An astonishing 69% of all adoptive family claiming the adoption tax credit were audited by the IRS.
Doug Shulman, former commissioner of the IRS, visited the White House 118 times over two years. When asked why he made so many visits, the only one he says he can remember is the Easter Egg Roll.
The Treasury IG’s investigation of the IRS scandal wasn’t the first investigation. The IRS conducted an internal investigation a year earlier, but hushed up the results:
Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee’s chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed.
But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.
‘Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later.’
Ah yes, the internal investigation, friend of corrupt bureaucrats everywhere.
In the days leading up to the Benghazi hearings (before all the other scandals broke out), there was a rather uninteresting dispute between Jake Tapper (CNN), and Stephen Hayes (The Weekly Standard) and Jonathan Karl (ABC) over the Obama administration’s Benghazi memos.
Hayes and Karl reported — accurately — that the State Department had considerable influence in the rewriting of the Benghazi talking points to remove the terror attack and insert a non-existent protest in its place. Indeed, they appear to have been the primary drivers of the rewrite. This contradicted essentially every aspect of the story the White House put out as to how those talking points were developed.
However, Hayes and Karl did not have access to the actual memos. They each worked from notes taken by Congressional investigators who saw the memos but were not allowed to make copies. Thus, they did not have verbatim quotes. Karl was not originally clear on this point.
Someone then leaked a cherry-picked memo to Tapper, who reported that it differed a little bit from the paraphrase in Karl’s reporting. In particular, Karl’s paraphrase read:
We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.
The italicized portion was not present in the actual memo. For this, Tapper reported “White House email contradicts Benghazi leaks” and the left thundered about the email being “doctored”.
ASIDE: To further muddy the waters, Tapper made some mistakes in his reporting of Hayes reporting.
But, as it turns out, Tapper got taken. When the full (or fuller, anyway) email chain was released, giving the context, it substantiated Hayes’s and Karl’s reporting in nearly its entirety, save only Karl’s lack of clarity on the language being a paraphrase. Although Rhodes didn’t use those words, the context makes clear the State Department’s “equities” were the ones under discussion.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler summarizes this way:
Note the correct version is missing a direct reference to the State Department. CNN, which had only obtained the single e-mail, used strong words in its report about its competitor, ABC: “Whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”
When the White House last week released all of its e-mails, it became clear that Rhodes was responding at the tail end of a series of e-mail exchanges that largely discussed the State Department concerns.
In other words, the summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities [including those of the State Department] and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”
With the context present, it’s quite obvious that the leaker deliberately gave Tapper the wrong impression by carefully selecting one memo to leak. The leaker even masked out the string of replies that typically appears at the end of an email. Had the replies been present, the very next few lines (after the email headers) would have been:
Given the DOJ equities and States desire to run some traps, safe to assume we can hold on this until tomorrow?
I don’t know what it means to “run some traps”, but even in the absence of the rest of the chain, this alone would have made it clear that State was involved.
While this talk of “doctoring” remained the province of fevered left-wing blogs, I wasn’t very interested. But now it has become part of the White House’s official spin:
I think one of the problems that there’s so much controversy here is because one of the e-mails was doctored by a Republican source and given to the media to falsely smear the president.
The White House wants to distract from the fact that they outright lied about the development of the talking points. But with this White House, the distractions from their lies are just more lies. As we’ve seen, the emails were not doctored, and the reporting on them was accurate in every significant particular.
Kessler gives White House mouthpiece Dan Pfeiffer three pinocchios:
It has long been part of the Washington game for officials to discredit a news story by playing up errors in a relatively small part of it. Pfeiffer gives the impression that GOP operatives deliberately tried to “smear the president” with false, doctored e-mails.
But the reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. . . Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.
Now that we know that the DOJ’s press surveillance was not an isolated incident — DOJ spied on both the Associated Press and Fox News — it’s a sure bet that they spied on other news outlets as well. So who are they? I’m sure every journalist in every newsroom (except Chris Matthews, natch) is wondering if he or she was targeted.
