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IRS Scandal Falls Right in McConnell's Wheelhouse

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
On Thursday, McConnell found himself flanked by tea-party-backed Bachmann, left, and King at a news conference outside the Capitol.

“We are aware of no legal authority that would permit the IRS to disclose applications for tax-exempt status that are still under review by the IRS. In fact, section 6103 prohibits such disclosure,” the senators wrote. “Thus, we believe that disclosure of applications that are still pending is a violation of the Internal Revenue Code and other related provisions, which could result in civil and criminal penalties.”

“There is something profoundly un-American about targeting your political opponents,” Paul said at the Thursday morning news conference. “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent in this country, to take the abuse of a $3.8 trillion government, the power of that government, and to use it to stifle opposition is profoundly un-American.”

Scott Hofstra, a spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, said his members in the state are happy to see McConnell standing up for their interests but that this won’t deter them from encouraging a more conservative candidate to become a primary challenger.

“The only reason he’s coming out as strongly as he is is because it’s an election year,” Hofstra said. “On any other occasion, he wouldn’t be standing with Bachmann.”

However, McConnell gave a speech last June at the American Enterprise Institute about the issue, long before an IRS official apologized last week for targeting specific groups.

“Earlier this year, dozens of tea-party-affiliated groups across the country learned what it was like to draw the attention of the speech police when they received a lengthy questionnaire from the IRS demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts and donor information,” McConnell said in the American Enterprise Institute speech.

McConnell and his aides have in recent days highlighted what they perceive as a lack of mainstream media attention to the original story, although CQ Roll Call had reported on it as early as March 2012.

Billy Piper, a former McConnell chief of staff who now works at the government consulting firm Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock, said that frustration from the right with McConnell likely comes from a small but vocal group of conservatives.

“There will always be some who will stand up and be frustrated, but I think any primary challenge at this point is a fool’s errand,” Piper said.

“It’s hard to imagine a legitimate primary challenge emerging when you’ve got traditional Republicans supporting McConnell, and then you’ve got Rand Paul offering his full endorsement,” Piper added. “I’m not sure how you overcome that.”

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