This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Here’s what you don’t do if an IRS division is discovered to be singling out the political opposition: Sit on the explosive information for at least two years, and let the abuses fester in the meantime.
Here’s what you don’t do if a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed by jihadists in Libya: Water down the public explanations until it sounds as if lax security had nothing to do with the attack.
The blunders behind these two evasions aren’t remotely comparable in magnitude. But the Obama administration’s impulse to conceal the truth is the same.
An Internal Revenue Service unit’s seeming hostility to exemption-seeking conservative groups could conceivably go nuclear if responsibility reaches high enough in the Obama administration. The fact that IRS employees were hunting down Republican-leaning groups is shocking in itself; if it was even tolerated on high, it’s a revival of Nixon-style political tactics.
It also gives the lie to President Obama’s mantra that he’s running “the most transparent administration” in American history. Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS division that granted or refused tax exemptions for advocacy groups, learned in June 2011 that its employees were using such search terms as “tea party” and “patriot” when targeting groups extra scrutiny.
She didn’t bother to inform the public until Friday, on the eve of a scathing inspector general’s report. Even then, she insisted that the Determinations Unit had no political agenda.
The problem never would have arisen in the first place had the IRS been more forthcoming about its practices.
The unit uses what it calls “be on the lookout” criteria for scrutinizing particular groups. There’s no reason the BOLO has to be secret. Had it been an open document, no one would have dared add small-government advocacy to the guidelines.
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