Who will inspect the inspectors general?

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

We believe Abraham Lincoln said that: Yesterday morning, we did a spit take at the bagel joint.

The cause of our lapse was a front-page report in the New York Times. Confessore and Luo reported on the way conservative groups (and others) seeking tax-exempt status were spindled and mutilated by the IRS.

We aren’t experts on this matter, but we thought the reporters began to get inside some of the paradoxes involved in this issue. We were especially struck by this pushback against Inspector General George, who has been cast in the hero role in this heavily novelized tale:
CONFESSORE AND LUO (5/27/13): A report issued this month by the Treasury Department’s inspector general, J. Russell George, found that inappropriate criteria, including groups’ policy positions, were used to flag some cases and that specialists in the I.R.S. office in Cincinnati, which reviews all tax-exemption requests, sometimes asked questions that were irrelevant to the application process.

And agency officials have acknowledged that specialists inappropriately used keywords like “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in searching through applications.

But some former I.R.S. officials disputed several of Mr. George’s conclusions, including his assertion that it was inappropriate to ask groups about their donors, or whether their leaders had plans to run for public office. While unusual, the former officials said, such questions are not prohibited if relevant to an application under consideration.

“The I.G. was as careless with terminology as the Cincinnati office was,” said Marcus S. Owens, who headed the I.R.S.’s exempt organizations division until 2000. “Half of those questions have been found to be germane in court decisions.”
Oof! Can that statement by Owens be true? Assuming that the IRS did make mistakes in this matter, did the inspector general mess this thing up on a par with the revenue gumshoes?

Of one thing we can be sure—the facts will never catch up with the politics in this easily politicized case. Our national discourse is built around novels. Facts play a minor role.

That said, Who will inspect the inspectors general? Inspectors general are a bit like whistle-blowers or fact-checkers. Those all sound like fine pursuits, until you see people attempt them.

Who will inspect the inspectors general? We believe Abraham Lincoln said that.

49 comments:

  1. Bob, are you really going to try to defend the IRS? This is a desperate effort, which will lead to silly columns.

    I agree that the facts will never catch up with the politics. Why, because we will never know all the facts. IRS employees have been stonewalling. We cannot trust any Administration to vigorously investigate itself.

    An Independent Prosecutor is needed. Obama has refused to appoint one. Bob is, in effect, faulting Obama's critics because they lack information that only an Independent Prosecutor could provide.

    Bob is very good at finding stupidity in commentators' inferences. It's a shame to see him making the same sort of error. He quotes an IRS employee named Owens as claiming that "half of those questions have been found to be germane in court decisions." This comment is less convincing than it appears for several reasons:

    1. Owens may not be unbiased. He's probably friendly with those who unfairly targeted conservatives. He may have even participated in the process.

    2. Owens comment may be an exaggeration or sophistry.

    3. To say that a question was found germane in some other situation doesn't mean that it was necessarily germane each time it was asked of some conservative group.

    4. The reports say that the IRS asked certain questions of conservative groups, but not of others. They used these questions to delay and delay and delay the groups' application for 501(c)4 status. The differential treatment proves bias, even if some of the questions were arguably germane.

    5. If half of the questions were germane, then half were improper.

    6. If the Inspector General's report is flawed, Obama should be blamed. The I.G. is a part of his administration. Bob's criticisms of the I.G. reinforce the need for an Independent Prosecutor

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    1. "If the Inspector General's report is flawed, Obama should be blamed. The I.G. is a part of his administration."

      Inspector General George was appointed by President Bush in November 2004.

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    2. "Inspector General George was appointed by President Bush in November 2004."

      So what?

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    3. So what? Harry Truman was a President. He said, "The buck stops here." Truman didn't blame his problems on someone FDR had appointed four years earlier.

      Obama had four years to replace the IG if he wanted to.

      Delete
    4. "Obama had four years to replace the IG if he wanted to."

      Since the IG is an appointed position, Congress would have to sign off. Obviously, you haven't been keeping up on current events since early 2009.

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    5. "Obama had four years to replace the IG if he wanted to."

