Nearly nine months after Lois Lerner’s revelation of IRS improper targeting of conservative applicants for tax-exempt status, the resulting controversy still smolders. On Sunday (Feb. 2), President Obama, in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly stated, there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. The President’s optimism is not shared by others in Washington. This week, for example, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs, will conduct hearings to evaluate the Administration's investigation of the Scandal. The committee chair, Rep. Jim Jordan stated, "While the President insists on misleading the American people about this scandal, the Committee will hear this week from those who were targeted by his administration. The Committee will push for answers about why the Justice Department appointed a Presidential donor to head their own investigation of the IRS' targeting when Justice Department officials are directed to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest.”
This week Wagenmaker & Oberly co-founder and principal Sally Wagenmaker was interviewed concerning the lingering scandal. According to Sally, the continuing investigation, interest, and ire underscore the core constitutional issues at stake. Inappropriate content-based IRS targeting of any organization (and its supporters) could effectively stifle First Amendment rights to free speech – a constitutional problem of the first order of magnitude. American citizens want to know exactly what happened and why. Thus, further inquiry is likely to continue – and even more so to the extent that such inquiry reveals that IRS targeting may have been systemic and political in origin. When such core constitutional values have been compromised in a key governmental agency, it is proper to take sufficient time to discern the causes of such compromise and institute corrective actions to prevent similar problems.