One is CBS’s investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has done exemplary reporting on both Gunwalker and Benghazi. Attkisson says her computers have been compromised both at work and at home. She isn’t pointing any fingers yet, but obviously, she has reason to be suspicious. (Here’s an interview of Attkisson discussing the matter.)
White House officials have “screamed” and “cussed” at Attkisson for her reporting in the past, and they have even pressured CBS to fire her. They have every reason to want to burn her sources, and have shown they have no qualms about doing so.
For what it’s worth, which ain’t much, the DOJ denies responsibility. Sort of. We’ve learned that we need to parse these denials very carefully. The DOJ spokesman says “to our knowledge”, which means only that he hasn’t been told. But we’ve already learned how this administration operates: no one is ever told anything so everyone can deny everything.
We’ve known for days that the IRS was lying when it claimed that its misconduct took place exclusively in Cincinnati. Now we learn that officials in Washington not only were involved, they actually managed the effort:
From the outset, Internal Revenue Service lawyers based in Washington, D.C., provided important guidance on the handling of tea-party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to both IRS sources and the inspector general’s report released in mid May.
Officials in the Technical Unit of the IRS’s Rulings and Agreements office played an integral role in determining how the targeted applications were treated, provided general guidelines to Cincinnati case workers, briefed other agency employees on the status of the special cases, and reviewed all those intrusive requests demanding “more information” from tea-party groups. At times, the Technical Unit lawyers seemed to exercise tight control over these applications, creating both a backlog in application processing and frustration among Cincinnati agents waiting for direction.
An IRS employee who asked not to be identified tells National Review Online that all members of the agency’s Technical Unit are based in Washington, D.C. A current list of Technical Unit managers provided by another IRS employee shows that all such managers are based at the agency’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in the District of Columbia, and the IRS confirmed, in a testy exchange with National Review Online, that the Technical Unit is “based in Washington.”
It wasn’t only the Associated Press that the Justice Department was spying on, they also spied on James Rosen, a reporter with Fox News:
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
Unlike the AP case, DOJ wasn’t only digging for information, they actually named Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator. Glenn Greenwald (a liberal, one hastens to point out, but a consistent defender of the Freedom of the Press) gives the administration both barrels:
What makes this revelation particularly disturbing is that the DOJ, in order to get this search warrant, insisted that not only Kim, but also Rosen – the journalist – committed serious crimes. The DOJ specifically argued that by encouraging his source to disclose classified information – something investigative journalists do every day – Rosen himself broke the law. . .
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ – that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information – is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself.
And it wasn’t just Rosen either. The DOJ spied on two other Fox News personnel as well, another reporter and a producer.
UPDATE: Or, at Glenn Reynolds puts it: “The Obama administration finally finds a constitutional amendment it can get behind.”
I don’t think this breaks any new news, but it’s a good summary.
President Obama’s wall of ignorance is unravelling.
We knew already that the White House Counsel was informed of the IRS’s misconduct, but (we’re told) did not tell the president. To explain this, we’ve been told that it is somehow unethical for the White House Counsel to reveal the information to the president. I’ve never heard of a legal principle that would keep the president’s lawyer from disclosing to the president, legal matters relevant to the president. Indeed, that sounds like the opposite of the White House Counsel’s job. But suppose we grant that one.
We know now that other top administration officials were informed, including the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough. This is no different, in practice, than notifying the president himself. The Chief of Staff is the most powerful figure in the US government after the president. He runs the administration, controls access to the president, is present at all key meetings, and (what is most significant here) ensures that the president is kept informed of all matters of importance.
If McDonough didn’t inform Obama, it’s because he judged that Obama wouldn’t want to be informed. Making that judgement is his job, for which he was hand-picked by Obama.
Politico has a good story summarizing the White House’s changing story regarding the IRS scandal to date. I want to focus on just one point, which I hadn’t seen before:
Friday, May 10: . . . Outside the White House, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that he’d first learned of the details of the investigation from news reports. . .