      When I asked "so what?" this is what I was alluding to.

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  2. Party before country!

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  3. When Jay Carney described President Obama as "outraged" over the findings in the Inspector General's report, it is important to note the President's outrage was focused only on the half of the questions that have not yet been found germane in court cases.

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  4. On a lighter note, the concept of "Inspector General" spawned a great play by that name. It includes a terrific exchange between a community leader and a purported Inspector General. Please forgive the paraphrase from memory:

    "You made fools out of all of us!"

    "No, you made fools of yourselves!!"

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  5. DAinCA,

    Obama should be blamed! Of course. But why? Because a bunch of right-wing, overtly political groups may have been asked questions not germane to their 501(c)4 applications?

    By all means, lets get Ken Starr back. Maybe someone in Cincinnati was getting a blowjob. Inquiring minds want to know.

    It's my understanding that the groups in question got to operate as tax-exempt entities during all this "delay and delay and delay," and the worst thing that happened to any to any of them was they had to revise their stories for amended applications.

    By the way, Marcus Owens isn't some IRS employee, who was "probably" friendly with your imagined cabal of conservative-hating agents and who "may have" participated in their evil deeds. Mr. Owens was head of the Exempt Organizations Division until the year 2000, which means that he left before Obama took office. You could look that up. He couldn't be a participant in your fantasies of what happened in Cincinnati because he's been in the private sector since 2000 as a member of the Washington law firm Caplin and Drysdale. You could have looked that up too. I did.

    Just to make things a little clearer for you, Owens comments aren't offered as dispositive. He may be wrong or biased or exaggerating. But he's clearly an expert in the matter, and his comments should be taken as a warning to people rushing to embrace the novel. People like you.

    The IRS should be politically neutral. To the extent that it wasn't, it's right, just, and proper that procedures are changed and that those in charge are disciplined. But Cincinnati is the ridiculous to Benghazi's tragic. As far as scandal goes, there's no there there in either city.

    Unless you think Obama was sneaking into the offices of the Exempt Organization Division at night and stamping "Rejected" on teahadist applications for tax exempt status.

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    1. "The IRS should be politically neutral."

      Your sincere commitment to IRS neutrality is well illustrated by your reference to "teahadist" applications.

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    2. Anonymous on 5/28 @ 3:53P,

      I'm sorry that you're unable to understand that I want the IRS to be politically neutral at the same time that I don't impose that stricture on myself. If that's too difficult for you to follow, tell me and I'll post an explanation using smaller words. And I'll even type more slowly so you can follow.

      The Tea Party organizations are and were essentially astroturf entities set up to anonymize donations to Republican candidates. Is this a surprise to you? There's even a Congressional Tea Party caucus, a subset of the Republican delegation to that body.

      Delete
  6. It's my understanding that the groups in question got to operate as tax-exempt entities during all this "delay and delay and delay," and the worst thing that happened to any to any of them was they had to revise their stories for amended applications.

    deadrat -- This is contrary to my understanding. I read that many potential groups simply never got started. Do you have cites?

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    1. DAinCA,

      I'm going to forgo the snark here about your understanding because the topic is so confusing for so many, including, apparently, IRS employees and applicants for tax-exempt status. I think when people hear about tax-exempt entities, they think of either 501(c)3 organizations or 527 organizations. The former are charities (religious, educational, and the like), and the latter are PACs. They're both tax exempt, but the charities cannot engage in any partisan political activities, cannot endorse candidates, can't spend on political campaigns. But they can accept unlimited, anonymous donations, which are tax exempt. 527s must spend their money on political activities; they can not only endorse candidates, but they can even run them. 527s are limited by the FEC on what donations they can accept, the donations are not tax deductible, and the donor lists are public. Both types of organizations must apply for their status with the IRS, and that status is crucial. Without 501(c)3 status, a charity can't advertise that its donations are tax deductible, and if the IRS denies the application, none of the donors gets a tax deduction for contributions. Without 527 status, large PACs have to worry about their annual balance sheets because any net they end up with is taxable.

