The Part of the IRS Report that Could Rescue Obama from Blame

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 15 2013 2:08 PM

Here's the Troublesome Part of the IG Report That Rescues Top Democrats from the IRS Scandal

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GOP supporters attend the Republican National Congressional Committee's midterm election results watch party on November 2, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This might shock you, but the politicos weighing in on the IRS scandal aftermath occasionally leap to conclusions. Over the weekend, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued attacks on Democratic incumbents because they (or more realistically, their spokesmen) had not issued responses to the scandal. (For example: "We all know that Tim Bishop could care less about crushing debt and wasteful government spending, but his failure to speak up on these issues on behalf of [his] constituents is flat out wrong.") A big assumption on the right is that Democrats spurred the IRS' bad behavior by banging the table about the Kochs and Karl Rove and all those rich people hiding money in tax-exempt "social welfare" groups.

Why assume? Because the IG report actually absolves the rest of the administration and the Obama campaign from the accusation of direct pressure. The key lines:

We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. Instead, the Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO [Be on the Look-Out] listing criteria before it was implemented. As a result, inappropriate criteria remained in place for more than 18 months.
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This is why, since the report came out, you've heard more questions about when/why/how key Democrats learned of the story, and why they didn't react until the AP broke the news last Friday. Recall that the IRS officials dinged here are often career officials and Bush appointees—not great scalps. The IG is saying they're the only scalps that deserved to be separated from their skulls.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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