Friday, May 17: Lew, during an interview with Bloomberg News, revealed he’d actually first learned of the inspector general’s investigation in March, adding that he hadn’t been aware of the details of the report until May 10.
Lew’s defenders will doubtless say he was truthful; learning of an investigation isn’t the same as knowing the details. In a narrow sense that may be so, although (a) the same people are invariably much less charitable when it comes to Republicans, and (b) we have only his word for it in any case.
Nevertheless, Lew’s statement seems misleading. He knew that the investigation involved scrutinization of conservative groups. With or without details, he knew the takeaway. But he did nothing, and told no one.
But suppose we give him a pass; this only emphasizes the key point. We are in territory where every statement made by any official must be scrutinized for loopholes (as well as outright lies). When President Obama says “I certainly did not know anything about the IG report,” observe that he is not saying that he knew nothing about the investigation, or the underlying misconduct.
When outsiders visit a totalitarian regime, they are accompanied by minders from the regime, to make sure they don’t see anything they shouldn’t see, or talk to anyone they shouldn’t talk to. Now, journalists visiting the IRS are accompanied by minders too, presumably for the same reason.
Gunwalker, the Obama administration’s biggest scandal of all, has been lying dormant for a while, while we wait for the courts to rule that the House can subpoena documents, but today brings a significant development:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General published a new report Monday that confirms former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson.
The DOJ IG said it found “Burke’s conduct in disclosing the Dodson memorandum to be inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney.” . . .
In addition to Burke’s involvement in leaking the document, emails the IG uncovered show senior officials at the Department of Justice discussed smearing Dodson.
Don’t worry, I’m sure (we’ll be told that) Eric Holder and Barack Obama had no knowledge of this.
A week ago I noted that the NYT was on record in favor of special IRS scrutiny for Tea Party groups, and wondered if they would rethink that in light of the IRS scandal. Nope: the NYT is still defending the IRS.
On a similar note, this phrase seems not to have appeared in the pages of the NYT: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.” I guess that might make it harder to defend them.
The Washington Post catches Eric Holder in a lie regarding the contempt citation against him:
The fierce exchanges between Rep. Darrell Issa and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday garnered a lot of attention, but there was also an interesting substantive point that was discussed: Did Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, make his own decision regarding whether to prosecute Holder for criminal contempt of Congress?
Holder said Machen “made the determination.” What does the evidence show?
The story is a little bit complicated, but here’s the key point:
The decision on whether to empanel a grand jury rested with Machen. But the letter from Cole [indicating that the DOJ would not take action] came even before the House had transmitted the contempt resolution to Machen.
As it happens, this not only smells bad, it’s probably illegal. Under the law, the decision rests with the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, and no one else. But when the DOJ breaks the law, who can take action?
POSTSCRIPT: The Post is willing to forgive Holder because his office later retracted his false statement. My readers can decide for themselves whether subsequently retracting a lie excuses it.
Barack Obama probably never ordered the IRS to target conservative and Christian tax-exempt applicants, just as Richard Nixon never ordered the Watergate break-in. (Although, as Jonah Goldberg points out, there’s no earthy reason why we should take his word for it.) But, just as Nixon did, Obama created the circumstances in which the misconduct was likely, perhaps even inevitable.
Three must-read columns make the case. Jonah Goldberg observes that, when Tea Party groups began making credible claims that they were being targeted by the IRS, he did nothing. He didn’t even take the minimal step of asking someone to look into it. Against that backdrop, his current profession of outrage over the IRS’s actions are clearly crocodile tears.
Goldberg goes on to recount the very clear signals that he sent, quite deliberately, that his political opponents should be silenced. Kimberly Strassel expands on the point, observing that Obama and his Democrats attacked the people funding opposition to Obama’s rule, and explicitly called for the IRS to scrutinize them.
Rand Simberg adds another key point. The IRS, unsurprisingly, is a very liberal organization, and the division that review tax-exempt applications is even further left. Thus, these people were sent a clear indication by the president and his party who the bad guys are, and they were receptive to that indication.