      But what we're talking about in this non-scandal are 501(c)4 organizations. These are so-called civic leagues, and they fall between the 501(c)3s and the 527s. They may engage in political activity as long as that's not their primary purpose, they may endorse candidates, and they may spend directly on campaigns. The latter expenditures being taxable. Citizens United allows them to collect unlimited, non-tax deductible, anonymous donations. And here's the crucial thing in understanding why the IRS business means nothing: 501(c)4s don't have to register with the IRS. It's enough for them to simply declare that's what they are. Registration merely gives them a safe harbor from challengers, including the IRS itself, which could deny tax-exempt status. But bear in mind that these organizations are not in business to make money; they're in business to spend money. They don't expect to have money left over; they expect to spend it to influence elections. So while they're "suffering" through delay after delay after delay for registration, nothing stops them from collecting money and spending it for political purposes. The money they collect from donors isn't tax deductible to the donors whether the organizations get registration or not; the money they spend on individual campaigns is taxable to the organizations whether they get registration or not. The worst that a denial of registration could mean is that they might lose the ability to keep their donor lists private, an outcome that couldn't occur until years after the elections they sought to influence.

      In short, there was literally nothing at stake. That doesn't mean that the IRS is excused from applying the law even handedly or from not asking inappropriate questions during the application process. It's just that the IRS actions curtailed no political activity.

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    2. Enter the dragonMay 29, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Deadrat, having just read your comment distinguishing among the 527s, 501(c)3s, and 501(c)4s, and the many implications thereof, I find myself wanting to burst into song, perhaps the Ode to Joy, or to invoke the spirit of Hamlet and start declaiming on the nearest street-corner, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!” And as they cart me off to the loony bin, I'll scream at the men in the white coats, “No, wait, wait! Just read this, read this! Enlightenment awaits you!!” as I thrust a print-out of your comment in their faces.

      Yeah, deadrat, you kinda impressed me.

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    3. Enter the dragonMay 29, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      Deadrat, I just reread my last comment, and given the level of snark in these precincts, it struck me that you may well have thought I was being sarcastic.

      I wasn't. I was genuinely bowled over by your informative and insightful comment. I learned something worth knowing in every sentence. The only disturbing sensation I had while reading your analysis was a visceral disgust that Somerby is the blogger and you're the commenter. That's NOT the natural order of things.

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  7. I found one cite that may be relevant:

    ACLJ represents 27 tea party organizations that feel they were unfairly targeted by the IRS. Ten of the groups ACLJ represents still have pending applications to get tax-exempt status, while 15 did receive tax-exempt status.

    ACLJ is preparing a lawsuit against the Department of Treasury and the IRS on behalf of at least 17 of those groups, Sekulow said -- and more groups, possibly even potential new clients beyond the 27 the ACLJ currently represents, could be added.


    Of course, just delaying the setup of a conservative group gave them less time before the election to be effective. E.g., the Ohio Liberty Coalition wasn't approved until December, 2012 -- after the election.

    See http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/step-tea-party-groups-lawsuits/story?id=19205060#.UaTzA77n9AE

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    1. ACLJ, founded by Pat Robertson, has been fueling right-wing outrage, instigating right-wing scandal mongering, and litigating right-wing causes since 1990. Of course it has jumped to defend these poor, pseudo-victimized conservative organizations.

      Question: If the ACLJ finds this alleged targeting of right-wing groups by the IRS so objectionable, where was its outraged voice during the Bush administration when the Bush administration was targeting liberal groups through the IRS specifically and was busy trying to root liberals out of federal government service generally?

      Answer: It was dead silent on that issue.

      Bottom line, it's hard to stomach that type of hypocrisy.

      Like Benghazi, this is a pseudo-scandal, twisted, distorted and blown out of proportion by the right-wing noise machine and its army of pseudo-victimized novel typists.

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  8. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Can we put aside for a moment Somerby's typically trivial and superficial analysis of the IRS matter?

    I have what I think is an interesting question that will provoke at least a tiny crisis of conscience for both you conservatives and you libs.

    The Inspector General reviewed all those organizations that had been subjected to special scrutiny, both those with Tea Party, 9/12 or Patriot in their names and all the others. They determined which ones should in fact have been granted the exemptions and which not.

