An exchange of letters in The Sun News caught my attention last week. The topics were Issac Bailey, whose selection as a Nieman Fellow I enthusiastically support, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Jim Watkins, the first writer, [May 20, “Sad and happy news in the paper”] mourned the partisanship shown by Tom Rice, our newly elected member of Congress, in attacking Obamacare.
The rejoinder, by Bob Boland, [May 21,” Less rhetoric? How about less Obamacare?”] conflated two very different issues: the IRS inquiry into the eligibility of conservative groups for 501(c)(4) status and the auditing of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Boland claimed that “[t]he very person that headed the [IRS] office where the scandal occurred has been promoted and transferred to the unit that is to audit Obamacare.”
This would be serious, if true, since it would imply that the unnamed IRS employee was being rewarded for his partisanship. Boland claims that this is “one big reason” why “the majority of voters in South Carolina do not want Obamacare.”
I doubt that there’s any such “big reason” in the voters’ minds, because it’s simply not clear whom Boland is talking about. The Senate has just confirmed Marilyn Tavenner (by a 91-7 vote) as the Director of CMS, a vote reflecting the Senate’s trust in the President’s choice. The overall audit responsibility for CMS lies with the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Daniel Levinson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004.
Levinson would seem an unlikely person to condone any action by an unnamed former IRS auditor. Several IRS employees have been suspended or retired in the aftermath of the controversy, but none have found jobs with CMS. My hunch is that Boland took his lead from a conservative blogger and never bothered to verify his information. It would be helpful if Boland were to name the person whom he accuses. Doing so would at least enable others to examine his claim. Without a name, Boland is not contributing to a useful dialogue; he’s only adding to the conservative rumor mill.