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Still loud still proud

Still loud, still proud and still in the Shays Handful.

Arizona's J.D. Hayworth wrote a letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic yesterday ("Board's brush a little too broad") in which he praises their denunciation of the DeLay Rule but takes exception to their "broad-brush approach."

"In the interest of fairness and full disclosure," wrote Hayworth, "I am writing to inform you and Republic readers that when Republicans met in conference last week to discuss the rules change, I spoke passionately in opposition to the proposal, voted against it, and voted against the final package of rules that included the change."

As we noted earlier

As we noted earlier, the latest story seems to be that Rep. Istook not only claims that the LPFKI was drafted by IRS personnel but that neither he nor his staff were the ones who asked them to write it.

Late this afternoon TPM spoke to IRS spokesman Terry Lemons, who provided us with the following statement: "The Commissioner [Mark W. Everson] was unaware of this provision until after it was already approved. He strongly supports the measure being deleted from the final bill."

Lemons said the IRS had commenced an internal inquiry into the origin of the provision at the behest of Sen. Kent Conrad.

Now, earlier this afternoon a TPM reader wrote in to say that he found it unlikely that Appropriations Committee staffers would not be aware of the sensitivity attached to tax return confidentiality or the fact that the plain language of the LPFKI (as per this afternoon's post, this is our acronym for the Legislative Provision Formerly Known as Istook) gives the chairs of the appropriations committees carte blanche to review them.

More to the point, though, he found it extremely implausible that IRS personnel would draft the language in the way that they allegedly did unless they were given specific guidance to do draft it in such an expansive fashion -- and perhaps not even then.

I quote from the reader's email, where he notes the basis of his skepticism ...

This is not because the IRS are good guys but because it would very strongly go against their bureaucratic interest. First of all it is a giveaway of power -- one does not draft something to give away more of one's exclusive power than absolutely necessary; and this is an exclusive right that the IRS has on a very important and indeed explosive subject. It's the IRS's official position that the assurance of confidentiality is critical to keeping taxpayers honest in filing returns. The tax system, as has often been pointed out (most notably by Justice Robert Jackson) relies almost entirely on voluntary compliance. Once the word got out that your tax returns might be inspected by Congress, many people would not want to be honest, and, more importantly, many more would use that as an excuse not to be honest.


I'm no expert on the IRS. But I do know a bit about Washington bureaucracies. And what this TPMer says at least sounds on the mark to me. It seems quite unlikely that an IRS staff attorney, asked simply to provide language authorizing senior appropriations committee staffers to conduct visits to IRS facilities in the course of their oversight duties, would produce language of such breadth.

But that's what Rep. Istook says. But then, how would he know, since he says he didn't have anything to do with asking them to write it?

Breaking News We seem

Breaking News !!!

We seem to have our first case of a TPM-reader-constituent who's represented in Congress by a DeLay Rule letter-writer and has now received his letter.

Further updates as the story develops ...

Hmmm. Exit polls showed

Hmmm. Exit polls showed opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko heading toward victory in Ukraine over current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. But now that the official results are in, Yanukovych holds what the Post calls an " insurmountable three point lead."

Says the Post: "Tens of thousands of people flooded Independence Square in the capital Monday amid calls for a general strike or even the kind of revolution that toppled regimes in Serbia and Georgia after suspect elections."

Okay now for the

Okay, now for the trivial but funny.

The standard line, true or not, is that grand juries are such pushovers that a good DA can get an indictment against a ham sandwich.

But a TPM reader (SL) points out that in his comments in defense of Tom DeLay to the Anniston Star on Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers seems to be arguing that the problem is actually rogue ham sandwiches securing indictments against well-meaning politicians like Rep. DeLay.

As we noted earlier, but without apprehending their full comedic value, Rogers told the Star, "I’m an attorney, and any attorney knows you can get an indictment with a ham sandwich. We’re trying to raise the standard, to make it so that you don’t allow what is purely a political indictment to make someone step aside from a leadership role."

Does Ronnie Earle have a ham sandwich with Tom DeLay's name on it?

Im a little confused

I'm a little confused about the <$Ad$>current explanation of the origins of the Legislative Provision Formerly Known as Istook (LPFKI).

Sen. Frist originally said it was inserted by Rep. Istook. The Times reported yesterday that Istook "was responsible for the insertion of the tax provision in the 3,000-page, $388 billion legislation."

And in his statement yesterday Istook appeared to concede this, while asserting that the actual language was drafted by personnel from the IRS.

Today, however, Rep. Istook seems to be saying that he had no involvement in the matter whatsoever. From his statement this morning ...

"I want to reiterate what I said on Sunday, namely that this was not my language. I then spent most of the day tracking down what happened.

