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May 17, 2013 5:44 PM Your Hard-Working Congress

By Ed Kilgore

Just can’t resist putting up this video (via Dave Weigel) of what was apparently the Big Moment in today’s House Ways & Means Committee hearing on the IRS, when Rep. Mike Kelley (R-PA) went a bit off-script in grilling a hapless and clearly puzzled outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller:

On second thought, maybe Kelley did have the script. By constantly straying from what the IRS was doing in the subject at hand to general condemnations of the agency as a “monster under the bed” and all-purpose demon, Kelley (who clearly had some unpleasant encounters with the IRS in his pre-congressional life) is trying to imply that the hassling of 501(c)(4) is the same as IRS tax enforcement actions where “they can come in and take everything away from you.”

People, people: the IRS wasn’t roaming around the countryside looking for Tea Party groups to persecute; it was responding (yes, poorly, no doubt) to voluntary applications for a tax exemption that has been routinely and massively abused over the years. Nobody’s doors were being kicked down; nobody was being fined or threatened, so far as we know. Yes, a benefit was delayed or withheld to which the applicants might have (or might not have) been entitled as a matter of (really bad, in my opinion) public policy. But any “monster under the bed” was entirely in their own minds, as it is in Mike Kelley’s.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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