DANIEL WERFEL, whom President Obama tapped on Thursday to lead the Internal Revenue Service, has a record of shaking up stolid federal bureaucracies. When he gets to his new agency, he shouldn’t hold back.
If a new Treasury Departmentinspector general report and a Friday House hearing are any indication, the IRS doesn’t just need a shake-up — it requires a veritable earthquake of reform. That’s clear enough even though there are still plenty of unanswered questions for the various investigations now underway.
The origins of the IRS’s practice of targeting tea party-type groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status are still murky. In testimony on Friday, Steven T. Miller, the outgoing acting IRS commissioner, couldn’t identify whose idea this was — though so far there is no evidence that it came from Washington.
As for motivations, IRS officials have insisted that the agency saw a big influx of applications beginning in 2010 and that its targeting was just an inappropriate shortcut to sort through them. Yet an IRS letter to the inspector general also cited pressure from “the public, media, watchdog groups and members of Congress” to investigate specific 501(c)(4) groups as a factor in its decision making. Does that mean political pressure might also have influenced IRS staff?