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Topic: Douglas Shulman

The IRS Story Keeps Getting Worse

The liberal line about the IRS and other administration scandals in the last week has been that even if there was some low-level wrongdoing, an American public that is worried about the economy isn’t really interested in any of it. They are convinced that the only people willing to connect the dots between the demonization of the Tea Party by President Obama and the liberal press and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups are Republican partisans. As Seth wrote on Friday, Democratic complacence is based on the idea that Republicans are overreacting to the current scandals in much the same manner that they oversold the Monica Lewinsky affair in 1998. But the revelation of two new angles to the IRS story in recent days shows that contrary to the hopes of Democrats, it is not only not dying down but could get worse.

By now, just about everyone has seen the videos of IRS employees line dancing at a conference paid for by taxpayers. The videos, like another bizarre IRS project previously discovered in which government employees acted out “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island” parodies, illustrates an agency that is out of control and unaccountable in the way it wastes the money that it so zealously collects from the public.

But just as hard to explain is the news first reported on Friday by the Daily Caller that the wife of the IRS commissioner on whose watch the targeting of conservatives occurred is a senior official of a Washington group that has advocated for this kind of discriminatory scrutiny. One of the top talking points for liberals about the IRS has been to point out that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was appointed to his office by President George W. Bush, therefore lending a bipartisan gloss to the problem. But now it seems as if what was going on during Shulman’s frequent trips to the Obama White House isn’t the only question about his conduct that needs answering.

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The liberal line about the IRS and other administration scandals in the last week has been that even if there was some low-level wrongdoing, an American public that is worried about the economy isn’t really interested in any of it. They are convinced that the only people willing to connect the dots between the demonization of the Tea Party by President Obama and the liberal press and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups are Republican partisans. As Seth wrote on Friday, Democratic complacence is based on the idea that Republicans are overreacting to the current scandals in much the same manner that they oversold the Monica Lewinsky affair in 1998. But the revelation of two new angles to the IRS story in recent days shows that contrary to the hopes of Democrats, it is not only not dying down but could get worse.

By now, just about everyone has seen the videos of IRS employees line dancing at a conference paid for by taxpayers. The videos, like another bizarre IRS project previously discovered in which government employees acted out “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island” parodies, illustrates an agency that is out of control and unaccountable in the way it wastes the money that it so zealously collects from the public.

But just as hard to explain is the news first reported on Friday by the Daily Caller that the wife of the IRS commissioner on whose watch the targeting of conservatives occurred is a senior official of a Washington group that has advocated for this kind of discriminatory scrutiny. One of the top talking points for liberals about the IRS has been to point out that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was appointed to his office by President George W. Bush, therefore lending a bipartisan gloss to the problem. But now it seems as if what was going on during Shulman’s frequent trips to the Obama White House isn’t the only question about his conduct that needs answering.

The spectacle of America’s tax inquisitors making fools of themselves at expensive conferences paid for by the government is the sort of thing that most Americans can’t understand. It will ensure that Congress will continue to go over every aspect of IRS behavior with a fine-toothed comb. The administration may have thought it could confine the scrutiny of the agency to just a few rogue employees in the Cincinnati office, but that boat has sailed.

The news about Shulman’s liberal connections makes it impossible to go on arguing that the targeting happened while the IRS was run by a partisan Republican. Shulman donated money to the Democratic National Committee in 2004 and his wife Susan L. Anderson is the senior program advisor for Public Campaign, a liberal group that sought to prevent conservatives from getting nonprofit status. As Breitbart.com reported, her Twitter feed was an ongoing Obama campaign ad.

While the administration’s defenders will claim that this is either a coincidence or simply unconnected to the misconduct within the agency run by Anderson’s husband, it is getting harder and harder to maintain the idea that what happened there was completely disconnected from the political preferences of the White House and liberal groups.

The bottom line here is that the IRS has been revealed to be a branch of the government that acted as if there was no accountability for its waste of resources or its willingness to play partisan politics. This story is about more than just undermining the liberal belief in big government. Shulman’s arrogant refusal to answer questions when hauled in front of the House Oversight Committee was not the end of the story. The more we learn about him, his subordinate Lois Lerner (who previously targeted conservatives while at the Federal Elections Commission) and the rest of the crew there, as well as the fact that donors to conservative groups were also subjected to unfair scrutiny by the government, the more it becomes necessary to dig deeper to find the answer to the question of who ordered the targeting and why they did it.

