Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
It's hardly unreasonable to think the Internal Revenue Service took some serious missteps when it came to groups seeking tax-exempt status, and will need to improve the way the agency is managed. But being critical of the IRS's missteps does not mean one should necessarily start making wild assumptions about imaginary misdeeds.
You may recall last summer, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) caused quite a stir claiming he'd heard from a Bain Capital investor that Mitt Romney hadn't paid income taxes for 10 years. Which investor? Reid didn't say. Why should anyone take the claim seriously? Reid couldn't say. He heard an unsubstantiated rumor, and he passed it along.
Nearly 10 months later, the right has decided to revisit the issue, in light of the ongoing IRS controversy. Last week, for example, the Daily Caller ran a report, based on literally nothing, asking whether "someone at the IRS" leaked Romney's tax information to Reid.
As is often the case, the story worked its way from Republican media to Republican lawmakers. During a congressional hearing today, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) was incensed when former IRS commissioner Doug Shulman said he no idea whether Romney's tax documents had leaked.
"Do you know how Mr. Reid obtained that information? Did you look into this?" he asked Shulman.
Shulman stumbled, then said, "I have no idea."
"Doesn't that alarm you that all of a sudden, this pertinent information comes up, and you're the head of this agency, and you're not asking questions? Shame on you. Absolutely shame on you," Gosar responded.
Look, I criticized Reid at the time for repeating unsubstantiated rumors, which struck me as irresponsible. And if lawmakers want to read IRS officials the riot act over its mistakes on dealing with tax-exempt applicants, more power to 'em.
But Gosar's tirade today wasn't just over the top; it was plainly ridiculous.
Reid said he'd heard a rumor from an investor about Romney. Should the IRS have investigated this? Of course not; that wouldn't make any sense.
Indeed, one need not be a strategic mastermind to understand that if Reid had actual tax materials to bolster his rumors, he would have released them to make Romney look bad.
And while we're at it, let's go ahead and note that Reid was, in fact, wrong -- Romney did pay taxes over that 10-year period. If someone had illegally leaked Romney's returns, they'd show the opposite of Reid's claims.
So, the underlying argument is kind of silly, and is probably evidence of a right-wing congressman looking for an excuse to yell at the IRS. "Absolutely shame on you"? Gosar doesn't seem to have any idea what he's talking about.