Some extremely well-informed analysts, including my dear friend Rush Limbaugh, have suggested that we will never find Barack Obama’s fingerprints on the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service’s political targeting of tea party activists, conservatives and other Obama critics.
I’m not so sure.
In fact, given the history of scandals like this and what we know about the frequency of visits by top IRS officials to the White House, I’m almost certain evidence exists to implicate Obama personally in what has become known as IRS-gate.
First, consider this: Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times between 2009 and his resignation following the disclosures about the agency’s political witch hunts. Sarah Hall Ingram, the woman responsible for the IRS division that targeted conservative and constitutional groups, made 165 separate visits to the White House since 2011.
That is an incredible total of 322 visits by two top IRS officials to the White House over a period of four years. There are roughly 1,000 working days in four years. That means Obama was meeting with these IRS officials 32 percent of his time!
Now think about how often Obama is not in the White House. He has taken more vacations than his three predecessors combined. He is often on the road raising money. How many days do you suppose Obama was actually in the White House during those years?
Let’s be conservative and guess he was away 20 percent of the time.
That would leave approximately 800 working days in the White House, which I think would be an extremely generous estimate. On nearly half of those days, top IRS officials are in the White House.
What could White House officials and the IRS possibly be talking about with such frequency?
It would be natural to assume that IRS officials were going to the White House for broad policy directives. It would be inappropriate for them to discuss anything else. It would also be likely there are some written records of those meetings. Congress must demand those written records.
Rush is right when he says it probably wouldn’t be necessary for Obama to tell his own people what to do. There’s an old saying: Personnel is policy. All IRS officials would need to do to understand what Obama expected would be to listen to his own harsh and condemning rhetoric of his political adversaries. On more than one occasion he has referred to his struggle with them in war-like terminology.
However, we should not conclude necessarily that Obama, in his zealotry, didn’t actually commit some of his directives to writing.
It has happened before.
It happened, as I can demonstrate, in the 1990s when Bill Clinton sent such directives to IRS officials. It happened to me.
I was well-known to that White House as a vocal critic. In 1996, the White House prepared a 361-page document known as “The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” in which it profiled a handful of his media adversaries – a kind of enemies list that was distributed by both the White House and the Democratic National Committee to friendly journalists. I was among the most prominent names profiled in several pages.
Later, my nonprofit organization at the time, the Western Journalism Center, was the target of a political audit. How do I know it was a political audit? Because on two separate occasions, IRS officials told both my accountant and myself – once in front of our legal counsel!
After a grueling nine-month audit, my organization was cleared of any wrongdoing. We filed Freedom of Information requests for all the paperwork on the case. Years later, when few cared any longer, we got the results of a Treasury Department investigation that included a letter from the White House, initialed by Bill Clinton himself, suggesting an investigation of my nonprofit corporation.
That’s why I say it is premature to rule out that Obama’s fingerprints are all over this scandal.
And for those who suggest such meddling by the president is not an impeachable offense, let’s recall what happened in the case of Richard Nixon. Nixon once suggested to his treasury secretary that the IRS should go after his political enemies. His treasury secretary told him that would be illegal and basically told him to take a flying leap. There is no evidence Nixon ever actually implemented such a policy.
Nevertheless, one of the articles of impeachment, ironically drawn up with the collaboration of Hillary Clinton, included his attempt to use the IRS to go after his political enemies.
If it was an impeachable offense in the 1970s, should it not be an impeachable offense in the 21st century?
You bet it should be.