Blue Byline

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IRS debacle was taxpayer profiling, not partisan witch hunt

Post by Brian O'Neill on May 23, 2013 at 6:03 am with 15 Comments »
May 24, 2013 9:35 am

If baseball, hot dogs and apple pie represent the warm and fuzzy side of American culture, the Internal Revenue Service must be the cold, prickly side.

With all due respect to the nation’s tax collection agency, how we love to loathe it.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Consider the national outrage stemming from the IRS’ recent admission that taxpayers who made reference to terms like “tea party” and “patriot” were singled out for auditing.

Those hoping such a powerful enforcement arm of government would be mindful of taxpayers’ rights should pay attention to the agency’s indifferent response to public outcry – little more than an elaborate, “Whoops, my bad.”

Rather than hone in on the violation itself, conservative politicians have seized the headlines in an attempt to add yet one more to the growing list of White House scandals.

The notion that the conservative witch hunt was carried out with the President’s implicit approval is as ridiculous as the suggestion that politicians opposing gun control have no regard for victims of gun violence. That is merely the mating call for partisan politicians.

If you’re wondering how any of this debacle is relevant to this column, I’m almost there.

The thought process behind the IRS shenanigans is eerily familiar. The purpose of the errant IRS employees was to exploit any correlation between certain identifiers (i.e. tea pot and patriot) and the likelihood of tax fraud. That shortcut is much easier than completing the hard work needed for a tax fraud investigation.

There is a word for such a lazy approach to one’s profession. It’s commonly known as profiling.

When it became clear, years ago, that some police officers were basing their stops on an individual’s ethnicity, profiling quickly became synonymous with the abuse of power. That was an accurate assessment of the practice, but fortunately law enforcement officers have learned to articulate justifiable reasons for detaining individuals suspected of criminal activity.

The IRS example is no different. When an agent decides to audit a taxpayer based solely on an assumed political preference, that is a shameful abuse of power, a violation of rights and constitutes profiling in its basic form.

Thanks to politicians and the media, this scandal has already devolved to Beltway gamesmanship. That is a costly redirection, because when citizens fail to recognize and reject profiling in its many forms, it simply disappears back into the machinery.

If we are to ensure constitutional freedoms equally, we will need to turn our attention back to the lazy subculture within our nation’s tax collecting agency and guarantee that profiling is never again used as an enforcement tool.

The IRS is already painfully aware of taxpayers’ irrational ire. We don’t need legitimate reasons to dislike it.

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. WOW you have written some ridiculous stuff over the time you’ve been with the Tribune, but this one just might take the cake! To try and spin this from exactly what it was-a direct attack on conservative non-profits and their fundraising activities- is disengenuous at best. We aren’t talking low level IRS agents. This was a massive scandal orchestrated to limit conservative impacts on national elections. Even the biased media has recognized this for what it is….look who has resigned from the IRS already to try and provide a sacrificial lamb so that you and the rest of the media will look the other way-as they have so far with Benghazi.

  2. Gandalf says:

    Either Obama is a do nothing president, who doesn’t accept responsibility for the actions of his administration, or he’s incompetent leader who doesn’t know or care what his administration is doing. If you’re not subscribing to the Obama did it ( unlike the bush did it meme), then its one or the other. Ignorant or incompetent. I will take a little from column a, a little from column b.

  3. smokey984 says:

    Interesting you say: If we are to ensure constitutional freedoms equally…

    And it would appear you don’t support it equally relating to previous writings concerning our second amendment..Just saying…

    Anyway..back to your writing. This jackass is a straight genius. A 3 minute video of the current state of intelligence of our former IRS head. Enjoy!:

  4. smokey984 says:

    Maybe we can disband the IRS and give that money to the chicago school district! The incompetence running the city just voted to close 50 schools!

    Coming to a town near you, because this is what collapse looks like!


  5. simonsjs says:

    Brian, you’re still playing the shill. How can you hide behind reality? You get paid for it, thats how.

  6. smokey984 says:

    Sorry if im posting to much, however this IRS story just gets under my skin.
    I care less what political party was investigated. Both parties answer to the same elite corporate special goonbags…as you’ve surely noticed regardless of the party in charge they both continue/follow each others policies.
    Gitmo closed? nope..drone wars expanded under the new admin, yep! surge in Afghanistan, just like Iraq, yep! anybody been held accountable regardless of party? nope. Do i need to continue?

    Anyway i disagree with Brian on the partisan witch hunt…however most don’t realize its just a game to keep the people thinking there’s an actual difference in policy beliefs.

    You see the politicians are the puppets and the corporate special intrusts are the string pullers, just like the puppet shows we all loved as kids.

    Anyway back to the IRS:
    “I don’t know.” “I don’t remember.” “I’m not familiar with that detail.” “It’s not my precise area.” “I’m not familiar with that letter.”

    These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They’re surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they’d get away with it.

    So what did we learn the past week, and what are the essentials to keep in mind?

