A flood of scandal
Utah's Rep. Jason Chaffetz is having the time of his life, throwing around words like "fired," prosecuted" and "impeachment" as a disturbing flood of scandal flows from the Obama administration. As a member of the Loyal Opposition, and of the House Oversight Committee, he has a proper role in investigating matters such as alleged wrongdoing at the Internal Revenue Service and at the Justice Department.
But if the American people are going to have any faith that Chaffetz and the rest of the Republican Party are out to protect the American people, and not just score political points at every opportunity, we need to see a little less gleeful jumping up and down and a little more mature contemplation.
And there are things to think about.
One is the admission from high levels of the IRS that at least some of its auditors had launched what looked like a vendetta against tea party and other right-wing groups that had applied for a special kind of tax-exempt status that is supposed to be granted to "social welfare" organizations.
The admission was apparently an effort to get out ahead of a IRS internal audit that showed the pressure placed on some groups to give the IRS excessive details, including donor lists and the resumes of their own staff members, only seemed to happen to groups with words like "tea party" or "patriot" in their names.
Outraged Republicans are justified in their call to find out just how far up the chain of command these efforts went, or were tolerated. And Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to launch a criminal probe into the matter seems justified.
One of the questions that will also have to be answered is whether such "social welfare" groups as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS really deserved the tax-exempt status they sought, or whether claims that they qualified because their purpose was not "primarily" political were transparently bogus, given the millions in untraceable dollars they spent trying (and usually failing) to influence the outcome of elections.
Meanwhile, over at the Justice Department, Republicans are not alone in their fury that investigators went way overboard subpoenaing two months worth of phone records, office and personal, for Associated Press reporters who had written articles based on leaked intelligence reports.
Congress should get to the bottom of that scandal, too. And when they do, they may find a record of congressional calls for a more aggressive probe of those very leaks, and the remains of a bill, blocked by Senate Republicans in 2007, that would have banned just such a broadly issued subpoena.
When the digging stops, there may be mud on everyone.
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