Crisis control:  fighting fire with fire …

As one who has studied “crisis management,” there are a few well-known guidelines: one, incriminating documents in large quantities  should be disclosed late Friday after the normal news cycle to minimize the immediate media reaction and bury the actual smoking gun among more “routine documents;” two, the media can be distracted with a bigger, but relatively benign, scandal; and three, if you must throw someone to the wolves, let it be an inconsequential LLE (Lower Level Employee) rather than a principal player. Sort of paraphrased in the form of a riddle: When is a scandal not a scandal? Answer, when the mainstream media is concentrating on a bigger scandal.

Thus it appears to me that the Obama Administration might have disclosed the inappropriate use of the IRS to target conservative, constitutional, and religious organizations for the sole purpose of containing the rapidly evolving Benghazi scandal.

A great strategy if the Benghazi scandal would lead to impeachable and prosecutable criminal offenses such as the deliberate violation of international arms control treaties, the illegal trafficking of military weaponry, running a rogue intelligence and “direct action” military operation out of the White House bypassing the military chain of command, lying to Congress during sworn testimony, or other unspecified crimes involving diversion of “black funds” for political (either foreign or domestic) use.

And what better Agency to take a fall than the universally hated and feared IRS – an agency that must be non-partisan, fair and apolitical, to preserve the nation’s trust in this critical institution. Especially if the crisis can be contained to relatively low level employees or a past director who has moved on.

The latest damning IRS revelation comes from a left-leaning, but relatively honest (compared to Media Matters or NBC) investigative journalism group ProPublica … 

IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups -- The IRS’s Cincinnati office last year sent ProPublica the unapproved applications for several conservative groups.

The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

On Friday, Lois Lerner, the head of the division on tax-exempt organizations, apologized  to Tea Party and other conservative groups because the IRS’ Cincinnati office had unfairly targeted them. Tea Party groups had complained  in early 2012 that they were being sent overly intrusive questionnaires in response to their applications.

That scrutiny appears to have gone beyond Tea Party groups to applicants saying they wanted to educate the public to “make America a better place to live” or that criticized how the country was being run, according  to a draft audit cited by many outlets. The full audit, by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, will reportedly be released this week. (ProPublica was not contacted by the inspector general’s office.)  

Applications become public only after the IRS approves a group’s tax-exempt status.

On Nov. 15, 2012, ProPublica requested the applications of 67 nonprofits, all of which had spent money on the 2012 elections. (Because no social welfare groups with Tea Party in their names spent money on the election, ProPublica did not at that point request their applications. We had requested the Tea Party applications earlier, after the groups first complained about being singled out by the IRS. In response, the IRS said it could find no record of the tax-exempt status of those groups — typically how it responds to requests for unapproved applications.)

Just 13 days after ProPublica sent in its request, the IRS responded with the documents on 31 social welfare groups.

One of the applications the IRS released to ProPublica was from Crossroads GPS, the largest social-welfare nonprofit involved in the 2012 election. The group, started in part by GOP consultant Karl Rove, promised the IRS that any effort to influence elections would be “limited.” The group spent more than $70 million from anonymous donors in 2012.

The IRS cover letter  sent with the documents was from the Cincinnati office, and signed by Cindy Thomas, listed as the manager for Exempt Organizations Determinations, whom a biography  for a Cincinnati Bar Association meeting in January says has worked for the IRS for 35 years. (Thomas often signed the cover letters of responses to ProPublica requests.) The cover letter listed an IRS employee named Sophia Brown as the person to contact for more information about the records. We tried to contact both Thomas and Brown today but were unable to reach them.

After receiving the unapproved applications, ProPublica tried to determine why they had been sent. In emails, IRS spokespeople said ProPublica shouldn’t have received them.

“It has come to our attention that you are in receipt of application materials of organizations that have not been recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt,” wrote one spokeswoman, Michelle Eldridge. She cited a law saying that publishing unauthorized returns or return information was a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

Read more at: IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups – ProPublica

The Plausible Deniability Defense …

ProPublica’s  “First Amendment” defense is solid – they had the information, they acted responsibly and redacted key information and published the rest. However, the IRS’s defense is also credible as it points to bureaucratic bungling and the accidental transfer of prohibited information along with permitted information. Thus containing the IRS release to “accidental disclosure” – and not a criminal conspiracy. This bifurcates the defense into at least four parts: those who initiated the program, those who operated the program, those who released information, and those who supervised the various areas. Nothing indicates, at least at this point of time, that the program was institutionalized and spread to other IRS offices. Thus the so-called “scandal” can be easily contained and managed – more smoke than fire.

Bottom line …

The IRS scandal appears to be nothing more than an attempt at misdirection – away from the Benghazi scandal that could see a President impeached and several people sent to jail if wrongdoing at the highest levels is alleged and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. That is, if Congress – and the Republicans – is willing to fight to preserve the integrity of our America; where the rule of law reigns supreme and places no man, woman, or institution above the law.

-- steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

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