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Funny Business
A Tipping Point in the IRS Scandal?

We’ve been disinclined to comment on the IRS scandal because the partisan hype is so tangled up with the serious issues, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that a tipping point has been reached. The Hill reports that Lois Lerner’s hard drive, previously presumed dead, was actually not quite beyond hope:

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said that the committee had learned that Lerner’s hard drive was “scratched,” and that private sector specialists likely could have recovered emails.

IRS technicians also recommended that the agency seek outside help in recovering the emails, before the hard drive was recycled. A Ways and Means spokeswoman said the information came from an analyst with the IRS’s criminal investigations unit, which examined Lerner’s hard drive.

The IRS has said for weeks that Lerner’s hard drive crash left them unable to reproduce all of her emails for more than two years.

Last week, agency officials said under oath in court filings that Lerner’s hard drive couldn’t be restored, and was then destroyed to protect confidential taxpayer information.

One should note that these accusations are coming from Republicans and that they are disputed by many Democrats. So we aren’t yet in full Watergate mode. Still, if there is any fire at all under all this smoke, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a felonious coverup of a constitutional crime is underway. Why constitutional? If the scandal were just about awarding money to a favored ally or even covering up the ordinary misdeeds of an office holder, that would be one thing. But this scandal is about the deliberate use of state power against political opponents.

It’s far from clear how high up the problems extend. Occam’s Razor still suggests that mid-level rather than top-level officials were in the mix, but a serious political society shouldn’t sit back idly when something like this seems to be happening.

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  • Pete

    Think about it dig deep enough, Mead, and you’ll find that much of the federal bureaucracy and the administrative law it issues is criminal in nature as defined by the Constitution.

  • PKCasimir

    Occam’s Razor has absolutely nothing to do with this situation and is being either falsely or ignorantly used to avoid mentioning even the possibility that the criminal activity involved here reaches straight to the White House, not necessarily the President, but to the staff. One could just as easily argue that the old adage that “where there’s smoke there’s fire” could more aptly be used.

    • Andrew Allison

      Occam’s Razor has everything to do with this, but it suggests the opposite of what TF does. As if the email from Lerner alerting subordinates to the danger of incriminating emails were not enough, it is beyond belief that the destruction of not just one, but 20 hard drives ( which happened to contain them could have been authorized by a mid-level functionary (as was the original suggestion that “a couple of rouge employees” were responsible for the IRS jihad against conservative organizations.

  • Verinder Syal

    Partisan hype? That is one way to duck the issues. The IRS behavior should make every American fear for their freedom.
    The tax collection system has worked on a voluntary basis in the United States – unlike most places in the world – because it has been believed to be non-partisan. Yes, no one likes to pay taxes, but everyone does and should has been the belief. Well the body has been found to be highly partisan. And corrupt.
    The press is noticeable for their absence in this news cycle. If this had been Bush (or Nixon), the roar would have been ferocious. The Democrats now seem to like the IRS and its brave enforcers! Rep. Elijah Cummings – what a prince – is the sturdiest defender. Is it possible this is so because they are covering up for him? Time will tell.
    The excuses that the IRS Commissioner has made for the lost data reek of arrogance. Would the IRS ever accept similar excuses from a citizen? Hah!
    Perhaps it is time to start another non-cooperation movement as suggested by Gandhi. Delay paying our taxes! Delay, delay, and more delay. Give the some excuses as the IRS is giving. Could make for a mighty movement.

    • Boritz

      Partisan hype = The side with something to hide poisons the discussion.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Most Americans (except partisan Republicans) know that the majority of the new 501C(4)s are a total crock of crap against actual voters and do not deserve a tax exemption BECAUSE THEY ARE POLITICAL. If Lois Lerner slowed down ANY of them, on either the left or the right, we ought be be giving her a medal.

      • stanbrown


  • Boritz

    “We’ve been disinclined to comment on the IRS scandal because the partisan hype is so tangled up with the serious issues…”

    You could have shortened this to “We decided to hell with it.”

    • stanbrown

      One of the silliest lines ever by WRM.

  • stanbrown

    If the White House is not involved, the scandal is much, much worse. Of course, if Obama is involved, he should be impeached and convicted. But that would simply be a case of a president who is corrupt and a liar breaking the law. If the bureaucracy did this without any guidance by Obama, we need to blow up DC and start over.

  • Andrew Allison

    The partiality appears to be coming from TF. Does any nonpartisan seriously think that the hard drives (not just Lerner’s) were not destroyed as part of a coverup?

