Political Embellishment and Poor Journalism

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Some Virginians, along with citizens in the rest of the country, will be able to receive refunds from the company Intuit, the developers of the TurboTax automated tax return preparation program. According to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, approximately $3.5 million will be available for distribution to Virginians.

“TurboTax misled Virginians, and now they are officially paying the price,” Attorney General Miyares said in a statement. “I’m proud that my office was able to put that money back into the affected consumers’ pockets, where it belonged all along.”

There are a couple of things wrong with this statement. First of all, his office had virtually nothing to do with the settlement. Second, the announcement is late; the settlement was reached a year ago.

According to ProPublica, the settlement was reached after an investigation by state attorneys general, led by Letita James of New York. The case that served as a vehicle for the settlement was filed by the Attorney General of California in federal court in that state. The Oversight Committee established in the agreement does not include the Attorney General of Virginia.

Miyares’ office is not going to be involved in the distribution of the funds, either. The funds will be distributed directly to eligible persons by the settlement administrator, Rust Consulting.

The settlement was reached a year ago and other attorneys general announced it then. For example, there was New York and California. It was also covered in the national media. See here, here, and here.

The case involved Intuit hiding the availability of free service sponsored by the federal government for taxpayers with an income under a certain threshold and enticing them to use TurboTax’s paid service.

Miyares is certainly not the first politician to embellish his role in obtaining a desirable benefit for voters. However, any politician who engages in such embellishment needs to be called on it.

The newspaper article also illustrates the low state to which the Richmond Times-Dispatch has sunk. The headline focuses on Miyares’ announcing the availability of the funds, thereby giving the politician a little free publicity. The editors obviously did not realize that this is year-old news. Finally, the story itself is largely a rehash of the releases put out by Miyares’ office. Virginians deserve more from the newspaper located in the state’s capital city.