In such an environment, it was essential to make it clear that partisan bias was unacceptable. However, Barack Obama sent the exact opposite message. He liked to joke about misusing his office (e.g., revenge audits, secret provisions), he called for his supporters to take “revenge” and “punish our enemies“, and he warned his enemies that he was “keeping score“.
To sum up, you have a sharply partisan IRS, unchecked by higher scrutiny, and being told clearly who the enemy is and that persecuting that enemy is morally appropriate. Under such circumstances they would likely want to persecute their party’s enemies. The only remaining necessary element is the ability to do so without facing repercussions.
And, of course, they had that too. We now know that the Obama administration is run on a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” basis. White House officials are careful to insulate the president and his key deputies from any knowledge of his administration’s wrongdoing: When the White House was informed of Gunwalker, those informed made sure the information went no higher (or so we are told, anyway). Ditto the IRS scandal. And when the Gunwalker misconduct became public, the White House stonewalled the investigation, and continues to do so to this day.
Furthermore, Obama administration officials are never punished for their misconduct. The persons responsible for Gunwalker were not punished; indeed most were promoted, while the whistleblowers were punished. The same is true in the IRS scandal. The woman in charge of the key IRS office has been promoted to run the IRS’s Obamacare office. The high-profile firing of Steven Miller (the acting IRS commissioner) was bogus. In fact, he had been in the position for just over a week, and was due to step down in less than a month anyway.
In short, people doing Obama’s never-explicitly-ordered bidding are safe from punishment. He has their back. If only the people who defend our country from terrorists were so secure.
Top Treasury officials were aware of the investigation into the IRS office that reviews tax-exempt applications in June 2012:
The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
But Wolin never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.
Also, the White House Counsel was notified weeks ago:
The White House’s chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.
But the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.
This, is has become clear, is how the Obama administration operates. Whenever the White House learns of misconduct in its administration, the information never goes to the top. (Or so we are asked to believe.)
POSTSCRIPT: The New York Times’s original headline for this story was “Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says.” But, when the story began to get a lot of attention from the blogosphere, they changed their headline to “Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House.” That’s much better for the narrative; they want the story to be about opportunistic Republicans, not Obama administration malfeasance.
UPDATE: In addition to changing the headline, they took this lead paragraph:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Services’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
transmogrified it into the paragraph I quoted at the top (gotta make Republicans part of the scandal somehow), and put it at paragraph twelve. Twelve!
If you’re enjoying the IRS scandal, just wait until the IRS takes up its role as Obamacare enforcer. I’ve heard a lot of people make that remark since the IRS scandal broke, but it takes on even more currency with this revelation:
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
That’s just great.
The Associated Press reveals another pattern in the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Christian organizations:
There’s an irony in the Internal Revenue Service’s crackdown on conservative groups.
The nation’s tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, and senior Treasury Department officials were notified in the midst of the 2012 presidential election season that an internal investigation was underway. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right. . .
Why would the IRS leave the big guys alone? I think Ed Morrissey has the explanation: the big guys have the resources to defend themselves.
If you were looking to prevent abuse of the tax code by bogus tax-exempt application, you would start with the biggest applicants, because those are potentially the biggest abusers. On the other hand, if you were looking to suppress as much Tea Party activity as possible, you wouldn’t waste your time on a few well-funded organizations that could fight back, you would concentrate on suppressing the small grassroots organizations that had no recourse. And we know now which route they chose.
The Internal Revenue Service stole and improperly accessed 60 million medical records after raiding a California company, according to a legal complaint filed in March with the California superior court for San Diego. Fifteen IRS agents are now facing a class-action lawsuit in the matter.
“In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans” the complaint, filed by attorney Robert Barnes, alleges. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.”
Soon the IRS won’t have to steal medical records. As the enforcer of Obamacare, they will have many of them already.
