That dysfunctional IRS nonprofit division and the limited hangout

Was it just a few low-level rogue employees?
Was it just a few low-level rogue employees?

The IRS nonprofit division, over a period of years, became increasingly dysfunctional, isolated, and off on its own, oblivious to orders from DC. That’s the conclusion Propublica reaches in an excellent investigative report. But why was this division allowed to drift so badly and why was it so mismanaged that it disobeyed an order to stop the targeting and no one noticed? I find this quite curious.

Dan Backer, a lawyer in Washington who represented six of the groups held up because of the Tea Party criteria, said he doesn’t buy the notion that low-level employees in Cincinnati were alone responsible.

“It doesn’t just strain credulity,” Backer said. “It broke credulity and left it laying on the road about a mile back. Clearly these guys were all on the same marching orders.”

If higher-ups are doing a limited hangout, then blaming low-level employees is precisely what they’d attempt.

A limited hangout, or partial hangout, is a public relations or propaganda technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details.

Incompetence is one thing, directing disobeying orders is quite a bit more serious.

Officials at IRS headquarters in Washington were unable to manage their subordinates in Cincinnati. When Lois Lerner, the Exempt Organizations division director in Washington, learned in June 2011 about the improper criteria for screening applications, she instructed that they be “immediately revised.”

But just six months later, Cincinnati employees changed the revised criteria to focus on “organizations involved in limiting/expanding government” or “educating on the Constitution.” They did so “without executive approval.”

Really? Where were their bosses? Why did supervisors not insure the orders were being followed?