    I took the numbers provided in the report and I did a little math. What I discovered is quite interesting. The Tea Party, 9/12, and Patriot groups were deemed undeserving of the exemption a notably higher percentage of the time than the other groups were judged as not meriting the exemption. In fact, when I analyzed it statistically, the higher failure-to-deserve-exemption rate of the Tea Party et al. groups compared to the other groups was very, very statistically significant. For those of you who know and care about such things, the p-value of the comparison was p=.00047.

    This fact presents a nasty little conundrum for you, whatever your political persuasion.

    For the liberal, for whom “profiling” tends to be anathema: Profiling, in this case, would seem to provide an excellent defense of the IRS's original behavior: After all, why not give special scrutiny based on “Tea Party, etc.” in their name when the groups with those terms indeed, upon examination, deserved scrutiny far more than those groups without those terms, since they were far less deserving of the tax exemption.

    For the conservative(for whom profiling is merrily justified in cases ranging from stopping and frisking black males in NYC at a rate dwarfing that of other groups, to subjecting those of “Middle Eastern” appearance to all sorts of indignities in the name of thwarting terrorism while largely ignoring others) you're going to now have to denounce profiling in order to continue condemning Obama et al.

    Quite a delicious dilemma whatever your political perspective, eh?

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    1. I think there's quite a difference between profiling individuals for crime and profiling organizations for tax exempt status.

      The issue is that it looks political; there's no question in my mind it's morally acceptable, however.

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    2. Or, the Tea Party and other obviously partisan hard right groups were the prime offenders in terms of stretching the rules in terms of Exemption Status..... Exist The Dragon.

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    3. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      Yes, Greg, if you scroll down you'll see that,in response to Brad Schaedler, I elaborated a quite powerful argument, as an interesting exercise, that could be used by the much-excoriated IRS bureaucrats in Cincinnati to defend what they did. I deliberately made cautious assumptions about certain facts of the case, to make sure the argument I offered on behalf of the Cincinnati office was logically sound. But it's entirely reasonable to believe that the facts align themselves even more strongly in favor of those Cincinnati IRS officials.

      Here's exactly what I mean: In comparing the tax-exemption rejection rate of the Tea Party-types with the others, we have to remember that these “others” were also among the applicants receiving special scrutiny. So the question I had to ask myself was, “Were these “other” groups randomly chosen for special scrutiny by the IRS in the same way that the IRS routinely chooses some 1040 Tax returns randomly for auditing? Or, were these “others” actually flagged as being suspect for unknown reasons, and so, presumably, had a higher-than-average probability of being rejected for an exemption themselves?”

      I deliberately chose the first possibility; i.e. that they were randomly chosen, even though that would actually make the WEAKER CASE on behalf of the IRS officials, because it was the more logically impregnable one. Why weaker? Because if in fact option two is correct (which is certainly possible), and these “others” were themselves flagged as suspect, then if you compared the Tea Party-type groups' rejection rate to the rejection rate for truly random applicants (ones not suspected at all) you'd see an even greater discrepancy between the two, and officials would be even more justified in selecting the Tea Party-type groups for special scrutiny.

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    4. You have identified neither the data nor its source for your supposedly sophisticated statistical analysis. In order to establish your premise, you need to show that organizations with names indicating possible dominance of conservative political activity were referred for further investigation more frequently as a percentage of applicants of that type than organizations with liberal-sounding indicators of possible political dominance. "The others" does not cut it.

      If there were ten applicants with "Tea Party" in their names for every one with "progressive" or "liberal," then it may well have been perfectly appropriate for ten times as many "Tea Party" groups to be referred. If that is the case, then to say conservative groups were "targeted" is simply false. If you have the data to contradict these possibilities, then show it to us.

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    5. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 10:38 PM

      Urban legend, you surprise and disappoint me. You don't even understand which side of the argument I was presenting!!!!

