Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

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Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

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Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18