Fox News personalities have baselessly claimed that the IRS has been used as a weapon by the Obama administration to punish the president's political opponents, but newly released testimony from IRS employees provides even more evidence to contradict this claim.
When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released partial transcripts that left the impression that scrutiny of non-profit applications from Tea Party groups was directed from Washington, Fox relentlessly repeated these claims.
Subsequently, House Democrats released a full transcript of an interview with an IRS screening manager showing that he denied contact with any Obama administration figures with regard to targeting conservative groups.
Former Nixon aide and Fox contributor Monica Crowley alleged that President Obama had used the IRS “for political purposes to target entire swaths of society.” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs described the IRS as “a political arm of the Obama administration.”
Fox and other conservative media outlets also hyped the claim that repeated visits to the White House by the IRS commissioner were an indication of interference, but that was quickly undermined by the fact that White House visitor logs are an unreliable way to gauge interaction between the agency and the administration. Additionally, many of those meetings were a part of strategy sessions to discuss implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
As evidence has surfaced that undermines Fox's IRS “scandal” narrative, the network has downplayed the information or avoided it altogether.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (chaired by Rep. Issa),released a memo today compiling information from 15 interviews with IRS employees conducted by the committee over the last two months. The committee found that "[n]one of these witnesses reported any political motivation or White House involvement" regarding the scrutiny of non-profit applications from Tea Party groups.
A tax law specialist who self-identified as a Republican told the committee that it is “kind of laughable” that people believe the agency targeted political enemies of the president. She attributes problems and delays in processing non-profit applications from conservative groups to a lack of guidance from IRS leadership, a sentiment which echoes previously released testimony.
She explains that the Cincinnati office “had just a giant influx at a certain period of time of applications that were applying for (c)(4) mostly, some for (c)(3)s, and that had what they thought was kind of a political campaign advocacy component, and didn't really know how to move forward or if there was a problem.”
The committee also interviewed a Republican screening group manager in the Cincinatti office who said, “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.” A group manager in the same office (who also identifies as a Republican) told them “I wouldn't know” who the White House's political enemies are, and that examinations of Tea Party applications were centralized by the office “because of their political advocacy narrative” and that they sought guidance from Washington on how to proceed with them.
Despite the revelation of even more information and testimony that contradicts their earlier assertions, Fox has continued to cling to a narrative of scandal and political payback not supported by reality.