      The argument I was making (not necessarily one I personally embrace) was ON BEHALF OF the Cincinnati IRS officials (and therefore Obama). If you scroll down to my reply to the Brad Schaedler (6:41 PM) comment, you'll see my basic argument that the officials could offer in their own defense. Part of that argument is that they weren't targeting the Tea Party-types because of their political conservatism but rather their political activism, and activism of a particular type, which their experience as tax-exemption decision-makers told them made it likely the Tea Party-type groups wouldn't qualify for the exemption.

      You say, urban legend, “You have identified neither the data nor its source for your supposedly sophisticated statistical analysis.” Not true. Again, if you scroll down to my response to Brad, you'll see I got some of the numbers from an article in Slate or Salon but I needed more to be able to do the calculation, so I downloaded the entire Inspector General's report, which contains all the necessary numbers.

      Then, urban legend, you say, “In order to establish your premise, you need to show that organizations with names indicating possible dominance of conservative political activity were referred for further investigation more frequently as a percentage of applicants of that type than organizations with liberal-sounding indicators of possible political dominance. "The others" does not cut it.”

      Again, you completely misunderstand what is being argued. In offering an argument the IRS officials in Cincinnati could make in their own behalf, I was explicitly saying that they could argue they were NOT targeting conservative groups, but simply Tea Party-type groups that happened to be conservative but whose conservatism was irrelevant as a factor in their selection for special scrutiny. Rather it was their political activism, and, more particularly the nature of that activism. Thus all I had to show in my statistical analysis was that, indeed, the Tea Party-type groups were deserving of being denied tax-exempt status at a higher rate than the “others”, which the Inspector General himself determined to be true.

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    6. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      Just to clarify my last sentence--the Inspector General determined how many of the Tea Party-type groups deserved exemptions, and how many of the "Others". He didn't calculate rates, nor determine the statistical significance of the difference in rates. I did that.

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  9. Looking at this: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hhrg-112-ap23-bio-jrussellgeorge-20120307.pdf

    I'm of the opinion that Mr. George is himself a rtfker.

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  10. Years ago, I lived in Delaware County, PA. My next-door neighbor Tom owned a service station. He couldn't take a public position as a Democrat, because the controlling Republicans would use their regulatory powers to punish him.

    I went to college in Chicago where the same dynamic applied, but with the parties reversed. Sadly, there's nothing new about government its powers to help its friends andf punish political opponents.

    What is new is seeing this kind of corruption at the federal level. Barack Obama has made or allowed Chicago politics to become federal policy. IMHO, unless there's a independent investigation and significant punishment for the wrongdoers, Chicago-style politics will be here to stay at the federal level.

    Quibbling about the IG's report is a way of missing the point.

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    1. Your new nickname, David, will be Afnie (say aff-knee).

      (Assumes facts not in evidence)

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    2. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 6:13 PM

      David, you started off so sweetly bi-partisan in your comment, and then "What is new is seeing this kind of corruption at the federal level. Barack Obama has made or allowed Chicago politics to become federal policy."

      Has Richard Nixon been forgotten so quickly????

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    3. Fair point, Etd. Fortunately Nixon was impeached and his top aides convicted of felonies. (My only disappointment is that Nixon didn't go to prison.)

      Anyhow, the substantial punishment of Nixon and his cronies discouraged federal corruption, at least for a while. One can only wish that those who approved or committed or covered up misdeeds by the current IRS and other agencies are identified and receive similar punishments. However, without an independent prosecutor, I don't think that will happen.

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    4. Richard Nixon was not impeached, lest anymore of us forget.

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    5. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 9:49 PM

      David, not to be an annoying stickler, but if I'm not mistaken, even though one of the Articles of Impeachment documented executive misuse of the IRS and FBI, all the Watergate conspirators were convicted of crimes having to do with the incident at the Watergate Hotel. Thus they weren't punished for the kind of corruption that you're accusing the IRS officials of in Cincinnati. Hence there was no deterrent effect in that domain back in the 1970s.

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    6. Wikipedia says "Haldeman was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice."

