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Was IRS targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups a consequence of Obamacare?

Was the illegal targeting of Tea Party and conservative nonprofit applicants by the IRS during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns encouraged by Obamacare? (iStock Photo)

Was the illegal targeting of Tea Party and conservative nonprofit applicants by the IRS during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns encouraged by Obamacare?

A hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will focus on a staff report that recommends a series of reforms designed to get the federal tax agency out of politics.

In making its case for the reforms, the Issa panel's report also offers a disturbing suggestion about the role of Obamacare in encouraging the politicalization of the IRS.

Tax collector for Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act gave the IRS authority to hire 19,000 new agents to enforce compliance with Obamacare.

That put the agency at the center of the program's administrative apparatus, with a result described by the report:

"Due to structural deficiencies and ineffective internal oversight, Lois Lerner had virtual autonomy to run the Exempt Organization Division.

"For several reasons – chief among them, the IRS’s role in the Affordable Care Act – the IRS leadership did not adequately supervise the unit’s work.

"Then-Commissioner Doug Shulman spent a considerable amount of time working on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and Lerner’s direct supervisor, Sarah Hall Ingram, left her permanent job to lead the IRS’s Affordable Care Act office."

Suppressing political speech

The report also sheds light on an aspect of the IRS scandal that has received scant attention — how the targeted groups' ability to exercise First Amendment freedoms was compromised during two election cycles that were critical to President Obama's political fortunes.

"As the IRS ignored tax-exempt applications, donors stopped giving to the groups, overall interest waned, and some groups even stopped their operations," according to the report.

"The delays also resulted in the automatic revocation of some groups’ exemptions by operation of law because the groups had been waiting for an answer so long that they did not file for renewal within the statutorily proscribed period."

Reforms to get the IRS out of politics

Among the reforms suggested by the committee report, the most controversial is likely to be the proposal to allow private citizens to sue individual IRS employees for civil damages.

The proposal would "create a private right of action allowing a victim of IRS confidentiality breaches to bring action against an IRS employee for any harm caused by a willful and injurious breach," according to the committee report.

"A private right of action would not only allow the victim the opportunity to vindicate the harm, but it would provide a strong incentive for IRS employees to better protect confidential taxpayer information," the report said.

Look for more here in this space tomorrow on other reforms suggested by the committee.

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Judge dismisses GreenTech suit against Franklin Center in win for First Amendment.

Watchdog/Luke Rosiak and Micah Morrison: State Department under Hillary Clinton approved 215 Bill Clinton speeches and a controversial consulting deal worth $48 million.

Watchdog/Richard Pollock: Liberal groups refuse to talk about links to tainted funder with history of illegal human experiments.

Columnists/Noemie Emery: Obamacare's Scott Brown moment is still not over.

Columnists/Ron Arnold: Illegal immigration is a money-maker for everybody but the U.S. taxpayer.

Columnist/Timothy P. Carney: Ex-Im justifies funding with useless jobs-created numbers.

Beltway Confidential/Sean Higgins: Study estimates unionization costs workers $11,000 each in some states.

Beltway Confidential/T. Becket Adams: Oh good, Hillary weighs in on Washington Redskins debate.

Legal Newsline/Kyla Asbury: Subaru faces class-action lawsuit over alleged oil consumption defect.

Video/Morning Examiner: Morning Examiner with Steve Doty for July 30.

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New York Post: Low bar for success in Palin's rogue TV adventure.

Righty Playbook

Washington Free Beacon: Feds fund study on why Wikipedia is "sexist."

The Daily Caller: Anonymous DOD official says America's failure is Hillary Inc.'s 2016 politics.

The National Interest: What is at stake in Ukraine.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: Big Government is the Borg and resistance is not futile.

Lefty Playbook

The Washington Monthly: Why Willie Nelson would be a great governor for the new state of Central Texas.

The Progressive: Solidarity Singers give Walker an earful.

The Daily Beast: Red-state Dems dumping Obama.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: Big Oil's new pitch is that fracking means U.S. will never have to fear Putin.

Blog Right

Powerline: The Great War and modern memory.

Hot Air: American public health officials don't want you to worry about worst Ebola outbreak ever.

Patterico's Pontifications: Washington Post blogger inadvertently strengthens Halbig.

Blog Left

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The Huffington Post: House GOP scales back border funding bill.

The Democratic Strategist: Early predictions on presidential races are usually wrong.