Patterico's Pontifications


Refuting Robin Abcarian’s Kinda Sorta Defense of Her Column

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:13 pm

As promised, this is my post addressing Robin Abcarian’s kinda sorta defense of her recent column. As you know, I recently blasted Abcarian on her partisan discussions of Benghazi and the IRS scandal, in two posts. Part One is here, and Part Two is here. The summary is here. The closest Abcarian came to defending her column was to retweet creepy banned troll timb:

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You’ll be shocked to learn that the evidence provided in the links does not show that I was wrong or that Abcarian was correct. The links back up what I originally said: while words like “progressive” or “occupy” showed up on BOLO (be on the lookout) lists, there is no evidence that they were used to actually target left-leaning groups. Moreover, there is no truth to Abcarian’s implication that the Inspector General did not look at the targeting of progressive groups because Issa gave him directions to focus only on conservative groups.

The beginning of the first link sounds concerning, as lefty Sam Stein and his pal Michael McAuliff portray the matter:

The inspector general behind the critical report about the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups acknowledged Thursday that the information in his report was not complete.

J. Russell George, the IRS inspector general, told the House Oversight Committee that only in the past few weeks has he become aware of documents showing that the IRS screened progressive groups in addition to conservative ones. George said he was “disturbed” by the fact that these documents were not provided to his team of investigators prior to the audit’s release and that he was continuing to investigate the issue.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But if anyone reads the piece all the way through — and, more importantly, actually reviews the testimony that is the subject of the piece — one comes away with quite a different impression: namely, that the IRS told George that the groups they had actually targeted for extra scrutiny were tea party and conservative groups . . . and that the numbers bear this out. While it is true that George said the IRS had not disclosed all relevant documents before the audit was completed, there is no evidence whatsoever that the IRS’s treatment of left-leaning and right-leaning groups was equivalent, as Abcarian claimed.

The thrust of the reporting at the two links centers around the testimony of Inspector General Russell George at a July 18, 2013 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rather than relying on the lefties at HuffPo for the content of that testimony, I offer to you the official testimony itself. It’s all on YouTube videos at this link.

George’s testimony, before he was questioned, is here. Here is a critical quote from George:

With respect to the 298 cases that the IRS selected for political review as of the end of May 2012, three have the word “Progressive” in the organization’s name. Another four used quote “Progress” Unquote. None of the 298 cases selected by the IRS as of May 2012 used the name “Occupy.”

I know you have questions and so do we on the other Be On the Look Out listings, but from the date of the May 17th, 2012 document until we issued our report one year later, IRS staff at multiple levels concurred with our analysis citing “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” and “9/12” and certain policy positions as the criteria the IRS used to select potential political cases.

Here’s how the HuffPo lefties characterize that:

George spent his testimony and statement defending some of the original findings. He noted that of the 298 cases provided by the IRS for his office’s review, 96 of them involved tea party or conservative groups. Seven involved ones with “progressive” or “progress” in their name.

Note how Stein and McAuliff partially obscure the fact that only three groups targeted had the word “progressive.” Three. And none had the word “occupy.” None. Stein does not mention that, either.

The above quote from George makes it clear that according to the IRS itself, the additional scrutiny was targeted at tea party and similar groups. George made clear in his testimony that he didn’t set out to limit his audit to tea party and conservative groups, and that his report focused on the treatment of those groups because those are the groups that the IRS said they had set aside for increased scrutiny. This fact was reinforced by Assistant Inspector General Gregory Kutz in a statement made at 46:33 in this video (which has only 415 views as of the publication of this post) from the hearings:

I just want to say, what Mr. George submitted at the beginning of the hearing is called the BOLO Advocacy Cases iterations. It was given to us May 17, 2012 and represented by the IRS to be the entire set of BOLOs that were used for political advocacy. We’re not making this up, we submitted it for the record. If IRS was doing something beyond that, they never made it apparent to us in an entire year of doing an audit. So I just want to make that clear. If other people were misused, we’re very concerned about that, but IRS is the one that asserted to us in this email and the document that Mr. George submitted for the record that the entire population of BOLOs used for political advocacy is on the document that says “tea parties” until Lois Lerner changed it to “advocacy” in July 2011. I just want to make that clear. That’s a key piece of evidence for us and they never changed their story for a year. When Ms. Lois Lerner came up May 10 she didn’t apologize for anything else except what the evidence that she gave us. I just want to make that clear to everybody.

This is a point that bears repeating, I think. Once again: Lois Lerner kicked off public interest in this by apologizing for the treatment of Tea Party groups. From USA Today, May 12, 2013:

The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for subjecting Tea Party groups to additional scrutiny during the 2012 election, but denied any political motive.

Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, said organizations that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews. Her remarks, which came at an American Bar Association gathering, were first reported by the Associated Press.

Lerner didn’t apologize for targeting progressive groups. She apologized for targeting tea party and 9/11 groups.

As for Stein’s second link, this quote, I think, says it all:

Congressional Republicans have continued to argue that the screening was politically motivated, scandalous and worth further investigation. They’ve noted, correctly, that more conservative-leaning groups received scrutiny than did Democratic ones. And they’ve argued that even on the BOLO lists, IRS agents were told to apply enhanced scrutiny to Tea Party organizations.

Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad told The Huffington Post via email, “There is no comparison between screening applicants for a known bad actor that was having its tax exempt status revoked after inappropriate conduct had come to light with systematic screening for groups who were subjected to inappropriate and disparate treatment above and beyond other groups simply because they had ‘Tea Party’ in their name. The fact that Emerge was initially approved for tax exempt status, but had it revoked after its improper behavior came to light, underscores how much more stringent the IRS was with Tea Party applicants.”

So, the claim was that these links would prove I was wrong and Abcarian was right. Is that so? Let’s review what Abcarian said:

Sure, conservatives went crazy after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s famous May 2013 audit found the IRS may have flagged groups with “tea party” in their names for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

But that’s because Issa had asked the inspector general to look only at how tea party-affiliated groups were treated. He didn’t care to know, as we later found out thanks to Democrats on his committee, that the IRS was also flagging applications from liberal groups that used terms such as “progressive,” “medical marijuana” or “healthcare legislation.”

This was addressed in the testimony, and George said precisely the opposite of what Abcarian claims. I am going to break my Politico boycott here because they have by far the best summary and quote on this particular point:

One of the more dramatic moments of the hearing came when Connolly asked George about statements Karen Kraushaar, his top spokesperson, made to the media about the narrow scope of the IRS audit.

George said Kraushaar “misspoke” as she sat directly behind him.

“It was not with my authorization and she misspoke,” George said.

Kraushaar previously told media outlets, including POLITICO, that the inspector general didn’t expand the scope of the audit requested by Issa to include liberal and progressive groups. She said the inspector general was asked “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”

So the testimony at the actual hearing referenced by timb’s link refutes Abcarian’s claim. What happened, as George repeatedly explained at the hearing, was that he was looking at all groups that were targeted, and went where the evidence led him.

Robin Abcarian, is that all you got?

P.S. I wish I had noted where this came up, but one of the Congressmen made reference to Ms. Lerner’s statement that receiving a thick questionnaire from the IRS is a “behavior changer.” That is something first broken on this blog, in this post. The person who gave me that tip — and they know who they are — can be proud that their tip ended up being discussed in a highly public hearing in Congress on an important issue.

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