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Originally published Friday, May 17, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: Wake up the IRS watchdogs

Congress has a role in holding the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies accountable. Start with the confirmation process.

Seattle Times Editorial

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ENFORCEMENT of federal tax laws has key benchmarks that must be respected. The rules and regulations must be applied in an equitable, nonpartisan and timely manner.

The Internal Revenue Service appears to have broken all the rules with its treatment of tea-party groups and other conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

The shabby behavior was further compounded by the oblivious responses from President Obama and his administration. They all pleaded ignorance of the problems.

Congress has a role in cleaning up the mess. The all-encompassing word is oversight.

The Senate can start with the timely confirmation of the next IRS chief. Too many key leadership posts in the executive branch carry the appendage “acting.”

Congressional committees should look at the tax laws, in particular the language and rules that apply to groups seeking tax-exempt status.

How plain is the language about what is allowed and precluded by the dispensation from sending money to the U.S. Treasury?

What must be done to sustain that privilege, what activities are not permitted, and what information must be reported to the federal government and become an open record, such as the names of donors?

Full disclosure under the law does not automatically translate into a government intrusion.

Can the IRS make a case that more groups are trying to game the system? Is this indeed a personnel question in the time of budget cuts and sequester? Does the agency have adequate staff to provide timely processing and appropriate reviews?

Holding groups in some netherworld status for months or years on end is not tolerable.

Use and abuse of IRS powers is indeed inexcusable, as the president said. Was this a political plot with partisan intent, or bureaucratic bumbling in a few branch offices?

Congress has the authority and duty to look at IRS rules, statutes, budgets and leadership. Do the hard work and hold the Obama administration accountable beyond the first blast of headlines.


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