The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, is preparing a paid media campaign in August to link the IRS and its troubles to the rollout of Obamacare. It will be timed for the next time lawmakers are back in their districts.
“The scandal has legs,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek. And with multiple investigations ongoing in the Congress, it has the “potential to make more news,” she said, and put more “smiles on Republican operatives’ faces.”
The party has pushed to broaden the scope of its attacks on the IRS to include not just the improper targeting of conservatives but its lavish conferences, a costly Star Trek spoof video produced on the public’s dime, and the tax agency’s role in implementing the new health care law. The goal: Undermine trust in government, especially one run by the Democrats.
And what better agency to flog than the IRS, “this thing that everybody already hates,” Jennings said.
Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, said the IRS story line is already “deeply embedded in the psyche of many voters, and I think it will remain there all the way until 2014.”
The notion of tax authorities gone rogue “fits right there perfectly with a lot of the anger that voters have with Washington,” Madden said. “They looked at that and saw it as a summary indictment of what’s wrong with Washington: It’s inefficient, it’s wasting time and money, and its overly partisan.”
Democrats had hoped they had politically kneecapped some of that story line last week, with fresh revelations that progressives, along with tea-party groups, were on the controversial “be on the lookout” lists generated by the tax agency.
That fact “completely undermines the misguided political attacks congressional Republicans have sought to wage against the White House,” Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement to National Journal. “Hopefully, the new information—combined with the continued findings that no one outside of the IRS was involved and that there is no evidence of political bias—will focus Republicans’ attention on helping to fix the problems of mismanagement at the IRS and establish oversight so this does not happen again.”
Republicans note that progressives didn’t receive the same kind of scrutiny as their tea-party counterparts, even if they were on a “BOLO.” The Treasury inspector general whose audit spurred the scandal has agreed. (Levin, for his part, has called into question the IG’s credibility, saying he authored reports that were “flawed in a fundamental way.”)
“Whatever muddying of the waters they want to do is really a temporary thing” said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chair of the House oversight panel who has been the most aggressive congressional investigator.