The Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), tries to blame the IRS scandal on President Obama, citing the IRS's supposed targeting of conservative groups as a means of retaliation against political enemies. This is a trite oversimplification of the issues at hand; recent reports indicate that liberal or "progressive" groups have also been targeted by the IRS. While terms like "Tea Party" were used to target certain conservative groups, terms like "progressive", "medical marijuana", "Occupy" and "healthcare legislation" were used to target certain liberal groups. The lack of uniting political motive indicates that blame cannot be heaped upon one individual or group.
More than 20 "Be on the lookout memos" — known as BOLOS — have been sent to congressional committees that explicitly highlight certain liberal groups and individuals as targets for further investigation. An example can be found here. Notes such as "Common thread word is 'progressive'. Activities appear to lean towards a new political party. Activities are partisan and anti-Republican" and "Email dated 7/15/2010. Look for cases involving Medical Marijuana" entered under the column title of "Issue Watch Description" seem to outnumber references to conservative groups. However, what is even more interesting than the cryptic, choppy phrases is all the information that is purposefully obscured by black marker. What is the IRS hiding?
This new information showcases the decentralization of decision-making within the IRS — as newly appointed IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel said Monday, "there was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum." The many different lists of criteria used to review applications of tax-exempt status evidence the lack of solidarity within the IRS. Officials claim that this is merely a "bureaucratic shortcut" at the IRS office in Cincinnati and blame the negligence of former IRS management. Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, aptly raises the point that "This culture of political discrimination and intimidation goes far beyond basic management failure and personnel changes alone won't fix a broken IRS."
The IRS needs substantial revision. It is alarming that an organization that uses over $12 billion in federal funds and consists of over 106,000 employees is so disorganized that it lacks a coherent policy or chain of command. Who is ultimately responsible for these BOLOS? Too much liberty is afforded to IRS employees if they can submit BOLOS to congressional committees without proper regulation and accountability. They are free to use funds and manpower to enact their own personal agendas. Without stricter guidelines and monitoring in place, who is to say that this won't happen? The IRS ought to be more accountable to the hundreds of millions of citizens who pay their taxes, and its inability to provide satisfactory answers to a growing multitude of pressing questions is unprofessional and grounds for concern. Moreover, more BOLOS need to be released to the public because the information therein is far more meaningful than nervous press conferences and rehearsed speeches.