      Also:

      "On March 1, 1974, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted several former aides of President Nixon, who became known as the "Watergate Seven": Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Charles Colson, Gordon C. Strachan, Robert Mardian and Kenneth Parkinson, for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation. The grand jury secretly named President Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator. The special prosecutor dissuaded them from an indictment of Nixon, arguing that a President can only be indicted after he leaves office.[28] John Dean, Jeb Stuart Magruder, and other figures already had pleaded guilty. On April 5, 1974, Dwight Chapin, the former Nixon appointments secretary, was convicted of lying to the grand jury. Two days later, the same grand jury indicted Ed Reinecke, the Republican lieutenant governor of California, on three charges of perjury before the Senate committee."

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    7. DAinCA,

      Is there a Republican talking point you won't parrot? "Chicago Politics"? Obama spent eight years in the Illinois Senate, seven of those in the minority. He was never a player in Chicago politics. If you knew the first thing about that topic, you'd know that Chicago politics is part of what John Kass, columnist for The Chicago Tribune calls the Illinois Combine, the bipartisan corruption that regularly results in Illinois governors going from office to prison. In the heyday of the Chicago machine, "Chicago Politics" meant that Democratic precinct captains commanded the loyalty of their precincts' voters by acting as their ombudsmen with city departments like Streets and San. That machine has long been fractured among pols and reformers and often along racial lines. Sure the machine fiddled elections, but it's been time out of mind since there were enough Chicago Republicans to pay attention to, let alone oppress.

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    8. Enter the dragonMay 29, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Yes, David, but as far as I know, the obstruction of justice and conspiracy concerned masterminding or participating in or lying about the burglary at the Watergate. Unfortunately, from both our points of view, the crimes of Nixon and his henchmen that were in the category of politically-based “corruption” (the executive branch-directed misuse of the FBI and IRS against political opponents which was featured in one of the Articles of Impeachment), as the current Cincinnati IRS incident is in your eyes, and which, if successfully prosecuted would have provided a clear deterrent against future comparable acts, were never in fact dealt with criminally.

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    9. it's been time out of mind since there were enough Chicago Republicans to pay attention to, let alone oppress.

      That's right, deadrat. And, one reason for this is generations of successful oppression of the opposing party.

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    10. DAinCA, And yet you couldn't document a single case of "oppression" if you tried. Which, of course, you won't. We're coming up on the centenary of the last Republican mayor of Chicago, and all you can figure is that it must be "oppression of the opposing party."

      Let's all join hands and sing "We Shall Overcome." Then we'll go check out the demographics of the city of Chicago.

      And by "we," I certainly don't mean you.

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  11. ETD:

    I hate to interrupt your novel typing; however, your statistical analysis is of a fiction. To start, your premise is faulty. To date, no tea party, 9/12, or patriot group has been "deemed undeserving of the (tax) exemption." They have been identified to receive extra scrutiny but were not or have not been "judged as not meriting the exemption" or denied tax-exempt status. So it has been with over 200 other groups. To date, the only group which has been denied this status is a liberal group, Emerge America.

    Additionally, unless you know what groups comprise the other 202 groups (not specifically identified in the Treasury Inspector General report) out of the 298 total identified for additional scrutiny, you cannot possibly know if the conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a "very, very statistically significant" rate.

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    1. Enter the dragonMay 28, 2013 at 7:31 PM

      Brad, old boy, you're simply mistaken--on all counts. After seeing some (but not enough) stats cited in an article on Slate or Salon, I went and downloaded the entire Inspector General's report to get the additional stats I needed to do the calculation.

      So, yes, the Inspector General did in fact go through all 298 groups that had been given special scrutiny and determined whether or not they should have gotten an exemption. Note well that I didn't say that that determination by the I.G. resulted in a real-world granting or denying of the exemption--if what you're saying is correct, the determination was just for the purpose of the I.G. report on this matter.

