MSNBC's Wolffe Compares Darrell Issa to IRS Corruption

Appearing on Monday's The Last Word show, MSNBC.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe -- formerly of Newsweek -- joined MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell in defending the actions of IRS employees who focused on Tea Party groups for scrutiny, and ended up suggesting that it was Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, rather than the IRS, that was "acting out of public view for purely partisan reasons."

After reading the statement of an IRS employee who used the word "patriots" to help identify Tea Party groups, the MSNBC host continued:

Richard Wolffe, that's from a guy whose job it is to evaluate how much politics your 501c4 is going to engage in. That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable search term.

Wolffe responded:

Right, especially because they weren't targeting them for their politics. They were targeting them because they were pretending to be educational institutions that were eligible for tax-free status when they were really political groups. And, of course, in this period what were the largest number of new political groups coming up but, of course, these Tea Party groups.

He added:

You know, there was a lot of Republican commentary advice at the time these hearings first came about where people like Charles Krauthammer and others said let the facts speak for themselves. Darrell Issa, don't go out there and play politics, let the facts speak for themselves. And here these transcripts are speaking very, very loudly, and they might speak even louder if we saw them all.

A bit later, Wolffe concluded:

And, look, the IRS, we all know, the IRS has no friends, so those numbers aren't surprising. There is a tiny hint of irony in all of this which if you kind of strip away the pieces of the story, you'd say that people were afraid of a branch of government acting out of public view for purely partisan reasons, and, in fact, that pretty much describes what Darrell Issa's been up to.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Monday, June 10, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: You know, the information is revealing things that I thought was reasonable all along, that people thought, you know, in the hearings and some of the media thought was so terrible. I want to read something, an interview from one of the screeners who worked for that conservative Republican manager. And the screener explained why he started using the search term "patriots."

He said, "I used 'patriots' because some of the Tea Parties wouldn't, they would shorten their name to TP Patriots. I thought, okay, I will use 'patriot.' And I would see TP Patriots."

Richard Wolffe, that's from a guy whose job it is to evaluate how much politics your 501c4 is going to engage in. That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable search term.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, especially because they weren't targeting them for their politics. They were targeting them because they were pretending to be educational institutions that were eligible for tax-free status when they were really political groups. And, of course, in this period what were the largest number of new political groups coming up but, of course, these Tea Party groups.

You know, there was a lot of Republican commentary advice at the time these hearings first came about where people like Charles Krauthammer and others said let the facts speak for themselves. Darrell Issa, don't go out there and play politics, let the facts speak for themselves. And here these transcripts are speaking very, very loudly, and they might speak even louder if we saw them all.

(...)

O'DONNELL: The New York Times/CBS did a poll today where it asked the public to simply guess, just guess what happened at the IRS. And those guesses apparently are newsworthy. And the guesses are that 68 percent said that the IRS did this for political reasons, 19 percent said they did it because it was the right policy, and 14 percent honest respondents said they simply did not know.

But Richard Wolffe, so this is now newsworthy, what the public guesses about an investigation that isn't even actually complete.

WOLFFE: Right, yeah, it's not very enlightening. And, look, the IRS, we all know, the IRS has no friends, so those numbers aren't surprising. There is a tiny hint of irony in all of this which if you kind of strip away the pieces of the story, you'd say that people were afraid of a branch of government acting out of public view for purely partisan reasons, and, in fact, that pretty much describes what Darrell Issa's been up to.