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May 23, 2013
Column #1,656
Time for a “Watergate” Bipartisan Commission
By Mike McManus

The IRS scandal of the Obama Administration has grown so large that Congress should appoint a bipartisan, Watergate-type Commission to investigate.

It should be chaired by two U.S. Senators with impeccable credentials, such as Montana Democrat Max Baucus and Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss. Both have announced their retirement, and have the best interests of America at heart.

The IRS scandal is a three-level horror.

First, dozens of conservative groups who tried to get a designation as a 501c4 group, which could use half its contributions for political purposes – were stonewalled from April, 2010 and none were approved for more than two years. The law requires that the IRS give an approval or denial within 270 days, yet not one received it.

Just a coincidence that Obama was up for re-election in 2012?

Second, the public was told this action was being taken by a rogue IRS office in Cincinnati. The White House maintained it knew nothing about the matter until a week ago or perhaps a month ago, and that Obama was left completely in the dark.

Colleen Kelly, president of the union representing IRS agents, told the Associated Press, “No processes or procedures…would ever be done just by frontline employees without any management involvement.” (Remember her name.)

The New York Times reported that IRS accountants got a “directive from their manager” in early 2010 to “be on the lookout” for Tea Party-type groups.

An IRS Inspector General’s report confirms that the project was managed from Washington. A key player, Lois Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations, pled the 5th Amendment before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, but not before declaring, “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules and regulations.”

She pled the 5th because she did not want to give ammunition to those who believe what went on was criminal.

What has surfaced recently is that just before the anti-Tea Party campaign began at the IRS, Obama met with President of the IRS Union, Colleen Kelley. She was a fierce opponent of Tea Party activists, who led the fight to capture many new House seats by Republicans in 2010. Unquestionably, the two agreed on a strategy that might defeat the GOP in 2012.

Perhaps this is the smoking gun reporters have been looking for.

However, what even more alarming is that the IRS leaked the confidential 2008 tax return of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to its arch-enemy, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC had long sought to find the identity of NOM’s major donors. (NOM led the successful Proposition 8 fight in California in which 7 million voters created a state Constitutional Amendment limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.)

OF course, NOM refused to publish the names of its donors. Then came the leak. “There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies in violation of federal law,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president.

In March, 2012 HRC and the Huffington Post published NOM’s form 990 Schedule B containing the identity of dozens of donors, making them targets for attacks by gay activists. That illegal publication occurred just a few months after Joseph Solmonese, HRC President, was appointed a national co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The release of NOM’s confidential tax return to the Human Rights Campaign is the canary in the coal mine of IRS corruption,” charged John Eastman, NOM’s Chairman in a USA Today column.

“Contrary to assertions that the targeting of Tea Party groups was an error in judgment by low-level IRS bureaucrats, the release of NOM’s confidential data to a group headed by an Obama campaign co-chair suggests the possibility of complicity at the highest levels of politics and government,” Eastman charged.

“This wasn’t a low-level error in judgment; it was a conscious act to reward a prominent Obama supporter while punishing an opponent.”

After more than a year of waiting patiently for an IRS explanation, the National Organization for Marriage is suing the IRS.

Every day there are new revelations about the depth of the IRS scandal. However, these details convince me that much more is needed than an Inspector General’s Report on the IRS, or more hearings by Rep. Darrell Issa.

Let’s have a wide-ranging, bipartisan Watergate-type investigation led by respected Democratic and Republican Senators.

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