Far from Republicans overplaying their hand on this issue, we may have only just scratched the surface of misconduct. The time to connect the dots between White House policies and IRS lawbreaking may not be far off.

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More on That Frequent White House Visitor

As I blogged the other day, Douglas Shulman, the commissioner of Internal Revenue, has been a frequent visitor to the White House, unlike any of his predecessors in that job.

Now the Daily Caller has been doing a little journalism. It reports this morning that Shulman visited the White House a stunning total of 157 times during the Obama administration. How does that compare with other high-ranking officials? Eric Holder, holding the far more important job of attorney general and the president’s close friend, shows up in the White House visitors’ log less than half as often as Shulman. The Daily Caller writes:

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As I blogged the other day, Douglas Shulman, the commissioner of Internal Revenue, has been a frequent visitor to the White House, unlike any of his predecessors in that job.

Now the Daily Caller has been doing a little journalism. It reports this morning that Shulman visited the White House a stunning total of 157 times during the Obama administration. How does that compare with other high-ranking officials? Eric Holder, holding the far more important job of attorney general and the president’s close friend, shows up in the White House visitors’ log less than half as often as Shulman. The Daily Caller writes:

Shulman has more recorded visits to the White House than HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (48), DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (34), Education Secretary Arne Duncan (31), former Energy Secretary Steven Chu (22) and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (17) combined.

To be sure, as the Daily Caller points out, some people are pre-cleared and don’t have to sign in and so may not always show up in the logs. (Perhaps, for the sake of history, not to mention journalism, that practice should end and everybody be required to sign in, with a classified log for highly sensitive visits by ambassadors, etc.)

Asked by a congressman at the recent hearings why he had visited so often, Shulman replied with a smirk that showed a contempt for Congress, if not contempt of Congress, that perhaps the Easter egg roll with his kids was one reason. But as Brit Hume tweeted regarding my original post, “Sooner or later this question will have to be answered: What was the ex-IRS chief doing at the White House all those times?”

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A Frequent Visitor to the White House

The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that Mark Everson, Commissioner of Internal Revenue from 2003 to 2007, during the Bush administration, visited the White House exactly once while in office. Indeed he felt like he’d “moved to Siberia” so out of the ordinary political loop was he. But Douglas Shulman, Commissioner from 2008 to 2012, during the Obama administration, visited the White House 118 times just in 2010 and 2011. His successor, Steven Miller, also visited “numerous” times.

The Commissioner of Internal Revenue is a managerial position, not a policy-making one, although his input on the practical realities of tax collection and how the IRS is structured might well be very useful if the President was planning a big push on tax reform. But no such push has been forthcoming. Obama’s sole interest in the tax code has been to raise rates on high earners. So what was the commissioner doing going to the White House more than once a week on average?

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The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that Mark Everson, Commissioner of Internal Revenue from 2003 to 2007, during the Bush administration, visited the White House exactly once while in office. Indeed he felt like he’d “moved to Siberia” so out of the ordinary political loop was he. But Douglas Shulman, Commissioner from 2008 to 2012, during the Obama administration, visited the White House 118 times just in 2010 and 2011. His successor, Steven Miller, also visited “numerous” times.

The Commissioner of Internal Revenue is a managerial position, not a policy-making one, although his input on the practical realities of tax collection and how the IRS is structured might well be very useful if the President was planning a big push on tax reform. But no such push has been forthcoming. Obama’s sole interest in the tax code has been to raise rates on high earners. So what was the commissioner doing going to the White House more than once a week on average?

One explanation would be the statutory involvement of the IRS in implementing Obamacare. But that bill was signed into law in early 2010. White House logs show on several occasions that he talked with White House staff about health care, but many other times no reason is given for his visit or whom he saw, which in itself is odd.

By his own admission he knew by the spring of 2012 (he resigned in November, 2012) that organizations with the words “Tea Party” in their names were being targeted for extra scrutiny. Is it really believable that someone who had a Wall Street career before coming to Washington five years ago was so politically naïve that he didn’t see the potential for scandal in that information and give the White House a heads-up? And, assuming he did so, is it believable that none of those White House staffers—who can hardly claim political naiveté—did not pass the information along to the president, leaving him to learn of it in the papers?

If so, there are a lot of potential customers to snap up the Brooklyn Bridge at a bargain rate.

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