When Scandals Reach Into the Oval Office

The search for the common supervisor.

obamadThere is no evidence whatever that the IRS and other scandals reach into the oval office -- or so Jay Carney tells us. But is that really so?

Ben Swann of Fox19 in Cincinnati has a convincing method of figuring out the lowest level at which the IRS scandals must have originated. Starting with the fact that six individual IRS agents sent letters to conservative groups that were essentially similar, Swann suggested a simple way of determining the identity of the senior person who either originated the practice or passed through an order that came from higher up. First, get the names of the people these six were supervised by. If that produces six different names, get the names of the people they were supervised by. Keep doing this until you have a single name -- the common supervisor. Swann found that single name: Cindy Thomas.

Swann's logic is hard to argue with. But let's see what happens when we apply his method to the case reported by Peggy Noonan in her May 23 column in the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Noonan explained what happened when in 2010 Catherine Engelbrecht sent applications for tax exempt status to the IRS. "The U.S. government came down on her with full force," said Noonan:

In December 2010 the FBI came to ask about a person who'd attended a King Street Patriots function. In January 2011 the FBI had more questions. The same month the IRS audited her business tax returns. In May 2011 the FBI called again for a general inquiry about King Street Patriots. In June 2011 Engelbrecht's personal tax returns were audited and the FBI called again. In October 2011 a round of questions on True the Vote. In November 2011 another call from the FBI. The next month, more questions from the FBI. In February 2012 a third round of IRS questions on True the Vote. In February 2012 a first round of questions on King Street Patriots. The same month the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did an unscheduled audit of her business. (It had a license to make firearms but didn't make them.) In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did an unscheduled audit. In November 2012 more IRS questions on True the Vote. In March 2013, more questions. In April 2013 a second ATF audit.

Let's give this the Ben Swann treatment. We are looking for the common supervisor. How far up the chain do we have to go to find that person? First came harassment by the FBI, which is a part of the Justice Department. But we also have involvement of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, another agency within the Justice Department. To find the common supervisor we have to go higher than the FBI Director and the ATF Director to arrive at the person they both report to: Eric Holder, the Attorney General. So far, Swann's logic indicates that the order to target and harass conservative groups could not have come from anyone lower than cabinet rank.

If the IRS and OSHA were also agencies within the Justice Department, we could say no more than that Eric Holder originated or transmitted the order. But that is not so: IRS is a part of the Treasury Department, and OSHA is part of the Department of Labor. When all of this was going on Timothy Geithner was Secretary of the Treasury, and Hilda Solis the Secretary of Labor. The order must therefore have gone through all three cabinet members, but could not have originated with any of the three. Who is their common supervisor? There is only one person who fits that description: the President of the United States. If Swann is right that we must look to Cindy Thomas as the conduit for the order to misuse the IRS for political purposes, then it must also be reasonable to infer that the order to use three departments of the federal government to harass, intimidate, and obstruct the administration's political opponents came from President Obama himself.

Evidence is not the same as proof. Proof comes as evidence accumulates. But the fact that Barack Obama is the only common supervisor of all the corrupt activity in various departments of the federal government is certainly compelling evidence. Carney's insistence that there is no evidence whatever that this scandal goes as high as the oval office is simply wrong.

This evidence is obviously strong enough to require both Carney and the President himself to answer questions about it. Any questioner should be careful to explain what the stakes are: everyone knows that third world despots typically use all of the resources of the governments they head to weaken and obstruct their political opponents, and to prevent any possibility of a successful electoral challenge. Is that what the President did, and what he thinks is compatible with our system of government?

John M. Ellis is an emeritus professor and former Dean of the Graduate Division at UC Santa Cruz.

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