Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: IRS breach of trust

The only thing worse than wielding the awesome power of the Internal Revenue Service in a discriminatory manner is to deny it took place and then take another year to change the story yet again. In the best possible light, the revelations that the Cincinnati office of the IRS targeted conservative groups for extensive questioning could be chalked up to the failure to properly supervise overwhelmed low-level bureaucrats. But that doesn't answer why IRS officials denied the trend to Congress last year only to admit it Friday. President Barack Obama was right Monday when he called the episode outrageous. But restoring America's faith in its tax collection agency is now part of his job. He must insist this independent agency accounts for every single chapter of this debacle, no matter what it reveals.

On Friday, the head of the IRS tax-exempt unit, Lois Lerner, acknowledged to reporters that the IRS's Cincinnati office had used phrases like "tea party" and "patriot" to single out for extra scrutiny some applications for social welfare groups, known as 501(c)4s. Groups granted the status do not pay taxes but cannot participate in some political activities.

Lerner and the IRS contend it was a mistake in judgment at a time of great stress and nothing more nefarious. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision had unleashed a surge of corporate and labor union donations and groups wanting to help spend it. Applications to be 501(c)4 groups, which can't participate directly in a candidate's campaigns but can "educate" voters, doubled. Lerner said the bureaucrats were just looking for some mechanism to sift through the onslaught. When she objected in June 2011, the use of "tea party" and "patriot" were struck from the parameters. Twice more, in January and May of 2012, the agency would rewrite the test for which applications would undergo more scrutiny, the Washington Post reported.

Yet, in March 2012, as some conservative groups complained they were being targeted for excessive questioning, IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman — an appointee of President George W. Bush — testified on Capitol Hill that it wasn't true. That tune changed on Friday, as the IRS braced for the release of its inspector general audit of the episode, the draft form of which has been circulating in Washington.

The report could be illuminating, but in many ways the damage is already done. The IRS is far from beloved. Taxpaying Americans have long accepted that someone must be in charge of ensuring that everyone pays their share. But to learn that enforcement can be so cavalierly administered plays into critics' worst expectations. The only way back for the IRS is a brutal and honest accounting of how something so simple as fairness and nonpartisanship went on hiatus in Cincinnati and why leadership didn't confess to the slip right away. Anything less will just further undermine the agency and Americans' trust in government.

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Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
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Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

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The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17