As I noted in a comment, another post on the IRS exempt organizations scandal. As usual, all the links to everything you would ever want to know about it are available at the taxprof blog, who for some reason is determined to number the days (as if there is going to be some definitive endpoint).
Since my last post, we've had three congressional hearings, a newly appointed Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue (that no one had ever heard of), and a relatively high-level IRS employee invoke her 5th Amendment right not to incriminate herself (and perhaps improperly at that). We've learned that, perhaps, this was not the sole idea of the IRS office in Cincinnati, or that maybe people in Washington had some involvement somehow. We've also learned that high level officials at the IRS should have probably volunteered the information that, yes, "Tea Party" groups (and the like) were singled out for extra scrutiny, even if it was not a partisan effort (as the TIGTA report confirms).
I noted in my last post that I haven't had any interaction with the IRS's exempt organization division and still haven't. However, I have been in meetings with former Commissioner Douglas Shulman and (now) former Acting Commissioner Steven Miller, as well as other high ranking IRS officials. And I will say again, there is simply no way either of them, or the other officials I know, would have engaged in a top-down targeting of Tea Party and similar groups. What they appear to be "guilty" of is not showing Congress where the fire is when Congress smelled smoke (once they themselves learned of the fire's location).
A number of other things to say:
(i) The executive branch should not treat inquiries from Congress like they are interrogatories in an adversarial legal proceeding, parsing through them wondering what the meaning of "is is." Several times Miller said that he answered Congress's questions "truthfully" in letters to them. I believe that, but once you learned that there had been some inappropriate selection criteria, and since that was what Congress was asking about - even if un-artfully - shouldn't you have told them?
(ii) You always look better standing up and taking responsibility and offering an apology than trying to weasel around questions and state lack of knowledge. In the hearings, Miller did the former and has gotten high marks for it (not that that's going to help him much), Shulman did the latter and has been excoriated (which I was surprised at as he's generally a pretty savvy guy).
(iii) If someone tells Congress of their intention to assert their 5th Amendment right not to testify, then Congress shouldn't call them to testify in a sort of shaming exercise. Leave it for the court proceeding (if any).
(iv) It has become apparent, in hindsight at least, that Obama made a huge mistake in not nominating a permanent IRS Commissioner when Shulman announced his intention to leave the post several months in advance of November 2012. Obviously Obama was a little busy running for President last year, but there's no reason he couldn't have nominated someone in December given the advance warning. If that person came from outside the IRS (as did Shulman), s/he would have been able to say "Sh1t, I just started here, why are you looking at me?" Now, of course, he's going to have to appoint some member of the GOP to "end" the scandal. Super.