White House defends IRS chief turned ObamaCare enforcer
By: John Hayward
In the Obama Administration, deploying the Incompetence Defense is no obstacle to receiving cash rewards and promotions. Even though the former commissioner of the tax exempt organizations division of the IRS, Sarah Hall Ingram, was – at best – shockingly ignorant of widespread abuse in her department, she’s been promoted to chief enforcer of ObamaCare, and this weekend the White House made it clear that she still has their full support. From the Washington Times:
A besieged White House dug in its heels Sunday and defended figures at the center of the unfolding Internal Revenue Service scandal while reiterating that President Obama knew nothing of the misdeeds inside the agency.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, appearing on four Sunday morning political talk shows, offered strong support for Sarah Hall Ingram, who led the agency’s tax-exempt division as it admittedly targeted conservative groups. She recently was promoted to chief of the health care reform office, tasked with implementing “Obamacare.
Critics of the administration expect many more heads to roll as the true scope and intent of the IRS actions come to light, but Mr. Pfeiffer on Sunday strongly defended Ms. Ingram.
“No one has suggested that she did anything wrong yet,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Before everyone in this town convicts this person in the court of public opinion with no evidence, let’s actually get the facts and make decisions after that. There’s nothing that suggests she did anything wrong,” he said.
Oh, I think there have been lots of suggestions that Ingram did something wrong. What Pfeiffer really means is that we don’t have any evidence that she did anything illegal yet. But under the most charitable interpretation of her conduct, she was a remarkably disconnected manager who claims to have been out of the loop on a massive scandal that numerous other IRS officials were well aware of, including those above her. This is not a resume that would inspire public confidence in Ingram as head of the ObamaCare enforcement unit. How do we know there won’t be widespread abuse by “low level rogue employees” in that department, while she remains blissfully ignorant until a massive scandal explodes in 2015 or 2016?
No one in the chain of command that either coordinated, enabled, or ignored years of abuse has any business working for the IRS in any capacity, let alone a job where they would gain control over an even larger and more intrusive database. We can afford to let investigations run their full course before we accuse Ingram of willfully inappropriate or criminal activity, but we already know she cannot be trusted with oversight duties, and it is urgently necessary to separate her from them.
And it’s not just conservative pundits or Republican politicians calling for a thorough housecleaning. This is really just common sense. Some mixture of malfeasance and supervisory blindness was at work in the IRS. Neither can be tolerated, let alone rewarded.
As the Washington Times notes, the man who took over from Ingram only a couple of weeks ago, Joseph Grant, has already announced his “retirement” in the wake of the scandal. It’s risible to describe that as a “head rolling,” since there’s no explicit connection to the scandal or declaration of penitence in his announcement. (Grant was the deputy commissioner of the department during the time when abuses occurred.) But it’s obviously not normal for someone to “retire” just days after receiving a promotion, and at least he’s out of the management mix going forward.
When its past actions are questioned, this Administration always whines about “old news” and urges Americans to more “forward.” A thorough housecleaning at the IRS is a crucial first step forward; nothing less could begin the restoration of public confidence in the agency. Some of us think it will take more than management turnover to restore such confidence in full, but it’s an obvious beginning.
We need a new management team of impeccable character and ability ( from the Oval office down and particularly in Congress – added & emphasis by the CftC ), not scandal holdovers who claim they don’t read their email, don’t talk to their subordinates, or aren’t good at math (the memorable admission of IRS official Lois Lerner, who just earned a “bushel of Pinocchios” from the Washington Post fact-checker for her damage control efforts.) For the moment, the housecleaning can be accomplished without rancor or public humiliation, as long as it happens quickly. It’s time for everyone else in the chain of command to join Joseph Grant in “retirement.”
Before he became president of MF Global, the bankrupt brokerage firm that lost $1.2 billion in client money, Bradley Abelow spent time as New Jersey’s treasurer and former Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff. In those roles, Abelow served alongside Lisa Jackson, who led the state environmental protection department and eventually succeeded Abelow as Corzine’s chief of staff.
Jackson now directs the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration, and Abelow, despite a full-time job at MF Global, is still serving alongside her. The former Goldman Sachs executive holds the title of chairman for EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board. Even though MF Global is embroiled in a major scandal and under federal investigation, the EPA still lists Abelow on its website as the head of the 27-member board.
Abelow’s position is unpaid and the board’s work is advisory in nature. According to an EPA publication, the board plays “a vital role in helping EPA consider ways communities can effectively finance their environmental infrastructure costs as well as in exploring ideas for promoting opportunities for the growth of a green economy.”
The Washington Times first reported Abelow’s role at EPA on Nov. 9, shortly after MF Global declared bankruptcy and revealed the $1.2 billion had gone missing. Since then, federal authorities have been investigating. Corzine and Abelow have also appeared before House and Senate committees to testify.
During those hearings, not one member of Congress asked about Abelow’s chairmanship of the EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board. The Washington Times reports, “Even as he finds himself the public face of a bankruptcy and admitted to lawmakers that he had no idea how client funds disappeared, Congress and the administration have voiced no public concern about Mr. Abelow’s role advising the $8.6 billion government agency on its finances.”
In addition to his political ties to Corzine and Jackson, Abelow is also a prominent campaign contributor. The Times, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, reported donations of more than $90,000 to Democrat candidates and causes since 2007. Abelow made a $30,800 donation to the Democratic National Committee earlier this year and gave $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year. He gave the maximum to to President Obama’s this year and for his 2008 campaign.