax filing, covering August 2003 to July 2004, states that $120,000 of the $124,094” came from the oil company. ExxonMobil confirmed that they had funded the group at that time but no longer do.

    I think this is sort of like the Getup! funding from unions and a few like-minded individuals – and I see nothing particularly wrong with either E-M or the movers behind Getup! pursuing their ideas in this way, provided their support is openly reported, and easily seen.

    But this present affair is about (thus far) unknown government functionaries using their legislated powers to pursue fairly blatant political ends.

    Now, I can see a difference between this action and the above two instances – and the far more important issue is that of public trust in the apolitical nature of government administration.

  8. Herding cats
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Yer well .. very little is secret .. these days.

  9. John Turner
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Assuming that the IRS seeks to protect the tax base might it not be wise to first consider where the money might be?
    Is it likely that conservatives tend to be the ones who have the money?

  10. Posted May 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Not necessarily in advocacy. Besides which, you go after groups by income, not political allegiance if that was your aim.

  11. kvd
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I read this article last Saturday, while most of my breakfast went cold at the local cafe I infrequently frequent.

    It’s a long read, but I think it a worthwhile read, so I’ve been waiting for it to be ‘internet-ed’ to pass on the link. I’d be interested in any opinions on the personality.

  12. Posted May 22, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    kvd, interest article. I guess the signs for sociopathy are there.
    – spending almost 4000 words talking about themselves
    – glorifying their choices and lack of inhibitions
    – deflecting the responsibility for their actions onto their condition
    – attempting to rationalise their immoral conduct as somehow beneficial for society.

    The defence of sociopathy argument also sounded eerily like many libertarian advocates…

  13. Herding cats
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    mmm, well, that experiment was interesting.

  14. Posted May 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Creepy, kvd. But thanks for sharing.

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