      As for your second point, the specific identity of the other groups is irrelevant. They presumably were a mix of liberal, conservative and non-partisan. So, let's say that, as an interesting intellectual exercise, you wanted to make the best possible case for the IRS tax-exemption-deciding bureaucrats and what has turned out to be the very controversial approach that they took. Here's what they might say on their own behalf:

      We are understaffed and overburdened. We had many cases to process and little time in which to do it. Using our knowledge of the kinds of activities that would cause a denial of tax-exempt status, and our knowledge of real-world politics, we formed a very tentative hypothesis that Tea Party-type groups were likelier than your average applicant for an exemption to have engaged in activities that would warrant a denial. It had nothing to do with their being politically conservative but just their being politically active, and conspicuously so in ways that would breach the requirements for tax exemption. We then conducted an informal or pilot survey of Tea Party-types versus all others, just to confirm our hypothesis. That survey indeed showed that we would be making a more efficient use of our limited resources by focusing on groups with Tea Party, 9/12, or Patriot in their names because they engaged in activities requiring a denial of exemption at a significantly higher rate than groups without Tea Party, 9/12 or Patriot in their names whatever their political leanings might be. Now the independent, objective report by the Inspector General of all the groups we scrutinized has shown our initial hypothesis was correct: Tea Party-type groups were indeed more likely to deserve denial of the exemption than any randomly chosen non-Tea Party-type group. Therefore, given our scarce resources, we were warranted in initially focusing our special scrutiny on the Tea Party-types.

      Brad, I'm not endorsing this argument, simply pointing out that it's available as a defense.

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    2. ETD:

      Sorry, I do not see where I am mistaken. I looked at and downloaded presumably the same report you did and, no, those remaining 202 groups are not identified individually or by political affiliation. While enough of these 202 groups could be conservative in their political affiliation to render your statistical assertion accurate, the fact remains you have simply guessed this to be the case. Without knowing the political affiliations of these remaining 202 groups you cannot fairly assert that conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a "very, very statistically significant" rate. You simply cannot know that with a degree of certainty. Qualifying your argument would have made it more plausible.

      In regard to my first point, when you state, "The Tea Party, 9/12, and Patriot groups were deemed undeserving of the exemption a notably higher percentage of the time than the other groups were judged as not meriting the exemption," you offer an inaccurate description of what has happened to date. Other than the one reported liberal group being denied tax-exempt status, none of the nearly 300 groups have yet been "judged as not meriting the exemption." In fact over 100 of these groups have been approved for tax-exempt status. This is clearly stated in the "Highlights" segment of the Treasury Inspector General report: "For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, Final Report issued on May 14, 2013 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open..." These groups were identified as warranting further scrutiny before a decision was/is rendered one way or another. This is much different than what you asserted.

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    3. Enter the dragonMay 30, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      Brad, I very much admire your doggedness in defending your position!! As a show of respect, I spent some time hunting down the article which supplied me with some key numbers—I'll get to that in a minute.

      But first I have to correct several very fundamental mistakes you're making about my statistical analysis and about the argument I made on behalf of the Cincinnati IRS officials.

      Here's your first mistake: You say, “Without knowing the political affiliations of these remaining 202 groups you cannot fairly assert that conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a "very, very statistically significant" rate.”

      Brad, I don't assert that conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a 'very, very statistically significant' rate!!!!!! There are actually two mistakes in that one idea of yours. First, what I asserted was 'very, very statistically significant' was the difference between the rate of rejection for exemptions of the Tea Party-type groups compared to the rejection rate of the “others”. Your second mistake is even more basic. Somehow you (and urban legend), believing apparently that I had an anti-Obama agenda, got the idea that I was trying to show with my statistical analysis that the Cincinnati IRS officials were targeting conservative groups. Let me make it as clear as possible, Brad. I WAS DOING THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT! I was offering the best defense possible for the Cincinnati officials, and therefore for Obama. It's not necessarily a position I personally embrace, but it certainly is a plausible possibility. So, in that light, what I was arguing on behalf of the Cincinnati IRS officials was this (in a nutshell):

      “We (the Cincinnati IRS officials) did target every group with Tea Party, 9/12, or Patriot in their names, but not because we were targeting conservatives and wanted to harass and undermine them. Rather, in following real-life events, we believed these groups presented a greater likelihood of engaging in political activities that would disqualify them from getting the exemption. An initial sample confirmed this idea, and so we culled all the groups with Tea Party, etc. in their names for special scrutiny, but we'd have done exactly the same thing if these were liberal groups that appeared to be engaging in exemption-denying political activities at a higher rate than the others. It was their political activity not their political position that attracted our special scrutiny.”

