Of all the scandals plaguing the Obama administration, the one involving the Internal Revenue Service appears to be the one that even liberal news outlets deem serious.
Count Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler amongst the concerned, for on Monday he actually gave the IRS's Lois Lerner "a bushel of Pinocchios" for statements she has made about her organization's targeting of conservative groups.
Kessler first took issue with Lerner's claim that between 2010 and 2012, applications for 501(c)(4)s more than doubled:
By allocating one-quarter of the fiscal year numbers to the prior year, we can get a very rough sense of the increase on a calendar-year basis.(Figures are rounded to avoid false precision; 2012 is not possible to calculate)
In other words, while there was an increase in 2010, it was relatively small. The real jump did not come until 2011, long after the targeting of conservative groups had been implemented. Also, it appears Lerner significantly understated the number of applications in 2010 (“1500”) in order to make her claim of “more than doubled.”
Next, Kessler went after Lerner's claim - a common one in this administration lately! - that she heard about this issue from the press:
Here, Lerner suggests that she only found out about this issue when news reports appeared in February and March 2012 about tea party groups complaining that they were being targeted. But the IG timeline shows this claim to be false.
According the IG, Lerner had a briefing on the issue on June 29, 2011, in which she was told about the BOLO (“Be On the Look Out”) criteria that included phrases such as “Tea Party” or “Patriots.” The report says she raised concerns about the wording and “instructed that the criteria be immediately revised.” She continued to be heavily involved in the issue in the months preceding the new reports, according to the timeline.
Finally, Kessler went after Lerner's excuse - "I don’t believe anyone ever asked me that question before” - for why she hadn't previously addressed this issue in public:
[I]n congressional testimony Friday, former acting director Steven T. Miller said he had discussed with Lerner about arranging to make a statement at a May 10 conference sponsored by the American Bar Association, knowing that the IG report would soon be released.
Lerner then contacted a friend, Celia Roady, a tax attorney with the Washington firm Morgan Lewis, to ask a question about the targeting, according to a statement by Roady on Friday. (Roady had previously denied this was a planted question when asked directly by participants at the meeting.)
So Lerner was dissembling when she suggested that a simple well-aimed question prompted the disclosure.
In fact, just two days before the ABA conference, Lerner appeared before Congress and was asked about the status of investigations into 501(c)(4) companies by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). She provided a bland answer about a questionnaire on the IRS Web site, failing to take the opportunity to disclose the results of the probe.
Kessler concluded, "In some ways, this is just scratching the surface of Lerner’s misstatements and weasely wording when the revelations about the IRS’s activities first came to light on May 10. But, taken together, it’s certainly enough to earn her four Pinocchios."
Let's see if more media outlets are willing to air similar conclusions.