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Poll: The first firing of the IRS 'tea party' scandal

May 15, 2013|By Jon Healey
  • President Obama spoke Wednesday about the recent scandal in which the Internal Revenue Service is accused of targeting conservative organizations. He announced that acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller had resigned.
President Obama spoke Wednesday about the recent scandal in which the Internal… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP…)

The scandal over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special review claimed its first scalp Wednesday, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanded and received the resignation of the agency's acting chief.

President Obama announced the resignation of Steven Miller on Wednesday afternoon. He also took the opportunity to repeat much of the statement he'd issued Tuesday, when he said the agency's actions were "intolerable and inexcusable." He also pledged, again, to put safeguards in place to make sure that sort of one-sided and improper scrutiny doesn't recur.

The firing won't, and shouldn't, derail the inquiries Congress plans into the episode. Among the unanswered questions are how IRS employees developed the process used to screen applications for extra review, why they sought records they didn't need and weren't entitled to obtain (including the identities of donors, the issues the applicant organizations were interested in and the positions taken on them), what the agency told the Obama administration about the reviews, and why top IRS officials who knew about the reviews told Congress that conservative groups weren't being targeted.

READER OPINION: Outraged over IRS snooping scandal? Readers aren't

Miller reportedly told congressional investigators that two low-level employees were responsible for flagging applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups. Notably, he was named acting commissioner of the IRS in November, after the controversial reviews had stopped. (They started in mid-2010 and continued for about two years.) But he was a longtime high-ranking IRS official and spent time as head of the department that oversees tax-exempt groups.

Plus, he used the phrase "Mistakes were made" in an op-ed about the affair in USA Today. That alone should be a fireable offense.

What do you think about Miller's firing? Take our deceptively unscientific poll, leave a comment or do both.

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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey

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