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Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Questions for Nancy DeParle on the IRS scandal

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Opinion,Editorial,IRS

When Douglas Shulman was asked Wednesday by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., for some of the "many reasons" he might visit the White House 118 times during his tenure at the IRS, the tax agency's former commissioner displayed a profound disrespect for Congress by hastily replying, "the Easter Egg Roll with my kids." The flash of disdain in his facial expression and tone of voice suggest Shulman was not at that point merely seeking to leaven an otherwise tense situation with a little soft humor.

To be sure, Shulman hastened to follow his insult with a more serious list of reasons for his multiple visits, which totaled 129 in 2010 and 2011, not the widely reported 118, according to Earl Glynn, special projects coordinator of WatchdogLabs.org. Shulman's additional reasons are portrayed as revolving around planning the central role to be performed by IRS under Obamacare. There is a surface plausibility to that explanation because topping the list of senior Obama advisers with whom Shulman met was Nancy DeParle, then-director of the White House Office of Health Reform and later deputy chief of staff for policy, and her special assistant, Sarah Fenn. According to Glynn's analysis of the White House visitors logs, Shulman met with DeParle and/or Fenn at least 94 times.

It is important to note that DeParle was not simply a health care-focused policy wonk, but rather a veteran government operative serving Democratic presidents. Prior to working in the Obama White House, DeParle was director of the Health Care Financing Administration under President Clinton and also worked for him at the Office of Management and Budget. She is, to be sure, best known for her role in the Obamacare campaign, including her "Internet Brigade" idea. That was to be a taxpayer-funded swarm of Internet-based snitches dedicated to exposing and opposing those judged to be spreading "disinformation about health insurance reform."

But DeParle's role in the Obama inner circle was not limited to health care issues. She was also part of the administration's political strategizing, as seen in a Feb. 25, 2011 memo from Obama Department of Energy political appointee Dan Carol to DeParle warning about the "wave of GOP attacks that are surely coming over Solyndra and other inside deals that have gone to Obama donors and underperformed." It was in that same memo that Carol recommended firing then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu, so DeParle clearly was a participant in White House political strategizing on highly sensitive political issues other than health care reform.

There is another factor in the DeParle connection: Prior to joining the Obama senior staff in 2009, she earned an estimated $3.5 million in directors fees and stock transactions involving multiple health care industry firms with which she was connected in 2006 and 2007, according to the Chicago Tribune's Andrew Zajac. She also sat on a federal panel that dealt with Medicare reimbursement rates during those years, suggesting that Obama didn't care about the obvious conflicts of interests on her resume. A reasonable person might therefore ask if Tea Party opposition to Obamacare ever came up in those DeParle/Shulman meetings in the White House.

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