What Triggered the IRS Targeting 'Admission'
The surprising admission by a high-ranking
Internal Revenue Service official that the agency targeted tea party and
other conservative groups could be seen as a tactical move designed to
stave off a deeper investigation of the scandal.
Washington insiders said the Obama administration
was engaged in a classic tactic called a “modified limited hangout” or
MLH — a term that dates back to the Nixon presidency.
An MLH is a public relations or propaganda
technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in
hopes of ending a probe and preventing exposure of more important or
The idea is to admit to some wrongdoing, but not all, in hopes of deflating press and public demands for more investigations.
During a March 1973 discussion between President
Nixon and his top advisers, Nixon outlined to John Dean a report that
Dean would create, offering a misleading view of the White House staff's
role in events surrounding the Watergate burglary.
When Dean said, "It's a limited hangout," John Ehrlichman piped in: "It's a modified limited hangout."
The unfolding IRS scandal has all the earmarks of an MLH.
In March 2010, the IRS began targeting tea party
and other conservative groups for closer scrutiny, demanding paperwork
and other materials from the groups that delayed their application for
A congressional committee last year asked
then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman about targeting allegations, but
he told the committee the agency wasn't targeting conservative groups.
He resigned in late 2012, and Steven Miller became acting IRS
Then in early May of this year, the Treasury
Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report confirming
the targeting to congressional investigators, but not to the public.
Apparently fearing the release of the upcoming Inspector General’s report, IRS officials decided to engage in an MLH.
On May 10, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS
tax-exempt-status division, admitted that the targeting had been taking
place, but asserted that it had not been centrally planned and was
carried out by lower-level "front-line people" in the Cincinnati office.
But the move backfired — the admission by Lerner only served to spark public outrage and encourage investigators to dig deeper.
And, powerful evidence suggests the IRS
activities involved high-ranking IRS officials in D.C., and hundreds of
conservative organizations — not ones simply with “tea party” or
“patriots” in their organization names.
On Tuesday, four days after Lerner's admission,
respected elections attorney Cleta Mitchell came forward and claimed
that the IRS scandal reaches to the White House.
She said she also is aware of nearly 100 other conservative groups that were being targeted by Washington.
"There were nearly 100 groups across the country
that got the very egregious set of letters from the IRS that were almost
identical and they came from offices all over the country, so I know of
at least 85 to 90, maybe more, organizations," said Mitchell, who
represents six groups that say they have been targeted.
She added that she had two clients whose groups’ purpose was to lobby against Obamacare, and both received extra IRS scrutiny.
Mitchell told Newsmax she doesn't believe the
president or the White House was uninvolved in the IRS activities, as
the administration has claimed.
"They may try to say it was low-level people,"
she said. "It was not low-level people. They weren't in Cincinnati. It
was being directed out of Washington, and I have them on record saying
"We know the White House used the Department of
Health and Human Services to try to silence critics about Obamacare. So
if we know they used HHS, why wouldn't they also use the IRS or other
federal agencies to try to silence political critics?"
The next day, Wednesday, May 15 — the day
Commissioner Miller was forced to resign — the IRS reported that the
Inspector General's office is launching a new investigation.
Insiders say expect more MLHs from the Obama administration.