The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, like some of her colleagues (especially Peggy Noonan) and her paper’s incomparable editorial page, continue to cover the IRS scandal and add perspective to it.
Writing in her column today, Ms. Strassel points out that congressional investigators this week released emails suggesting that staff at the Federal Election Commission inappropriately targeted conservative groups–and they relied on the help of the IRS’s Lois Lerner.
For the IRS to share information with the FEC would of course be illegal–and this is yet more evidence that another one of Barack Obama’s “phony scandals” just got worse. Like the Mississippi, the IRS scandal just keeps rolling along.
A few additional thoughts on it:
1. The latest finding means that a scandal that originally involved simply (!) the IRS is now government-wide. And this is not just your garden-variety scandal; it involves a staggering abuse of power by one of the most powerful agencies in the entire American government.
2. The latest finding makes it clear that Lerner, who worked at the FEC for nearly a decade and demonstrated animus toward conservatives, is a key figure in untangling this story. Republicans need to put legal pressure on her and perhaps, at the right moment, offer her some level of immunity to find out what more she knows. Ms. Lerner is obviously a focal point in this whole investigation. If she begins to talk, the stone wall that has been built around this scandal may begin to crumble.
3. To their credit, Republicans are investigating this matter in a methodical and comprehensive manner. They’re not frenetic. They’ve been careful, for the most part, to keep their rhetoric restrained and tied to what we know. It’ll take time for this to story to fully unfold. Fine and well. There’s no urgency. Republicans should take their time to turn over every possible stone.
4. My guess is that when the president announced last week that Republicans were obsessed with “phony scandals,” he was revealing just how worried he is about this scandal and how explosive it might be. He has no interest in getting to the bottom of it, perhaps because he’s fearful of how widespread this whole thing is.
5. It’s worth recalling that once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, liberals and the elite media worried a lot about the abuse of power by government, especially using an agency as powerful as the IRS. Indeed, one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included his alleged misuse of the IRS. But this story, like so many other scandals/negative stories involving the Obama administration, seems wholly uninteresting to them (with a few honorable exceptions, like Fox News and the Journal). But the nature of this scandal may eventually make it impossible even for most of the left-leaning media to ignore.
6. The events surrounding the IRS/FEC will further accelerate what has been a collapse in confidence in the federal government. It has to, since this story involves such a large, obvious, and feared governmental agency. One of the (unintended) liberal legacies of Barack Obama may well be much greater distrust of the federal government. This is an irony that shouldn’t be lost on Mr. Obama–but probably will be.