In contrast to online media and the talk-show world, the metropolitan newspapers that define the old-line press have been caught flat-footed by the re-emergence of the IRS nonprofit targeting scandal (an exception: the Wall Street Journal opinion page). Last Friday it was disclosed that more than two years’ worth of external emails by former IRS nonprofit director Lois Lerner had been wiped out in a computer crash, and more recently it was revealed that email records of another half-dozen key players in the scandal have also been lost. The Washington Post ran only AP coverage of the June 13 revelation, while the New York Times did not go even that far, ignoring the story entirely for more than three days. Many other newspapers, too, played down the story with back-pages coverage or none at all. And no doubt one contributing factor was that as budgets have been cut in the newspaper business, many papers have gutted or even closed their Washington presence, and are willing to devote independent resources only to stories that involve some local angle.
But the IRS scandal does involve a local angle for citizens of many places, for a simple reason: individual members of Congress were among those pushing hardest for an IRS crackdown on politically adverse nonprofits. Democratic Senators from Michigan (Carl Levin), Illinois (Dick Durbin), New York (Chuck Schumer) and Rhode Island (Sheldon Whitehouse) were among those leading the pack, as, on the House side, were Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings (both D-Md.) This is the crackdown that soon proved abusive, and one of the questions to be answered is whether the members of Congress were in direct touch with agency insiders seeking to make life difficult for the nonprofits. It’s known, for example, that Lois Lerner inquired of staff whether they had handled a request from Rep. Elijah Cummings regarding a conservative group he disliked by the name of True the Vote. Another agency email suggests that Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s appearance on a talk show may have been part of a public relations push coordinated both inside and outside the agency to build support for a crackdown.
Wouldn’t it make sense for the Frederick News-Post (whose circulation includes a large stretch of Van Hollen’s MD-8 district, and a small portion of Cummings’s MD-7) to look into these connections a little more closely? Or the other newspapers such as the Washington Post and Gazette papers?