    We learned the people who ran and run the IRS are not going to help Congress find out what happened in the IRS. We know we haven’t gotten near the bottom of the political corruption of that agency. We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began. We don’t know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal. We don’t know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.
    We know the IRS commissioner wasn’t telling the truth in March 2012, when he testified: “There’s absolutely no targeting.” We have learned that Lois Lerner lied when she claimed she had spontaneously admitted the targeting in a Q-and-A at a Washington meeting. It was part of a spin operation in which she’d planted the question with a friend. We know the tax-exempt bureau Ms. Lerner ran did not simply make mistakes because it was overwhelmed with requests—the targeting began before a surge in applications. And Ms. Lerner did not learn about the targeting in 2012—the IRS audit timeline shows she was briefed in June 2011. She said the targeting was the work of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. But the Washington Post spoke to an IRS worker there, who said: “Everything comes from the top.”

    We know that Lois Lerner this week announced she’d done nothing wrong, and then took the Fifth. Imagine that!!

  7. Trueblue22 says:

    A very narrow and short-sighted look, Brian. Not only does this run deeper than a few over zealots at the IRS but it also has a far more sinister twist. You failed to mention that the IRS is going to end up having a lot more power next year due to Obamacare. The IRS essentially will be the police of Obamacare and can levy hefty fines to ensure “coverage compliance.” Identifying a group of people (especially people that the current administration has a deep disdain for) so they can become future targets down the road is the bigger picture. What the IRS did was un-American. Thanks for a poorly written piece and rationalizing poor (possibly criminal) behavior. Happy Memorial Day, Brian.

  8. NotPoliticallyCorrect says:

    Brian- Ignorance is Bliss, but I find yours rather disturbing.

  9. Where is all the outrage about this happening to liberal groups ? It makes perfect sense to check out groups who have have anti-tax stances, these are the enforcers of the taxpayers.
    I finally get the fear… you fools have been convinced that the hated anti-patriot IRS is going to throw you in jail or take you money because of Obamacare. That is what every meme leads to now. You don’t want to think any different either even if the truth leads you somewhere else.

    First off other than being just factually wrong and wrong and wrong, its dumb because you miss so many facts on the way to swallow the lie. Believing this garbage only helps to justify your fear.

    Ideology does not trump fact with honest people, ever.

  10. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thanks for the comments. For those who chose to make a point, rather than to simply denigrate yours truly, the general consensus is that the IRS scandal is both political and a big deal.

    For the record, I get that. In fact, I strongly made the claim that the IRS seems to have violated the rights of the conservative taxpayers they profiled. This prejudicial practice is not allowed in law enforcement and should not be allowed when the IRS dons its hat as the enforcer of the tax code.

    If you choose to get spun up by the partisan issues, that’s your choice. I believe that an infringement of rights based on race, gender, sexual preference, religion or political leanings is a far more eggregious wrong.

  11. I don’t fear the IRS and hope that they keep the Republigun party
    getting a radical right president in the next 4 year election.
    In other words I’m a leftist with little if any scruples but at
    least I don’t take story lines from other commenters like the
    radical right ditto machines. Hey, our country is going to die
    of over consumption real quick.

  12. smokey984 says:

    So to continue with the Lois Lerner story i wrote about above…

    Lois Lerner, the IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, signed letters that were sent to targeted groups asking them to turn over an extensive amount of information to the IRS. Earlier this week Lerner refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but not before proclaiming that she had “done nothing wrong” or “broken any laws.”

    Lerner has been placed on administrative leave, reportedly after she refused to resign from the agency.

    American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow, who represents more that a dozen Tea Party groups, released a sample of the IRS letters sent to Tea Party type groups.

    “It appears Lerner did nothing to stop the abusive conduct. And our evidence suggests she was actively participating in the improper targeting in March 2012,” he said in a statement.

    The Inspector General’s timeline shows that Lerner was briefed in June of 2011. According to the IG report, Lerner had ordered the criteria to be changed in June 2011 but it was “then broadened, but somehow it was changed again in January 2012 ‘without executive approval.’ ”

    Sekulow said their records show Lerner sent 14 other letters to 14 of his group’s clients in March and April of that year. He said it’s unclear why her signature is on some letters but not others.

    Rep. Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight Committee released this statement “After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena. The committee is looking at recalling her for further testimony.”

    An example to one of these letters:

    So what is the IRS Director of Exempt Organizations?

  13. Your comment contradicts your story Brian? So are you now acknowledging it was political? It is a partisan discrimmination, it is everything you claimed it wasn’t in your article; I can’t reconcile your comment versus your article…

  14. smokey984 says:

    Gee this monkeybusiness keeps getting better and better.

    Publicly released records show that embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president’s Cabinet.

    Shulman’s extensive access to the White House first came to light during his testimony last week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Shulman gave assorted answers when asked why he had visited the White House 118 times during the period that the IRS was targeting tea party and conservative nonprofits for extra scrutiny and delays on their tax-exempt applications.

    By contrast, Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson only visited the White House once during four years of service in the George W. Bush administration and compared the IRS’s remoteness from the president to “Siberia.” But the scope of Shulman’s White House visits — which strongly suggests coordination by White House officials in the campaign against the president’s political opponents — is even more striking in comparison to the publicly recorded access of Cabinet members.

  15. Hmmm. just released, the assault on conservative groups by the IRS was much bigger and went on much longer than previously disclosed….but it’s OK, because the IRS has determined nobody meant to do anything intentionally wrong….just as the IRS. LOL-this is not near over, and the media won’t be able to bury it like they have Benghazi…

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