The standard police warning about con men applies to politicians, as well: When they tell you something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
So it goes with the White House claim that it knew nothing — nothing! — about the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.
Of course the White House knew. And we already have the first piece of evidence.
The Friday hearing on what amounted to political profiling of anti-Obama groups took a huge step toward demolishing White House efforts to distance itself from the scandal. The agency’s inspector general testified that he told his bosses at the Treasury Department in June 2012 about his ongoing audit of public claims that the IRS was engaging in blatantly unfair treatment of conservatives. One of those he told at Treasury was Tim Geithner’s top deputy.
The New York Post
To believe the deputy, Neal Wolin, didn’t tell Geithner about such abuses, in the middle of a presidential campaign no less, is to believe they were all too busy to focus on politics. And to believe that Geithner didn’t warn the White House is to believe the IRS agents just made honest mistakes that coincidentally helped the incumbent president.
And to believe that nobody told Obama is to be willfully ignorant of human nature — and to be the kind of chump con men and politicians prey on.
The inspector general’s testimony also goes a long way to explaining why Obama didn’t give a straight answer to a reporter’s question a day earlier about what he knew and when he knew it. The well-drawn, precise question was about whether anybody in the White House knew about the IRS targeting before last month, but Obama’s answer focused only on the contents of the audit that was released last week.
“I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general] report,” Obama said. As I wrote Friday, that wasn’t even an artful dodge.
But it was an important one, because the press office earlier claimed that the White House counsel’s office only learned of the probe during the week of April 22. Yet new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a TV interview that he learned about the probe in March, when he was Obama’s chief of staff. Lew said he was “outraged” at the findings, so let him say under oath he didn’t tell Obama.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
The contradictory time lines explain Obama’s evasiveness. An honest answer to the question would reveal his supposed outrage about the IRS scandal to be as phony as his pledge to work with Congress to get the whole truth.
Context, the perennial escape hatch for pols in a jam, also offers no help. In fact, it puts the White House closer to the dirty deeds.
Politics under this president have trickled down to every level of government thanks to his relentless vilification of anybody who disagrees with him. With campaign guru David Axelrod spending much of 2012 as the face of the government as well as the campaign, the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Administration and the National Labor Relations Board all became enforcement arms of the Democratic Party.
And the next time Eric Holder’s Justice Department does anything that doesn’t serve Obama’s political interest and allies will be the first time.
That the IRS would also go down that road is hardly farfetched. Remember, Obama himself raged against political spending by the same kind of groups tax agents turned the screws on. Add to that demands from several Dem senators, including New York’s Chuck Schumer, that the IRS give Tea Party groups extra scrutiny, and the only wonder is why it took so long to learn the taxman heard his master’s whistle.
Attorney General Eric Holder
Which brings us back to what the White House knew and when. Complaints reached Congress two years ago that conservative groups were being denied tax-exempt status even as liberal groups were being granted it.
But at hearings, IRS officials denied any bias, even as it continued. Reports of some applications being held for nearly two years, and of leaders being asked about their donors, what books they read and what they pray for, were too widespread to be dismissed as irrelevant. Yet they were dismissed because nobody in Congress or the media connected the dots.
That’s what the investigation must do now. Connect all the dots, no matter where they lead.
Dem pals share Gropez blame
Breaking news from last year: There really was a War on Women. But contrary to initial claims, it happened in Albany and was waged by Democrats.
Where does Mitt Romney go to get his apology?
New York liberals who helped the disgraced and soon-to-be departed Assemblyman Vito Lopez hide rampant sexual harassment of young female staffers includes a who’s who of top officials. It starts with Speaker Sheldon Silver and includes Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
All three helped hide a payoff of $103,000 in taxpayer cash to two of the women who accused Lopez of creepy come-ons. Six others also complained to investigators, including two who filed formal complaints.
Yet all the ire is aimed at Lopez, who said he will quit tomorrow and run for the City Council. The other pols are getting off scot-free.
Lopez will be gone but not forgotten. Not as long as everybody else escapes any accountability.
Regarding Silver, even Gov. Cuomo is speaking softly and carrying a small stick. He said Silver handled the Lopez matter “poorly and terribly” but added, “It is not my place to say who the speaker should be.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Skip Dickstein / Times Union
A more craven response came from Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who bent over backwards to find a reason why Silver should stay. Caution: Keep a barf bag handy.
“We are sailing through some dangerous waters in New York state government,” he told reporters. “Stability in leadership and administration will be indispensable to finding a true course through this storm.”
It is worth noting that Lavine is chairman of the Assembly Ethics Committee, a post given to him by — you guessed it — Silver. Now you know why “Albany ethics” is an oxymoron.
Elex budget busters
Here’s a tab to wake up taxpayers: The city Campaign Finance Board budgeted $51 million for this year’s elections. Imagine, Albany wants to replicate the giveaway across the whole state.
“We would love to get billionaires from around the world to move here; they’re the ones who go to the stores, spend a lot of money,” Mayor Bloomberg said. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio pounced, saying he would end policies that make the city “a playground for the elite.”
De Blasio needn’t worry. If he becomes mayor, New York will be free of billionaires — and everybody else who can afford to leave.
A scandalous dodge
White House press secretary Jay Carney takes a novel approach to defending his boss over Benghazi, the IRS and press snooping. “I dismiss the premise, the idea that these are scandals,” Carney said.
On another topic, Carney insisted the Earth is flat.
Above: Jay Carney