News Column

Mass. Democrats Take Hard Line in IRS Brew-up

May 17, 2013

Frantic Democrats want tough action in the ongoing IRS scandal, fearing the damage that a slow bleed could do to their own electoral futures as President Obama struggles to get out ahead of the issue.

U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Malden), running for U.S. Senate, quickly denounced the Internal Revenue Service's actions earlier this week and upped the ante yesterday as the scandal spread, saying, "Whoever did this should be found and fired."

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester), one of Massachusetts' more liberal House members, told the Herald his party in Congress is afraid of the ramifications of the scandals, now collectively known as Obamagate -- a threefer encompassing the IRS harassment of conservative groups, the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records, and the handling of the Benghazi attacks.

"They do worry about what their constituents think about them and how they respond to these issues," McGovern said yesterday, adding with regard to the IRS scandal that "anybody connected to this ought to be fired."

Acting IRS chief Steve Miller resigned Wednesday, but a number of those who oversaw and executed allegedly politically biased policy in the tax-exemption unit remain at the IRS. Democrats demanding action include U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who called for an "audit" of the IRS, which U.S. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) supports, her spokeswoman said.

The scandals could even impact Bay State politics, where a top Democrat said his party needs to step lightly. State Treasurer Steve Grossman, expected to run for governor in 2014, told the Herald yesterday, "I think voters will want to see that politicians were out there representing them, not representing and protecting party, not protecting any individuals who may have done wrong. ... We have an obligation to speak out."

While Republicans have called for a special prosecutor, Obama yesterday insisted in a press conference he doesn't see a need for an outside investigator following an inspector general's report and with a criminal investigation now underway headed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

"Between those investigations I think we're going to be able to figure out exactly what happened," Obama said. "I think we're going to be able to fix it."

Obama, when pressed about what he knew about the IRS scandal, said, "I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the (inspector general) report" beforehand. He did not say whether he had any prior knowledge of the targeting of conservative groups, which began in 2010 and reportedly included leaks of confidential IRS documents to liberal groups supporting his re-election.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), due to question Miller and the Treasury inspector general in a House Ways and Means hearing today, said he wants to know what Obama knew and when.

"Most people aren't buying what he's selling," Kelly said of Obama's claim that he knew nothing.

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Source: Copyright Boston Herald (MA) 2013


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