The White House says it needed to spy on the Associated Press, because it needed to find out the source of a damaging leak. But the Washington Post looked at the affair and found that the leak wasn’t actually damaging, at least not to national security.
It turns out the AP agreed to hold its story until the danger had passed. What upset the administration so much is the AP refused to hold its story until after the White House had had a chance to brag about the bust:
For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day.
The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.
AP balked and proceeded to publish that Monday afternoon.
(Emphasis mine.) The details are quite astonishing. After the AP had sat on the story for five days (and was asked to sit on it for a sixth day), the White House wouldn’t agree to let them have an exclusive for even one hour. The White House would let them have the exclusive for at most five minutes. Understandably, the AP told them to hell with that.
In light of that, the Justice Department’s action doesn’t sound at all like they were investigating a leak that put the public at risk. It sounds much more like retaliation for refusing to play ball.
Yesterday, President Obama was asked the obvious question about the IRS scandal:
Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your counsel’s office found out on April 22nd? And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports, as you said last Friday?
His answer seems very carefully worded:
Let me make sure that I answer your specific question. I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press.
(Emphasis mine.) But he didn’t answer the specific question. The specific question was when he knew about the agency’s misconduct, not when he knew about the investigation, which no one cares about. That careful wording seems significant.
POSTSCRIPT: Obviously he wants people to think that he denied any knowledge, though, and the New York Times is happy to play its part, ending its quotation just before the key wording, and filling it in inaccurately:
President Obama said he “certainly did not know anything about” the targeting of conservative groups by the I.R.S. . .
Despite the IRS’s self-serving claims, their misconduct was not limited to a single office in Cincinnati:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.
The Washington Post also found corroboration of the allegation that a special task force was looking at conservative applications:
IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.
In January, the DC Court of Appeals eviscerated the president’s recess appointment power. While we wait for that case to arrive at the Supreme Court, another court has now invalidated President Obama’s most bogus recess appointment, that of Craig Becker to the NLRB. I haven’t had a chance to look at the opinion, so I don’t know yet if they went as far as the DC Court of Appeals in sweeping away the recess appointment power nearly in its entirety.
This is a good occasion to remember that this was a massive unforced error on Obama’s part. He didn’t need to pick this particular fight, and if he hadn’t, the courts would not have had the occasion to look carefully as what the recess appointment power has become. But he wanted a fight, and now he’s been hoisted by his own petard for it.
It’s been a big week for news of Obama administration wrongdoing, with four scandals swirling on Capitol Hill, but this oughtn’t get lost in the shuffle: The federal government is ordering that college campuses nationwide institute unconstitutional speech codes:
In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding—virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private.
The letter states that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’” including “verbal conduct” (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.
The second paragraph is the key one: Any speech related to sex that offends anyone is banned, even if is it not reasonable to take offense. And remember that two years ago, the administration ordered that college campuses eliminate due process in sexual harassment complaints.
That’s the First and Fifth amendments, both eliminated on college campuses by the president who once taught Constitutional law.
POSTSCRIPT: The Washington Post is bleating that the IRS scandal and the AP phone records scandal “have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties”! What? This man is attacking our civil liberties all the bloody time. You just haven’t been paying attention.
It got buried by the IRS’s admission of political targeteing, but another scandal erupted last Friday. The Obama administration is worried by Obamacare’s stubborn refusal to become popular, so they want to run propaganda in support of it. Strangely, Republicans refuse to appropriate funds for Obamacare propaganda, and the administration apparently doesn’t want to waste the tens of billions in its Obamacare slush fund.
Instead, we learned Friday, they sent out the execrable HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shake down health care companies, the very same companies that Sebelius’s agency regulates:
[HHS Spokesman Jason] Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.
But the industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which researches government ethics issues, said she was troubled by Sebelius’s activities because the secretary seemed to be “using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably by the government.”
The House of Representatives is opening an investigation. Those guys are going to be busy.
(Via Hot Air.)
