In 2009, a progressive non-profit organization filed an application with the IRS seeking 501(c)3 tax status. That's the the tax status which, among other things, allows charitable organizations to collect tax-deductible contributions.
The group, whose name has been withheld because of pending administrative processes with the IRS, went through a three-year process of repeated questions and requests for additional documentation. The organization racked up $25,000 in legal fees complying with the requests, paid to lawyers who were baffled by the degree of scrutiny.
After three years of back and forth, they finally got their tax-exempt status in 2013 - though it was revoked just two months later. Because accountants for the group didn't realize they had to file tax returns during the unusually lengthy waiting period.
The organization, in its name and application materials, is clearly and explicitly progressive. This organization's experience shows not only that groups on the left and right were scrutinized, but that the entire IRS tax-exempt office procedures suggest something more along the lines of a bad idea than a big scandal.
In May 2013, it was discovered that several IRS branches, working under the leadership of the main tax exemption bureau, had created a list of "lookout list" of words in the names and applications of groups applying for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) status - words that would trigger those applications for closer scrutiny. The conservative National Review correctly reports that the "lookout list" included terms like "tea party" but also "progressive" and "Occupy."
This was undoubtedly a sloppy shorthand method to decide which tax-exempt applications to look at more closely, methods that led to many progressive and conservative groups being unfairly scrutinized as well as many other groups not even engaged in politics. And as Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon notes, apparently the only organizations who had their tax applications denied during the period in question were progressiveones.
So how did we end up with a full-blown "IRS Scandal" with Republicans in Congress accusing the IRS of targeting conservative organizations for unfair, additional scrutiny in the review of their applications? Simple. In 2013, House Oversight Chairman and Republican Chief of Witch Hunts Darrell Issa asked the Treasury inspector general "to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations." The "conservative groups are being treated unfairly" narrative was a selective and incomplete picture intended to whip up a furor well-before the complete facts surfaced.
In other words, the scandal is not that the IRS unfairly scrutinized conservative organizations. It did not. If anything, the scandal is that House Republicans skewed the frame of their politicized inquiry to create the appearance of a scandal where one never existed and then led elected leaders and taxpayer dollars on a wild goose chase instead of solving the actual problems of the American people.
And yet here we are, still talking about it because House Republicans don't know how to let anything go. Because something about a computer crash and lost emails that every real person has experienced at least once in life - except apparently Darrell Issa - and because Republicans keep using the word "scandal" and the scandal-hungry media keeps taking the bait.
Now there's even a new plot twist, that after making up another scandal. About how IRS official Lois Lerner's emails had been erased, Republicans are now fishing for scandals from the piles of those recreated emails. In one, Lois Lerner asked a colleague whether an outside group had made an inappropriate gift to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in offered to pay for travel for his wife. The colleague said no, it was fine, and that was it.
Isn't that, incidentally, exactly the kind of oversight the tax-exempt branch of the IRS should provide? Nonetheless, the Associated Press took the bait and ran a headline "Emails: IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator."
No, that's not what happened. At all. The New Republic's Brian Beutler astutely tweeted: "'Lois Lerner tried to audit Grassley' is the new 'Al Gore said he invented the Internet.' Let's just all agree to pretend it happened."
All of which continues to be much ado about absolutely nothing. As White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "The fact of the matter is after 13 months of multiple congressional investigations, including 14 congressional hearings, 30 interviews with I.R.S. employees, 50 written congressional requests and, as I mentioned, 750,000 pages of documents, there is zero evidence to support Republican claims."
Repeat after me, everyone: There is no scandal. None. Not even a little. Not at all. Nothing.
Literally the only scandalous thing we should be talking about is Republicans wasting our time and our money turning Congress into a stage for their vendetta-like rabbit hole instead of focusing on jobs and the economy and the real problems of real Americans who really need help.
Sally Kohn is a CNN contributor and columnist for the Daily Beast. She loves paying her taxes to the IRS. Follow her on Twitter at @sallykohn.