In general I am not a big fan of special prosecutors or independent counsel. They were way overused in the past, and several of them were out of control. That stipulated, there are certain situations that cry out for them. The most basic criterion for appointing a special counsel is when the normal prosecutorial apparatus is under a cloud or a conflict of interest. Typically, that involves possible wrongdoing by the President, his family or his aides. Another circumstance would be when political appointees are charged with wrongdoing, and in particular when that wrongdoing involves politics. Public confidence is eroded when the administration appears to whitewashing an investigation of itself, as this administration did with the Fast and Furious scandal. Finally, a special counsel may be necessary when it is not clear if any laws have been violated, but the issue is so important or sensitive that a full independent investigation is warranted. President Bush appointed a special counsel to investigate the Valery Plame affair under such circumstances. The IRS Tea Party scandal qualifies under the latter two criteria. The scandal itself was highly political in nature, and the IRS showed little interest in pursuing it for two years. Similarly, given the highly politicized nature of the scandal, it is doubtful that any investigation by AG Holder will satisfy the public. Holder has shown himself to be tone deaf on ethical matters and is a close associate of the president. Any investigation by his department will be seen as a whitewash. There are serious criminal implications to this scandal, including violating of statues relating to denial of constitutional rights under color of law and conspiracy to deny constitutional rights, as well as intentional abuse of the tax laws. Moreover, there is the potential for enormous money damages. Any group that was jacked around in this has a viable claim for damages plus attorney's fees under relevant statues. The fact the govenrment may have an incentive to hide evidence of wrongdoing to deter civil claims is another reason for a special counsel. I have been very disappointed at the lackadaisical handling of this by the republican congress. The IRS was forced to admit wrongdoing only after Mark Levin and Landmark Legal took it to the Treasury IG. Congress had held what Levin described as "perfunctory" hearings in which they took the IRS' denials at face value. Of course, those denials may now be the subject of perjury prosecutions, but there was no excuse for congress not to take the Tea Party claims seriously. Let's hope they pursue the responsible officials with more aggression.