IRS "Scandal" Is Over, Public Thinks It's Growing

06.19.13 6:26 PM ET

The IRS scandal would appear to be functionally over. USA Today's Gregory Korte, who's had some scoops on this beat, writes:

John Shafer, a manager in the IRS' Cincinnati field office, has told congressional investigators that the scrutiny of tea party basesstarted as "normal business" in early 2010 when one of his agents came to him with a difficult case,according to a transcript released by Democrats on a key House committee Tuesday.

"In this particular case, it was apparent that there was not enough information" for the agent to figure out whether a tea party group applying for tax-exempt status was going to be involved in significant political activity, he said...

...Shafer was the manager of a screening group in the IRS' Exempt Organization Determinations unit. It was the job of screeners to look at each application for tax exemption as it came in, and decide whether the application was complete or whether other IRS agents needed to follow up with more investigation.

Shafer said he didn't know what happened to those applications once screeners sent them to Washington.

"So many of these things are beyond what the scope of my job is. The first three days of life, you might say, of an application is what I dealt with. And after that, it just was beyond my purview."

Shafer's account confirms what another IRS worker, Gary Muthert, told the committee as well. Shafer — who described himself as a "conservative Republican" in the interview — said he wanted all similar cases to be treated the same for "consistency."

I suppose it's still possible that Darrell Issa has a star witness he can pull out of his...hat. Undoubtedly his committee's investigators are still out there prowling around. So if he produces evidence--by which I mean, you know, evidence, not groundless accusations--of White House involvement someday, then I'll eat my hat in Macy's window (metaphorically speaking) and acknowledge it to be of legitimate concern.

But I'd put the chances of that happening as awfully slim. There are only so many people to interview here, so many rocks to overturn. We'll see what he has. But so far, all the real-world evidence points to an internal IRS cock-up that included special scrutiny for some liberal groups as well as conservative ones at a division that processes some 40,000 or 50,000 applications a year and was trying to deal with a flood of unusual-seeming applications. Period and end.

The public isn't getting the memo. A new CNN poll finds that 47 percent think the White House was behind the "targeting," up from 37 percent last month. This is a fairly novel approach to polling, don't you think, asking Americans about an accusation that no evidence has been adduced to support. I wonder if CNN asked Americans in 2002 if they suspected that the Bush administration was circumventing international law and torturing prisoners. Oh wait, I forgot; that happened.