      Now, as to your other point, about my numbers and my claim that Tea Party-type groups were denied exemptions at a higher rate than the “others”. I searched for and found the article that got me started thinking about this issue—it supplied some crucial numbers, but not enough to allow me to calculate the rates and do a statistical analysis of the difference between the rates. So the initial source was an article in Slate by Farhad Manjoo called “Profiling Is Great.....Except When You Do It To Me”, posted on May 20, 2013. That contained many of the necessary numbers (and spared me from having to wade through all of the many pages of the Inspector General's report) but not quite enough. For the other numbers I needed, I went to a pie chart early on in the I.G. Report.

      As to the data you present about the granting and denying of exemptions that differs from mine, I can only tell you this: evidently, your numbers represent the official real-world disposition of the cases, to the limited extent that assessments have been made. The numbers I used, mainly from the Slate article by Farhad Manjoo, were apparently a determination made by the Inspector General for the purposes of his report.

      Delete
  12. Enter the dragonMay 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Brad, I very much admire your doggedness in defending your position!! As a show of respect, I spent some time hunting down the article which supplied me with some key numbers—I'll get to that in a minute.

    But first I have to correct several very fundamental mistakes you're making about my statistical analysis and about the argument I made on behalf of the Cincinnati IRS officials.

    Here's your first mistake: You say, “Without knowing the political affiliations of these remaining 202 groups you cannot fairly assert that conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a "very, very statistically significant" rate.”

    Brad, I don't assert that conservative groups were identified for additional scrutiny at a 'very, very statistically significant' rate!!!!!! There are actually two mistakes in that one idea of yours. First, what I asserted was 'very, very statistically significant' was the difference between the rate of rejection for exemptions of the Tea Party-type groups compared to the rejection rate of the “others”. Your second mistake is even more basic. Somehow you (and urban legend), believing apparently that I had an anti-Obama agenda, got the idea that I was trying to show with my statistical analysis that the Cincinnati IRS officials were targeting conservative groups. Let me make it as clear as possible, Brad. I WAS DOING THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT! I was offering the best defense possible for the Cincinnati officials, and therefore for Obama. It's not necessarily a position I personally embrace, but it certainly is a plausible possibility. So, in that light, what I was arguing on behalf of the Cincinnati IRS officials was this (in a nutshell):

    “We (the Cincinnati IRS officials) did target every group with Tea Party, 9/12, or Patriot in their names, but not because we were targeting conservatives and wanted to harass and undermine them. Rather, in following real-life events, we believed these groups presented a greater likelihood of engaging in political activities that would disqualify them from getting the exemption. An initial sample confirmed this idea, and so we culled all the groups with Tea Party, etc. in their names for special scrutiny, but we'd have done exactly the same thing if these were liberal groups that appeared to be engaging in exemption-denying political activities at a higher rate than the others. It was their political activity not their political position that attracted our special scrutiny.”

    Now, as to your other point, about my numbers and my claim that Tea Party-type groups were denied exemptions at a higher rate than the “others”. I searched for and found the article that got me started thinking about this issue—it supplied some crucial numbers, but not enough to allow me to calculate the rates and do a statistical analysis of the difference between the rates. So the initial source was an article in Slate by Farhad Manjoo called “Profiling Is Great.....Except When You Do It To Me”, posted on May 20, 2013. That contained many of the necessary numbers (and spared me from having to wade through all of the many pages of the Inspector General's report) but not quite enough. For the other numbers I needed, I went to a pie chart early on in the I.G. Report.

    As to the data you present about the granting and denying of exemptions that differs from mine, I can only tell you this: evidently, your numbers represent the official real-world disposition of the cases, to the limited extent that assessments have been made. The numbers I used, mainly from the Slate article by Farhad Manjoo, were apparently a determination made by the Inspector General for the purposes of his report.

    ReplyDelete
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