The Washington Examiner reports:
“In one case, the IRS withheld approval of an application for tax exempt status for Coalition for Life of Iowa. In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent ‘Ms. Richards’ told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” the Thomas More Society announced today. “Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved.”
It’s clear now that pretty much anyone the left hates got targeted.
The IRS claims that it was targeting conservatives to cope with a surge of tax-exempt applications. We already knew this is untrue because their strategy for identifying conservatives took more effort, not less; and because an even greater surge of tax-exempt applications for labor groups went unscrutinized.
Now you can add this: When the IRS started targeting conservatives, there was no surge of tax-exempt applications. In fact, it was just the opposite:
Applications for tax exemption from advocacy nonprofits had not yet spiked when the Internal Revenue Service began using what it admits was inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups in 2010.
In fact, applications were declining, data show.
What was happening in 2010 was the rise of the first small-government populist movement in modern history. Something had to be done.
UPDATE: A bushel of Pinocchios.
The IRS’s inspector general knows, but he won’t tell us:
What kicked off the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups? The Treasury Department’s Inspector General apparently knows but the rest of us cannot. His report on the scandal includes three timelines of events, but in each case, the first item in the timeline has been redacted.
Another reason why we need a truly independent investigation.
The New Republic says that the IRS scandal is really the Tea Party’s fault, because . . . Well, honestly I don’t even understand their argument, because it seems as though they are saying that it’s the Tea Party’s fault because they were being paranoid that the IRS might persecute them.
In any case, the New Republic has been defending fascists since the day Herbert Croly founded it, so I suppose we shouldn’t expect any different.
The IRS claims (joined by Journolist lefties) that its enhanced scrutiny of conservative groups was not partisan, but just an ill-advised labor-saving strategy. Pretty much no one believes that anyway, but here’s proof: Tea Party groups were not the largest segment of the increase in tax-exempt applications. Labor groups were:
While IRS officials attributed the agency’s heavy scrutiny on conservative groups to the spike in applications over the past few years, fresh reports and figures are raising questions about whether the agency knowingly applied a double standard.
A highly anticipated watchdog report, released late Tuesday by the inspector general’s office, depicted an even bigger spike in applications for tax-exempt status from a type of group that includes labor organizations. Yet, according to the report, the conservative groups were the ones singled out for special treatment.
“Questions”? More like answers.
While IRS was targeting Tea Party groups for special scrutiny and intimidation, liberal groups were put on the fast track:
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked.
That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.
In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
We pretty much knew this already, but it’s good to have it laid out in black and white.
POSTSCRIPT: Right now, the left is looking frantically for anyone on the left who can claim to have been mistreated by the IRS during the Bush administration. Given how badly the IRS treats everyone, I’m frankly surprised they haven’t located someone already. This makes me wonder if this favoritism goes back years.
UPDATE (5/20): The IRS commissioner confirms (see the video at bottom) that no left-oriented keywords (e.g., “progressive” or “organizing”) were used for targeting.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed has a brief history of political targeting by the IRS. The prime offenders were Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton. (I suppose Woodrow Wilson didn’t bother with the IRS; he just locked up his opponents for sedition.) It’s interesting that in that group, Nixon is the only one most journalists are able to remember.
There’s also this appalling statistic:
The IRS has usually done an excellent job of stifling investigations of its practices. A 1991 survey of 800 IRS executives and managers by the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics revealed that three out of four respondents felt entitled to deceive or lie when testifying before a congressional committee.
It wasn’t only the IRS that gave special scrutiny to conservative organizations; the EPA did it too:
Conservative groups seeking information from the Environmental Protection Agency have been routinely hindered by fees normally waived for media and watchdog groups, while fees for more than 90 percent of requests from green groups were waived, according to requests reviewed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. . . Government agencies are supposed to waive fees for groups disseminating information for public benefit. . .
For 92 percent of requests from green groups, the EPA cooperated by waiving fees for the information. Those requests came from the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Greenpeace, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity. . .
