Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency's Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.Peggy Noonan argues that the issue is not incompetence but a deliberate violation of rights.
The Cincinnati agents didn't provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.
Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.
The most compelling evidence of that is what happened to the National Organization for Marriage. Its chairman, John Eastman, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, and the tale he told was different from the now-familiar stories of harassment and abuse.CBS reports:
In March 2012, the organization, which argues the case for traditional marriage, found out its confidential tax information had been obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, one of its primary opponents in the marriage debate. The HRC put the leaked information on its website—including the names of NOM donors. NOM not only has the legal right to keep its donors' names private, it has to, because when contributors' names have been revealed in the past they have been harassed, boycotted and threatened. This is a free speech right, one the Supreme Court upheld in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to surrender its membership list.
The NOM did a computer forensic investigation and determined that its leaked IRS information had come from within the IRS itself. If it was leaked by a worker or workers within the IRS it would be a federal crime, with penalties including up to five years in prison.
Most Americans regardless of party believe political reasons drove the Internal Revenue Service to single out for burdensome and unnecessary scrutiny some conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday. The public splits across party lines, though, about whether President Obama and his administration were involved.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents- 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents - said they think the IRS targeting was motivated by politics, rather than adherence to the tax code policy. But while forty-four percent think the Obama administration had a hand in the targeting, 40 percent said they believe the agency acted on its own.
There are partisan differences: 70 percent of Republicans think the Obama administration was involved - a belief shared by only 19 percent of Democrats. Sixty-five percent of Democrats said they think the IRS acted independently.