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June 17, 2014 3:35 PM The Lerner Email “Scandal”

By Ed Kilgore

Republicans are freaking out with delight over the the IRS’ inability to produce emails sent by Lois Lerner prior to an alleged computer crash in 2011. There’s smoke! Let’s spend a few more million bucks looking for fire!

My two predecessors here at PA have done an efficient job responding to the latest scandal within the “scandal.” Here’s Kevin Drum, who proceeds to quote Steve Benen:

Nothing here sets off alarm bells to me. The key question, I think, is whether the IRS has contemporaneous documents showing that Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011 and attempts to recover her hard drive failed. And they do. This is well before the scandal broke, so it would take a pretty Herculean brand of conspiracy theorizing to imagine that this was somehow related to the scandal. Either Lerner deliberately crashed her hard drive because she suspected her actions might prompt an investigation two years later, or else the IRS has faked a bunch of emails from 2011 between Lerner and the IT team trying to recover her hard drive.
There’s also, as Steve Benen points out, the fact that Congress is mostly concerned with Lerner’s behavior in the election year of 2012. If the IRS were involved in a cover-up, faking a hard drive crash that destroyed emails from 2010 and 2011 is a pretty incompetent way of doing it.

Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. But I will repeat, in a continuing protest about how this “scandal” is being reported, that like Benghazi!, we’ve gotten a long, long way from the original issue, which is whether the IRS discriminated against conservative groups who wanted to abuse the social welfare exemption to the tax code to run political ads without disclosing their donors. I have zero sympathy for the “victims” of the “scandal,” who could have done whatever they wanted as taxpaying entities and/or as groups that disclosed donors. Treating them as terrified, cowed citizens fleeing from the evil eye of the IRS is ludicrous.

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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