Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus, the committee chairman, stated bluntly, "Targeting groups based on their political views is not only inappropriate, it is intolerable, unacceptable and cannot be allowed."
Baucus promised a bipartisan investigation and has been true to his word. When the first week of August arrived, Baucus and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, said the IRS failed to provide "most of the information requested by the Committee."
As chairman of the ethics watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center, I had filed a complaint with the IRS in May 2011 showing that a purported charity called the Barack H. Obama Foundation -- named for the father of President Obama and run by his half-brother, Malik Obama -- had been raising funds in the U.S. by falsely claiming to be an IRS-approved charitable group.
I submitted proof that the foundation was not tax-deductible and had never even applied for that status despite the fact that it had been fundraising for about three years.
In fact, one of the foundation's directors admitted that an IRS application had never been submitted.
There was compelling evidence suggesting that the foundation was raising money on the Internet by misrepresenting itself as being IRS-approved when it really wasn't.
Suddenly, the foundation rushed an application to the IRS in late May 2011.
In the short span of about a month, Lerner -- the same person who took the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before Congress -- gave the Obama Foundation its tax-deductible status.
And, the IRS made that status retroactive for three years.
Even more curious, several of the forms submitted by Malik Obama were stamped as being received by the IRS in July 2011. That's one month after Lerner approved the group's new tax status.
Generally, the approval process for charitable groups seeking tax-deductible status takes longer than it does for groups that merely want to be tax-exempt, such as most of the tea party groups.
In any case, there's a good chance this scandal could last a while.
Anyone who follows Washington scandals knows that investigations can take months, sometimes years.
That story broke during the presidential campaign of 1972. The president's press secretary dismissed it as a third-rate burglary. The investigation was slow because there was an active pushback from the Nixon administration and the people being investigated. The end finally came in August 1974, when President Nixon resigned.
Was there a coverup here, like there was in the Watergate scandal? I have no idea.
But it could easily be argued that there are a lot of signs pointing in that direction: Multiple investigations were cut off; document processing was delayed; a key official took the Fifth Amendment.
When the issue involves the integrity of an institution as powerful as the IRS, the media and the public are entitled to a thorough, professional investigation.
Anything less leads an already cynical public to become even more cynical. If it comes to the appointment of a special prosecutor, that, I believe, should be reserved as a last resort.
The administration says there's no political basis for the IRS actions. If that's true, then it has nothing to lose. Sometimes, though, the truth hurts. But don't worry. Whatever happens, America can handle it.
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