POLITICS: White House

Examiner Editorial: What were IRS biggies really doing at the White House?

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Photo - The White House in Washington DC
The White House in Washington DC
Opinion,White House,Editorial,IRS

Among the frequently heard memes on the IRS scandal is the absence of hard proof linking the illegal harassment of conservative, evangelical and pro-Israel groups to the Obama White House. A typical example came Tuesday during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing, when Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., mocked Republicans on the panel by saying that "there is no smoking gun."

The fact that the proverbial smoking gun has yet to be found, however, isn't proof that it doesn't exist. As Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has said on many occasions, nobody paid any attention to his newspaper's Watergate stories for months, and President Nixon's resignation came more than two years after the infamous burglary. Given the large number of groups -- 500 or more by some estimates -- subjected to the harassment and the insistence of IRS agents who carried it out that their orders came from above, members of Congress and the media would be irresponsible not to consider the possibility of White House involvement of some kind.

A likely place to look is Stephanie Cutter's presence in multiple White House meetings with senior IRS officials. Cutter was the sharp-edged deputy campaign manager for the Obama re-election effort, beginning in September 2011 and continuing through Election Day. Hers was an unfailingly shrill voice supporting the president wherever the campaign went across the country. Cutter told CNN's Jake Tapper this week that there was "nothing nefarious going on" when she met with then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman before the 2012 election. Shulman made 155 White House visits while running the IRS, far more than any of Obama's Cabinet secretaries. The IRS has a major role in Obamacare, so there is some plausibility to Shulman's claim that the health care program was his sole reason for ringing the White House door bell so often.

It is far less plausible to claim, however, that planning the IRS role in Obamacare required the presence of the deputy manager for the Obama re-election campaign. The IRS chief wouldn't have been interested in the campaign's Obamacare communications strategy, and any talk about campaign fundraising likely would have been illegal. So what was Cutter doing in White House meetings with the IRS commissioner? Odds are somebody in the White House took meeting notes.

Cutter also should be asked under oath whether she was there for any of the 165 White House meetings, tallied by WatchdogLabs.org, that were attended by Sarah Hall Ingram. Ingram headed the IRS department most directly responsible for the illegal harassment before being promoted to manage the tax agency's role in Obamacare. Curiously, WatchdogLabs.org also determined that between them, Shulman and Ingram attended more than 300 White House meetings but never once attended the same meeting. A reasonable person could conclude from these facts that Obamacare wasn't the sole subject on the White House agendas of these two senior IRS executives.

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