Remember, the 501(c)(4) hubbub, which Noonan conflates here with the supposed persecution of individuals, did not involve audits. It involved flagging groups applying for tax-exempt status and checking whether they were really political organizations, which are supposed to be ineligible for tax exemption. All the flagged groups were eventually given tax-exempt status after a long delay. The same thing has happened with the nonprofit-news sector (though the investigative journalist Roddy Boyd, for one, says that his Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation is still awaiting approval). The Inspector General report found that the Tea Party targeting was “not politically biased” and that “officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.” Two-thirds of the flagged applicants were not conservative groups.

Noonan mentions none of this.

And, yet again, it’s worth noting the head of the IRS during all this was a political appointee put in charge of the IRS by… George W. Bush. Noonan forgets that too.

I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that Obama’s Watergate this is not. It’s flat irresponsible to suggest otherwise in the pages of the country’s most important business outlet—at least from everything we know thus far.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Read the IG’s report here:

Inspector General's Report on IRS Reviews of Tax-exempt Applications by mmemmott


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at