IRS Chief Counsel Continues to Draw Critical Fire
The role of Internal Revenue Service Chief Counsel William Wilkins in the recent IRS Tea Party scandal is setting many blogs afire, at times even overshadowing New York City mayor candidate Anthony Weiner’s failure to keep on his big-boy pants.
Wilkins, you’ll recall, was named in congressional testimony as overseeing the improper targeting of conservative political groups, including those associated with the Tea Party, that were seeking tax-exempt status. It was reported that he met with President Barack Obama at the White House on April 23, 2012, just two days before Wilkins’s office sent out guidelines on considering Tea Party tax-exempt applications.
Professor Paul Caron of Pepperdine University School of Law helped stoke the flames when he posted on his TaxProf blog a note from an attorney who works in a federal agency’s general counsel office.
“In my seven years of working at a general counsel's office, I have never once heard of our general counsel meeting with the President. OLC [White House Office of Legal Counsel] would go crazy if he did. I have worked on a couple of legal opinions that did go to the White House. And each time they were staffed through OLC,” the unidentified attorney wrote.
The attorney went on, “So I can't for the life of me come up with any kind of innocent explanation for why Obama would have met with the chief counsel of the IRS. That meeting shouldn't ever happen, and especially not without the commissioner of the IRS being there.”
Although some commenters on the blog rehashed the allegations, a few disputed the attorney’s claim. One poster, identified as Jack Townsend, questioned whether the attorney was biased or had an agenda: “I would even encourage this anonymous general counsel attorney to out himself or herself rather than assert claims of impropriety and even illegality and hide behind the shield of anonymity,” Townsend commented.
Townsend also posted, “According to official White House visitor records, Wilkins met with the President at 4 pm on April 23 in the Roosevelt Room with about 13 other people. At around 5 pm, Obama, Wilkins, and 13 other presidential appointees from various agencies, including the departments of Interior, Defense, and Energy, took pictures in the Oval Office. But, psychologists regularly report that truth will not convince the fringe that they are wrong.”
Another commenter, going by the nom-de-web truthsquad, posted, “Attys from agency counsel offices have meetings at the WH all the time. They are there, as attys often are, to represent their clients.” And, the poster added, “The author of the email is trying to manufacture a controversy where there is none.”
Another Wilkins defender, identified as Sam Bagenstos, wrote, “I worked for the chief counsel's office . . . and the notion that Wilkins would have met personally with Obama in his capacity as chief counsel (who reports directly [to] the General Counsel for the Treasury) strikes me as dubious. At a minimum, he would be accompanied by the staff of the general counsel . . . and probably by the general counsel himself, at such a meeting.”
But other websites were not so kind to Wilkins. Blogger John Steele suggested on the Legal Ethics Forum, “I sure would like to see the attorney client privilege waived as to all conversations [in the White House] involving IRS counsel.”
Another blog—Townhall.com—asked, referring to Wilkins even though his title is chief counsel: “The Most Clueless General Counsel Ever?”
The post began, “IRS General Counsel William J. Wilkins claims that he knew nothing about the IRS targeting. His claims don't pass the smell test.” More than a dozen anti-Wilkins comments followed the post.
“What did the President know and when did he know it?” asked the Mr. Conservative blog for the Texas newspaper the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
And on The Hill’s Pundits Blog, political analysts Dick Morris and Eileen McGann wrote a post titled, “William Wilkins: The G. Gordon Liddy of the IRS Scandal?” Morris and McGann were referring to one of President Nixon’s chief operatives behind the Watergate burglary. Liddy’s link to Nixon eventually helped lead to the President’s resignation.
Marinka Peschmann, writing for The Daily Caller online, bemoaned the lack of justice and the failure of federal prosecutors to do their jobs. To hold Wilkins and the Obama administration accountable for alleged misdeeds, Peschmann suggested using the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). (Peschmann, however, fails to mention that a federal prosecutor would have to invoke the Act.)
For a larger roundup of commentary on Wilkins and the IRS scandal, Professor Caron’s blog is keeping a running list of articles and links.