Since announcing his brain cancer was terminal, Arizon Sen. John McCain has continued to make headlines, but not due to his medical status. Instead, it has been one controversy after another revolving around him, and now one more had been added to the list.
This one is based in his dislike not for Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, but of the tea party.
McCain has never really endeared himself to conservatives, and he made his feeling public about the tea party movement at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in 2015, according to a Yahoo report.
“I think also — I probably shouldn’t say this — but some of (the tea party) appeals to the bad angels of our nature rather than the better angels of our nature,” McCain said.
This attitude ties into the latest scandal swirling around McCain.
One of a number of scandals that plagued President Barack Obama and his administration involved the IRS targeting tea party groups after 2010. It seemed that their tax-exempt status requests were denied or delayed due to intense political partisanship in the agency.
In May 2013, The Washington Post reported that the IRS’s exempt-organizations division director Lois Lerner “let slip” the week prior “that low-level IRS staffers had focused extra scrutiny on conservative groups with words such as ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names.”
In addition, “internal reviews have shown that Lerner knew about the targeting in 2011 — but neither Congress nor the public knew until (2013).” Despite this, Lerner was never prosecuted and was allowed to retire with her taxpayer-funded pension intact.
This did not change, even after House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, and Tax Policy Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican, wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In it, they begged him to reopen a probe into the matter, according to Jay Sekulow, chief council for the American Center for Law and Justice, writing in a commentary for Fox News.
When President Donald Trump was sworn into office, some held out hope that the perceived injustices from Obama’s tenure would somehow be made right. However, in September 2017, Trump’s administration had already preemptively declined to pursue criminal charges against Lerner “based on the available evidence,” according to Fox News.
But more has since been uncovered about the scandal. Government watchdog group Judicial Watch has obtained and released “internal IRS documents, including material revealing that Sen. John McCain’s former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.”
Meeting notes from April 30, 2013, involving Kerner, Lerner, “and other high-ranking IRS officials” were obtained by JW. With the meeting taking place only 10 days before the IRS scandal exploded into the public view, they are particularly incriminating against Kerner and Lerner:
“Henry Kerner asked how to get to the abuse of organizations claiming section 501 (c)(4) but designed to be primarily political. Lois Lerner said the system works, but not in real time.”
“Henry Kerner noted that these organizations don’t disclose donors. Lois Lerner said that if they don’t meet the requirements, we can come in and revoke, but it doesn’t happen timely.”
“Nan Marks said if the concern is that organizations engaging in this activity don’t disclose donors, then the system doesn’t work. Henry Kerner said that maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous. Nikole noted that we have budget constraints.”
“Elise Bean suggested using the list of organizations that made independent expenditures. Lois Lerner said that it is her job to oversee it all, not just political campaign activity.”
Thus far, there is no evidence that McCain knew about or directed Kerner to take such action. It is plausible that Kerner, knowing of McCain’s dislike of the tea party, opted to be a proactive and loyal staffer by urging the IRS to take action against the groups.
But McCain’s personality does little to keep him far removed from the scandal and tongues are wagging with speculation as to his involvement. Regardless, McCain’s frosty relationship with President Donald Trump has not made the Arizona senator many fans among Trump supporters.
New suspicions about him betraying the tea party won’t help matters at all.