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When Danny Werfel first appeared before Congress after the IRS scandal, he told them all the right things.
“It’s completely inexcusable,” the new acting IRS commissioner reassured members of the House Appropriations Committee. “This important agency is founded on the principle of operating impartially, and we failed in that most basic core principle.”
“The agency stands ready to confront the problems that occurred, hold accountable those who acted inappropriately, be open about what happened, and permanently fix these problems so that such missteps do not occur again.”
In the wake of the revelation that the IRS had targeted conservative nonprofits, there was a lot of outrage and the Obama administration sent in Werfel to clean house. He condemned Lois Lerner, the key figure and arguably the scapegoat for the IRS operation targeting conservatives, and claimed to be very upset that this sort of thing had been going on..
“We have to get to the bottom of it,” Werfel told Congress. “We will uncover every fact . . . I’m like everybody else. I’m frustrated, too.”
Anyone who seriously believed that the Obama administration was going to appoint anyone to head the IRS who would actually get to the bottom of things or uncover every fact was swiftly disabused of that naivete when Werfel released a report later that month covering it all up.
According to the report there was no targeting of conservatives.
“We have not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the IRS or involvement in these matters by anyone outside of the IRS,” Werfel assured everyone. “There is no current evidence of the use of inappropriate screeners or other types of criteria in other IRS operations beyond those discussed in the report.”
Key words that repeated throughout the report were “inconsistent”, “mismanagement”, “inappropriate” and “insufficient”. No one responsible for this could be named for “privacy” reasons.
After supposedly asking Lois Lerner to resign, Werfel gave her a one month leave, when asked about her later, he explained that he couldn’t discuss her role with the IRS to protect her privacy. Werfel had promised to produce every single one of her emails and to prioritize finding them and turning them over. It did not happen. And the IRS later claimed that it could not produce them.
“It has to start with a recognition that a trust has been violated,” Werfel had initially told Congress. And then it went on being violated over and over again. Including by him.
Werfel stepped down a few months after Lerner and joined the Boston Consulting Group as a managing director. The controversial consultancy was a donor to the Clinton Foundation and paid Hillary Clinton a quarter million for a speech. Now he’s back as Biden’s pick to head the IRS.
Werfel will return to a newly empowered IRS, which, thanks to Senator Manchin’s dirty deal with the Biden administration, will enjoy $80 billion as part of the ‘Inflation Increase Act’. That’s a far cry from the old days of the Obama administration when Werfel had come to Congress, hat in hand, asking for $1 billion. With the massive increase in the IRS budget, the organization will have more resources to wage war against the political enemies of the leftist faction.
The Biden administration’s choice to pick Werfel over the roster of more extreme nominees that were likely recommended by Elizabeth Warren, is an attempt at rushing through a nomination. Werfel is a known factor and unlikely to trigger any opposition from Manchin or Sinema, the way that Warren’s more Marxist choices might, and will likely get a pass from most Republicans.
But, like AG Garland, he’s likely to once again be the guy guilelessly standing out front whistling a jaunty tune while the bank is being robbed by the fellows in black masks hiding in the alley.
Back in 2013, Werfel proved that he could charm Congress with some happy talk while all the dirty stuff was shoved in the back of the closet. And his nomination ought to be seen in that light. Bringing back the guy who took over after the IRS targeting scandal is a preemptive response to the scandals yet to come. Why bring back a guy whose most famous role at the IRS was overseeing its recovery from a scandal unless they anticipate that his services will be needed?
And there’s little doubt that they will be.
If Werfel gets the job, he’ll be in office until 2027. That means whoever wins in 2024 will still be dealing with an IRS run by him.
Werfel’s nomination was cheered enthusiastically by Senator Ron Wyden who called him an “excellent nominee” who would “ensure the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay the taxes they owe.”
Senator Wyden has repeatedly tried to weaponize the IRS against political opponents, including conservative groups. During the IRS scandal, he had sneered that, “if political organizations do not want to be scrutinized by the government, they shouldn’t seek privileges like tax-free status.”
The leftist politician had dismissed the investigation into the IRS targeting of conservatives as a “witch hunt” on “behalf of special interests”. More recently he alleged that “Russian operatives” were gaining “access to conservative political organizations in order to influence American politics” through nonprofits.
There’s little doubt that an IRS boss so clearly supported by Wyden will enact his agenda.
The Biden administration has already been weaponizing the federal government against political opponents in a variety of ways. After Rettig’s resignation and the ‘Inflation Increase Act’, the administration will now be able to thoroughly weaponize the IRS to resume the same work it was tasked with under Obama. And Werfel will be the man out front who will glibly deny it all.
No one who oversaw the cleanup crew after the original IRS targeting scandal belongs in that position. But in Washington D.C., the career ladder is lubricated by crimes and cover-ups.
The reward for covering up one crime is the opportunity to cover up the next one.