"I had nothing to do with inserting this language. I never knew what was happening until it was done. Had I known, I would have intervened to omit or to fix this provision.

"I didn't write it; I didn't approve it; I wasn't even consulted. My name shouldn't be associated with it, because I had nothing to do with it, and didn't even know about it until after the bill was done and was filed."


Now, I'm not trying to be nettlesome or willfully dense. But even if we take as granted the basic outlines of the current account (namely, that Appropriations committee staffers wanted some language empowering oversight and folks at IRS wrote it too broadly), something seems missing.

Somone on the committee wanted more oversight power or wanted that power more clearly defined in legislation and asked the IRS for the appropriate language. Was that not Istook or one of his staffers?

In his statement Istook seems to suggest [but murkily] that "appropriations [committee] staff" had the language put in and that he, as chairman of the relevant subcommittee was "bypassed."

If he and his staff had nothing to do with it, who did exactly? And what did they tell the folks at the IRS that they wanted? Because clearly the language is specifically written to allow inspection of tax returns without reference to existing privacy laws.

Is the LPFKI really not tied to Rep. Istook in any way?

And isn't it about time someone talked to whomever at the IRS provided the language?

Absolutely positively totally completely

Absolutely, positively, totally completely nuthin' to do with me<$NoAd$>.

Rep. Istook takes another bite at the apple in a statement released this morning ...

Further Statement by Istook Regarding Mistaken Claims About Provision in Omnibus Spending Bill

Washington, DC - Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK), chairman of the Transportation and Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee made the following statements Monday morning in reaction to mistaken claims that he included a controversial provision regarding the IRS in the omnibus spending bill.

"I want to reiterate what I said on Sunday, namely that this was not my language. I then spent most of the day tracking down what happened.

"I had nothing to do with inserting this language. I never knew what was happening until it was done. Had I known, I would have intervened to omit or to fix this provision.

"I didn't write it; I didn't approve it; I wasn't even consulted. My name shouldn't be associated with it, because I had nothing to do with it, and didn't even know about it until after the bill was done and was filed."

"We have a problem with how bills like this are put together. On occasions, appropriations staff will take the initiative to insert language they believe will be non-controversial. They do this with the approval of full committee staff, but without the knowledge or approval of subcommittee chairman like me. That is what happened in this case.

"We have a chain of command problem over whether the subcommittee staff are ultimately accountable to the full committee staff-who represent the full committee chairman-or to the subcommittee chairman. The subcommittee chairman should never be bypassed like I was in this case. I will work to fix this as part of the reorganization of the appropriations committee that will take place during the next several weeks.

"I'm satisfied that nobody intended to breach or to weaken the privacy laws that protect people's tax returns. But good intentions are no guarantee of good results."

"Our committee has responsibility for the IRS budget. That includes its personnel, facilities and equipment. This language wasn't sufficiently reviewed because it was drafted by the IRS, so our staff presumed that it was okay. The IRS drafted this language at staff request, in an effort to make it clear that our oversight duties include visiting and inspecting the huge IRS processing centers-but NOT inspecting tax returns. That was also made clear on the House floor when the omnibus bill was brought up.

"Nobody's privacy was ever jeopardized. Honest mistakes were made, but there's no conspiracy."


So just an honest attempt to protect tax payer privacy gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Late Update: The text of the statement is now posted on Rep. Istook's website.

Alabamas Mike Rogers a

Alabama's Mike Rogers, a DeLay Rule man, tells the local paper, the Anniston Star, that the DeLay Rule was an effort to "raise the standard."

"You have to look at protecting the institution,” Rep. Rogers told the paper on Thursday. "I’m an attorney, and any attorney knows you can get an indictment with a ham sandwich. We’re trying to raise the standard, to make it so that you don’t allow what is purely a political indictment to make someone step aside from a leadership role."

Protecting the institution.

Meanwhile, we now have Indiana Rep. Mark Souder down as a confirmed DeLay Rule man.

No DeLay indictment after

No DeLay indictment after all?

CBS's David Paul Kuhn quotes "an official involved in the investigation" as saying he thinks a DeLay indictment is unlikely and that DeLay's lawyers already know that.

Material further down in the article suggests that while DeLay was "kept aware" of illegal activities being committed on his behalf that the investigators have not been able to uncover evidence that DeLay "acted to promote" the illegal activity and they haven't been able to uncover sufficient evidence of that.

This does raise an interesting question. DeLay may be a crook, but he's no fool. If he and his lawyers had any confidence he wasn't going to be indicted I find it hard to believe they would have gone to the trouble of such a self-inflicted black-eye as the DeLay Rule predictably turned out to be.

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