Sometimes life seems like high school continued. One of my high school classmates apparently has an unpleasant history with a central figure in the IRS scandal. Investors.com reports:
Perhaps not surprisingly, the IRS scandal may have its roots in Illinois politics with the 1996 targeting of Illinois conservative Al Salvi by a familiar name, Lois Lerner, then head of the Enforcement Division of the Federal Elections Commission.
That year, Democrat U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin and Republican State Rep. Al Salvi were locked in a battle for the U.S. Senate seat Durbin would eventually win.
As the journal Illinois Review details, Salvi was confronted with an “October surprise,” not one, but two, FEC complaints filed against him — one by Illinois Democrats about the way he reported a loan he made to himself, and another by the Democratic Senatorial Committee about a reported business donation.
Mr. Salvi says Ms. Lerner played hardball, reports Illinois Review, demanding that he promise to never run for office again if the FEC dropped their complaint:
During that call, Salvi said, he explained to Lerner exactly what happened — that while the loan to himself was legal, there may be a difference of opinion on how the loan was reported to the FEC. Salvi explained it was a simple matter and said he thought Lerner would suggest an agreeable solution and dismiss the Democratic National Committee’s complaint.
But that was not Lerner’s reaction. Instead, that’s when she said to Salvi, “Promise me you’ll never run for office again, and we’ll drop the case.”
Salvi said he asked Lerner if she would be willing to put the offer into writing.
“We don’t do things that way,” Salvi said Lerner replied.
Salvi queried how then could such an agreement be enforced.
According to Salvi, Lerner replied: “You’ll find out.”
A judge dismissed the FEC complaint after the election, which Mr. Salvi lost to Dick Durbin, who still holds the seat.
If the Salvi account holds up, it certainly doesn’t help the case that Ms. Lerner was just a dedicated civil servant trying to enforce Sec. 501(c)(4) impartially. In any case, it’s clear just by the job she held at the FEC that she had to be aware of the politics involved in the Tea Party applications while employees under her supervision improperly targeted anti-administration groups. She has stated that she tried to stop the targeting.
Disclosure: I have an electoral history with Al Salvi, but no FEC intervention was needed.
So-called Scandal Watch There is a mini-backlash against the idea that there is anything scandalous about what the IRS did; Linda Beale and Iowa political commentator Ed Fallon are on that bandwagon. Testimony yesterday by Russel George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, is relevant to the issue:
The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Because of ineffective management by IRS officials: 1) inappropriate criteria were developed and stayed in place for a total of more than 18 months, 2) there were substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) unnecessary information requests were issued to the organizations.
That seems like plenty of scandal right there, even if the only villain is “ineffective management.” The behavior towards the Tea Party groups is also consistent with effective but ill-intentioned management.
Martin Sullivan leans to the “no scandal here” school in More than 80% of “Tea Party” Applications Should Have Been Reviewed Anyway (Tax Analysts Blog). That still doesn’t justify the intrusive nature of the questions asked or the extensive delays. It’s also like saying it would be OK to, say, frisk everyone at a drug legalization rally, as long as many of them are found to be carrying dope.
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 26.
Jeremy Scott, IRS Missteps Will Hurt Tax Administration (Tax Analysts Blog): “As sympathetic as the IRS can seem on one hand, its absurd expenditures on conferences and training videos, along with the appearance of political bias resulting from the exempt organization scandal, have made it almost inconceivable that it will receive more funding anytime soon.”
Clint Stretch, The IRS Exempt Org Debacle: An Easy Fix (Tax Analysts Blog): “Anyone who wants to form a social welfare organization should be allowed to do it.”
Patrick Temple-West, Republican donors drew IRS scrutiny, and more. Related Tax Update coverage: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?
Linda Beale, Another False Media-Generated IRS “Scandal”
Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Are Self-Settled Special Needs Trusts on the Horizon?
Breaking: The Donut Sandwich Is Here, So…Are Weight-Loss Costs Tax Deductible? (Tony Nitti).