  • Tom Scharf

    Hard drives don’t get “just scratched”. They may be describing a common failure were the magnetic heads that read the spinning drive erroneously make contact with the drive’s surface and “scratch” it. This is almost always fatal, but sometimes parts of the drive can still be read.

    It makes no sense to attempt to recover a drive like this normally. It is way more cost effective to replace it.

    It may be possible to remove the platters or replace the heads but this is a complex process and rarely ever attempted.

    Almost any IT person would try to recover data for an hour or less, then scrap the drive completely. The success rate of recovering faulty drives is very low.

    Hard drives fail all the time, the fact hers did is not surprising. I would expect her computer to be backed up though, but this is an expectation of competency from her IT department.

  • rheddles

    Occam’s Razor still suggests that mid-level rather than top-level officials were in the mix

    And what do the 150+ visits to the White House by the IRS commissioner suggest?

  • PDX_traveler

    Well, interesting to see the wingnut alliance is still beavering away… on something or the other. If you’re going to use Occam’s razor at all, that would have one avoid all these contorted explanations and assumptions, and find something better to do. But no….
    Meanwhile, what news on Benghazi? #benghazi I tell you! Um, impeachment! Carry on –

    • Corlyss

      How many Americans do you know personally that deal with either State, the CIA, or suffered from the debacle in Benghazi?

      Now, how many people do you know who pay taxes and have no love for the IRS?

      Just curious

      • PDX_traveler

        Ah, so the (your?) wingnut Great IRS Hope is that this time it is different, because more ‘Murricans pay attention to their taxes and the IRS, and so they’ll sign on to these farcical proceedings?
        Nice try, I guess – but please try on the notion that more citizens probably see this for what it is – partisan hackery in Congress. You might find Occam explains this more easily then.

        • Corlyss

          Forget Occam’s Razor as a panacea for everything you disagree with.

  • gabrielsyme

    Occam’s Razor still suggests that mid-level rather than top-level officials were in the mix

    If by mid-level you mean White House Chief of Staff rather than the President himself, I agree. The narrative, including the dozens of White House visits by IRS higher-ups, the strategic partisan nature of the abuse and the implausibly convenient destroyed hard drives makes no sense if it was cooked up by mid-level bureaucrats.

  • Corlyss

    I have to say this unhappy sentence: “We’ve been disinclined to comment on the IRS scandal because the partisan hype is so tangled up with the serious issues . . .” almost resolves me to quit this site. It would be as funny as it is incredibly callow and indicative of a lot of articles posted under the umbrella “American Interest” if it weren’t so lamentable.

    Everyone in the US files with IRS or actually pays taxes. The criminal behavior revealed by the targeting of conservative groups needs to be prosecuted because it IS undoubtedly a violation of the law. The leaking of taxpayer information to the friendly media guaranteed to use it to trash the owner of the information is a violation of laws enacted after Watergate. I’ve participated in investigations of IRS employees who leaked taxpayer information. I’ve engaged in the creation of abortive DoD regulations, mandated from the WH, to force IRS to disclose taxpayer information for DoD contracting officers to use in determining whether a contractor who owed money to IRS should be allowed to compete and receive federal contracts (fortunately wiser heads prevailed and the attempted regulation was scrapped). The degree to which Watergate made taxpayer information more sacred than religious texts is NOT open for debate. The law is settled these 40 years. This scandal is NOT just another excuse for “partisan hype” and the author of the article should have realized that a looooooooong time before deciding how to treat the underlying story.

    The biggest disgrace about this scandal is not that a partisan hack has jerked around both the agency and the Congress, but that the Democrats have so little self-respect and concern for their constituents who pay taxes that they have behaved like the hack responsible for the crime in the first place. Via Media has not distinguished itself with its woeful indifference to the scandal. It would be one thing if they argued that taxpayer information should not be private and protected, that we should return to the way things were before Nixon’s minions ran barefooted thru their “enemies” returns and used the agency to punish. That at least would be a position worth discussing. But Via Media don’t exhibit ANY awareness or understanding of the gravity of the crime. And considering what you aspire to be on the ‘Net, the ignorance is appalling.

  • Snickersz

    The only people that have believed the IRS nonsense about failed hard drives and lost emails are those that have willing suspended disbelief. It looks as if Obama’s credibility gap has infected other governmental departments too.

  • charlesrwilliams

    Was the election of 2012 a free and fair election? Was there systematic abuse of the powers of the executive branch to reelect Obama? A truly democratic Democratic Party would be passionately concerned to uncover the truth for the sake of democratic governance.

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