Saturday, July 18, 2015

Networks Ignore IRS Non-Story, Dickens Fumes, Bozell Raves

MRC Watch Dept. -  "What’s it going to take," asked a flustered Geoffrey Dickens on Wednesday, 8 July, "for the networks to start seriously reporting on the IRS scandal again?" The item that had him in an uproar: a "stunning revelation" by Judicial Watch. A "bombshell" that "has yet to be reported on any of the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) networks." For those familiar with Judicial Watch, a crackpot right-wing nuisance-suit mill, this hardly comes as any surprise. The org's history is a quite-long list of "bombshells" that turn out to be duds. The newest, yet another, was just the latest in a long line.

Here's how Judicial Watch reported it:
"Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official 'DOJ Recap' report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner [of the IRS], DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

"The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups  – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, 'This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.'"
The conservative Rage Machine has long pushed the narrative that the IRS wrongly targeted right-wing groups. Dickens, in recounting the story, includes a quote from Judicial Watch head Tom Fitton:
"The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama's opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?"

Dickens also includes a Fox News graphic using part of that quote, and, indeed, that's the characterization of this information that has gone all 'round the righty blogosphere since Judicial Watch published it.

The problem?

Not only is there nothing in the new documents that supports that characterization, the documents refute it.

In the first place, the documents don't show anyone trying to "concoct" ways to send Obama's opponents to jail, not "before his reelection" or at any other time; they don't, in fact, even mention "President Obama's opponents." Rather, the documents show there was a meeting in Oct. 2010 between IRS and Justice officials "to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations." What activity?
"The section's attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees 'posing' as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability."
In short, the responsible parties were discussing tax cheats and what is to be done about said cheats. Shorter version: they were doing the jobs for which they're paid. Really scandalous stuff.

On the other hand, the assertion by Judicial Watch that the IRS provided to the Justice Department 21 disks "containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups" is flat-out false--an outrageous lie. The disks contained the 990 forms for those orgs, which is public information. It is true that some non-public information from a handful of groups was also included on the disks but it appears to have been entirely accidental. The Wall Street Journal reported that
"the IRS said it recently identified 33 tax returns on the disks—out of a total of 12,000 returns—that inadvertently included 'some nonpublic information.' The agency said the 33 groups represented a wide spectrum of organizations and most don't appear to have any connection to political activity."
That Journal report, it's worth noting, was published over a year ago, which gives a good indication of how impervious to facts these right-wing faux-"scandals" can be. And the fact that these were the 990s on "nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States" -- one thing Judicial Watch did get right -- conclusively refutes the assertion that this was part of any effort to target "President Obama's opponents" or right-wing groups in general.

The other big "revelation" was that "the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress." An email from a Justice official to a lawyer representing the IRS employees reads
"One last issue. If any of your clients have documents they are providing to Congress that you can (or would like to) provide to us before their testimony, we would be pleased to receive them."
The Justice Department was, at the time, investigating what happened at the IRS and again Judicial Watch is trying to offer a sinister characterization to someone who, without so much as a hint of impropriety, is merely doing his job.

That's the substance of the latest Judicial Watch "bombshell, the one Geoffrey Dickens would have you believe the press is negligent in failing to cover.

His boss, MRC chief Brent Bozell, was even more outraged. On his best days, Bozell is as hostile to understatement as he is to facts but the hilarious, nail-spitting hate-rant against the press he unleashed the next day has to be read to be believed:
"The networks' refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents."
And so on. Read the whole thing for a look into the black little heart of the unhinged fascist half-wit at the head of the Media Research Center.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of unhinged fascist half-wits, faux "scandals" and those who whine that the press doesn't cover non-stories.]
The networks’ refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents.  - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb-staff/2015/07/09/bozell-media-silence-irs-scandal-borders-being-complicit-cover#.hafdzy:6sbb

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