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WASHINGTON – The explosion of intelligence-gathering scandals is giving the left time to get its story straight, at least, on the IRS scandal.
The IRS’ targeting of conservative groups has fallen out of public view, at least momentarily, as the NSA and PRISM data-collection scandals have burst onto the scene.
But, behind the scenes, the left is catching its breath and regrouping, having come up with what it says is an explanation for at least 157 visits to the White House by former IRS Director Douglas Shulman between 2010 and 2012.
By comparison, Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson visited the White House only one time in four years during the George W. Bush administration, according to the Daily Caller.
The much greater number of visits by Shulman made many people skeptical of his claim that he never discussed the targeting of conservatives with anyone at the White House.
Now, the Atlantic has pushed the narrative that it was really only 11 visits, not 157.
The liberal magazine said White House logs show Shulman signed in only 11 times.
“According to the White House records, Shulman signed in twice in 2009, five times in 2010, twice in 2011 and twice in 2012,” the Atlantic reported.
But that’s no proof Shulman visited the White House only 11 times, or even fewer than 157 times. As the Atlantic also acknowledged, the number of times he signed in “does not mean that he did not go to other meetings, only that the White House records do not show he went to the 157 meetings he was granted Secret Service clearance to attend.”
That’s because Cabinet members and other important visitors often don’t sign in when they visit the White House.
The Atlantic also conceded that point, noting confirmation of the visits “don’t always show up in the visitor’s access records.”
“Neither do visits by staffers, journalists covering large events, or people who enter the White House grounds in their pre-cleared cars, like Cabinet members, who do not wait for badge swipes at the gate with the policymaking hoi polloi.”
The Atlantic also maintained Shulman was in the White House to discuss implementation of Obamacare because he was “cleared 40 times to meet with Obama’s director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts.”
But if that were so, why did Shulman have such difficulty explaining to a congressional committee the purpose of his visits, citing as his No. 1 reason the Easter Egg Roll?
When asked by a Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Gerald Conolly, D-Va., why he visited the White House so often during a two year period, Shulman responded: “Um, the Easter Egg Roll with my kids, questions about the administrability of tax policy they were thinking of, our budget, us helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid.”
Not one mention of Obamacare.
A former White House staffer says the sheer numbers make it hard to believe the IRS did not make the White House aware of the targeting of conservatives long before it became public knowledge.
Doug Wead served in the administrations of both President George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. Wead noted: "Sarah Hall Ingram, the woman responsible for the IRS division that targeted conservative and constitutional groups, made 165 visits to the White House since 2011" making for a total of 322 visits between her and her boss, Shulman.
Between the two of them, he calculated, that's almost one visit every other working day.
Wead wondered: "[C]an one meet with the president hundreds of times and not talk about ones work? Isn’t the president too busy to talk about life? Or to quiz an IRS official about personal gossip at the agency? Wouldn’t a chief executive want to know what she is doing and how she is doing it? And would she really make hundreds of visits without the details of her work ever coming up? What would be the purpose of the visits?"
He is particularly skeptical of Ingram. He said "the administrator of the IRS division that targeted conservative groups, the one who made 165 visits to the White House and supposedly never uttered a word about what she was doing, was given a $100,000 bonus and promoted to run the enforcement of ObamaCare. What is that? Coincidence? A payoff?"
The IRS scandal likely won't stay out of the headlines much longer.
Chairman Issa is planning to haul Lois Lerner back before his House oversight committee.
Lerner is the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division who attempted to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions before the committee in May.
However, she first read a statement claiming her innocence. Issa's spokesman, Ali Ahmed, said that after consulting with counsel, Issa has concluded that Lerner's Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.
Lerner has blamed the entire scandal on two low-level IRS employees in the Cincinnati office.
However, two workers in that office have since told reporters their work was tightly supervised by superiors in Washington.