A Scalp For A Scandal

Poor Steve Miller, the now former acting IRS director:

He’s just a fall guy. He wasn’t director for most of the period in question (though he was serving in the agency). And both he and his predecessor acted properly and swiftly to shut down the inappropriate criteria when it was brought to their attention.

But someone had to be fired. Otherwise President Obama wouldn’t seem like he was taking action. And Obama actually didn’t have many choices for whom to fire. It’s hard for the president to axe ordinary employees at the IRS at will. The agency is insulated from the executive branch — in part due to fears that a president will fire employees if they don’t discriminate against groups or individuals who’re fighting his agenda. In this case, that insulation is actually protecting employees who might have discriminated against conservative groups from being fired by the White House. Now there’s an unintended consequence for you.

Update from a reader:

Miller wasn’t as uninvolved as it may seem at first glance.

He was the head of the exempt org division where the trouble started for several years, and then was promoted to the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement – the exempt org boss’s boss. So though he wasn’t running it directly when all this happened, it bore his imprint. Lois Lerner, who ineffectually addressed the issue in 2011, was his protegee and subordinate. And he has a reputation for getting into the details at work – something he uncharacteristically failed to do in this case.

The biggest deal of all is that Miller may well have obstructed the work of Congress, a criminal violation, by not revealing what he knew about the targeting in letters and hearing testimony after he learned of it.

Yes, it did stop cold once he became aware of the issue. But it was an issue for two-and-a-half years before he became aware of it. The people who kept him in the dark never seem to have paid a price. And then he apparently kept Congress in the dark in turn. Not sure what that makes him, but it’s not quite an innocent victim.

Another:

I thought I would point out that Steve Miller’s title was acting commissioner, not acting director. A minor point, but there is a distinction.