There was one important nugget tucked in the WSJ story, though. McKinnon wrote:

The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.), said lawmakers should find out why the inspector general focused only on targeting of conservative groups.

Why indeed? Reporters like CNN’s Dana Bash started pursuing that question on Tuesday, and got the beginning of an answer that takes the story in a new direction.

As Bash reported in a segment that included an interview with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight Committee, the spokesperson for Inspector General J. Russell George’s spokesperson said the audit had “focused on conservatives because that is what the Republican-led committee asked him to do.”

The statement from George’s office that Issa asked for a report focused on targeting of conservatives—a request with clear partisan implications—raises questions about whether the congressman intended to create a scandal. Journalists covering the story should press Issa and George on these questions. It’s time for some more skepticism, and for reporters to remember the old adage: Fool me twice, shame on me.

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David Cay Johnston covers fiscal and budget matters for CJR’s United States Project. He is a reporter with 46 years of experience, including 13 at The New York Times; a columnist for Tax Analysts; teaches tax and regulatory law at Syracuse University Law School; and is president of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). Follow him on Twitter @DavidCayJ.