Washington Post: ‘Cat’s Out of the Bag’ on IRS Targeting Scandal

What’s the difference between “targeting” and using “inappropriate criteria” to select certain organizations for review?

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 26: IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is sworn in prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee March 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Koskinen testified on ‘Examining the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) Response to the Targeting Scandal.’ Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Washington Post says it’s just “bureaucratese” in fact checking IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who told Congress the tax collecting agency was never accused of targeting tea party organizations and other conservative groups from 2010 through 2012.

Koskinen testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 25, but the Post on Thursday, said it spent several days fact checking his testimony before giving it three Pinocchios. The newspaper’s fact check column has a maximum of four Pinocchios.

“The Inspector General found inappropriate criteria were used to select organizations for further review – he did not refer to it as targeting,” the commissioner told the committee. He also said, “Yes, inappropriate criteria were used. I don’t think I used the word target, but I do acknowledge that applications were delayed unnecessarily and for too long.”

Koskinen referred to the May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that was titled “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review,” even though Inspector General Russell George used the phrase “targeted” in congressional testimony.

“We understand the public relations concern about acknowledging that the IRS engaged in targeting of conservative groups,” the Post said. “But the cat’s out of the bag, given an official IRS report has used the phrase and both George and Koskinen have used it in public testimony.”

“The IG’s report was carefully written but at this point, it is silly and counterproductive for Koskinen to fall back on bureaucratese – or even deny the phrase ‘targeting’ had been used. While perhaps technically correct in terms of the report, this is a slender reed to hide behind,” the Post continued. “After all, George publicly said that all three allegations of ‘targeting’ were proven, and that ‘inappropriate criteria’ was the equivalent of ‘targeting.’ That demonstrates that ‘inappropriate criteria’ is simply a euphemism. Accept that means ‘targeting,’ and move on.”

The IRS exempt organizations unit cited hundreds of conservative groups with words such as tea party or “take back America,” to identify certain applicants for tax exempt status on a “BOLO” or be on the lookout list.

The IG report found, the IRS “1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups.” Then concluded, “The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax‑exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”

A week after the report was released, George told Congress, “The three allegations considered during our review were proven true. The IRS targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status.  It delayed the processing of these groups’ applications, and requested unnecessary information, as well as subjected these groups to special scrutiny.”

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