Rand Paul Struggles To Tie Obama To IRS Scandal

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday to use the IRS scandal to attack the Obama administraiton, but flubbed a key part of his case: he couldn’t defend the claim that IRS was targeting conservative groups as part of a political strategy to help the White House.

Paul, like most Republicans, has been spinning the scandal as an Obama Administration attack on dissenters. “What the IRS did is how the KGB used to target dissidents,” he wrote in a CNN op-ed. “It is how they deal with troublemakers in China.”

Some have argued the extra IRS scrutiny was part of a failed attempt to implement election law, as opposed to a political crackdown. Host Candy Crowley asked Paul why this interpretation was wrong. He couldn’t give her a reason:

CROWLEY: We do know this one place processes 70,000 applications. Can you see in your mind’s eye a way this might not have been political, that this was a misguided stupid way to sort but that they didn’t intend it to be some kind of political attempt to harass the Tea Party?

PAUL: I would think if there’s any chance that this was a mistake, the Investigator General wouldn’t be coming out and saying otherwise, and the IRS themselves wouldn’t be saying —

CROWLEY: They say it’s a mistake. I think the question is whether it’s political.

PAUL: Well, I think we’re going to have to see the memorandum. Apparently there is a policy, and I think we’re going to find there’s a written policy that says we were targeting people who were opposed to the President. And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy…now there’s rumors who wrote the policy is the person running Obamacare, which doesn’t give us a lot of confidence about Obamacare.

CROWLEY: Senator, I have to run. I’m way over on this, but I have to just go back to something you said. Are you telling me you think there’s a memo somewhere in which someone said in the memo we’re targeting people going after the president? Is that what I heard you say?

PAUL: Well, we keep hearing the reports and we have several specifically worded items saying who was being targeted. In fact, one of the bullet points says those who are critical of the President. So I don’t know if that comes from a policy, but that’s what’s being reported in the press.

It’s unclear what Paul’s source for that last claim is, but the Investigator General’s report Paul references found no evidence that conservative groups were targeted as part of a political strategy to weaken the president’s political opponents. The report blamed independent IRS management for allowing the practice to go on in the lower-level Cincinnati office.

Republicans, by contrast, have tended to portray this as part of a concerted Obama Administration strategy to attack conservatives. They have also used the controversy to attack Obamacare.