CEI, on the other hand, had its requests denied 93 percent of the time. . . Similarly, requests from conservative groups Judicial Watch and National Center for Public Policy Research were approved half the time, and all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.
I’m sure the EPA will deny this, just as the IRS did. The House investigators ought to roll this into their inquiry too.
I have to say, I’m laughing my butt off over this:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
After years of doing their level best to obscure and/or justify the misconduct of the Obama administration, the Associated Press got the Chicago Way treatment themselves. They’re horrified that the Obama administration could do such a thing. It’s almost enough to make one believe in karma.
As in every one of the administration’s dozen scandals, we’re told that no one in a position of authority knew anything about this. Clearly, the word has gone out throughout the administration that you can do anything you want (ship guns to drug cartels, persecute the Tea Party and pro-Israel organizations, manufacture propaganda at government expense, spy on reporters, etc.) provided you just don’t tell your superiors.
The administration says that its investigation of a leak regarding a foiled terrorist plot is important, because it directly compromised national security. Oh my goodness! A leak that compromised national security! It’s hard to imagine something so terrible could ever happen!
In fact, during the Bush administration there was a never-ending war of leaks against the administration, many of them extremely damaging. (Perhaps the worst was in 2006 when the New York Times and others exposed the details of the Treasury Department’s program to track terrorist finances, thereby making it possible for terrorists to move money undetected.) But did the Bush administration ever resort to this kind of spying on the press? Of course not.
The IRS claims they put a stop to the practice of special obstacles for Tea Party groups in 2011, but did they? A letter the IRS sent to the attorney for the Albuquerque Tea Party just last month suggests otherwise.
Also, the letter came from Washington, DC, not from Cincinnati, which is where we’re told all the misconduct took place.
Is the stonewall beginning?
IRS Won’t Say If It Will Comply With Congressional Demand for All Communications and Names Involved in Discriminating Against Tea Party Groups
The Internal Revenue Service has given no indication to the House Ways and Means Committee about whether it will respond to the committee’s demand, delivered in writing last Friday, that the agency hand over copies of all internal communications containing the words “tea party,” “patriot,” or “conservative” and the names and titles of all IRS officials involved in discriminating against tea party and conservative groups when they submitted applications for tax-exempt status.
IRS spokesmen also did not respond to repeated emailed and telephone inquiries that CNSNews.com made between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning asking if the IRS intended to comply with the committee’s demand–and if not, why not.
This would be a great time for Congress to have subpoena power.
While three major scandals are exploding in Washington, the Obama administration is asking the courts to abolish Congress’s power to subpoena documents:
A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said on Wednesday that if a judge agreed to consider a Republican bid to get administration documents related to a botched operation against gun-trafficking it would prompt a flood of requests for courts to referee Washington political disputes.
President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as “Fast and Furious” on the U.S.- Mexican border. . .
Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government’s two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts. . .
[House of Representatives lawyer Kerry] Kircher told Jackson that if she did not intervene, presidents could withhold documents from Congress at will with no consequence and thwart oversight of government agencies.
Kircher is exactly right. If the House has no recourse to the courts to enforce its subpoenas, then it has no subpoena power. That’s exactly what the Obama administration wants, now more than ever with the IRS scandal blooming. But it wasn’t so long ago that Democrats saw things the other way:
In a decision that now helps Republicans, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in 2008 that he did have the authority to enforce a subpoena by congressional Democrats in connection with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
(ASIDE: It’s funny to recall now what flimsy fare passed for a scandal during the Bush administration, isn’t it?)
Top IRS officials were aware of the IRS’s misconduct, and covered it up:
On Monday, the IRS said Miller was first informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny. Congress, though, was not told tea party groups were being inappropriately targeted, even after Miller had been briefed on the matter.
At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without disclosing that tea party groups had been targeted. On July 25, 2012, Miller testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, but again did not mention the additional scrutiny — despite being asked about it. . .
None of the agency’s responses to Congress acknowledged that conservative groups had ever been targeted, including a response to Hatch dated Sept. 11, 2012 — four months after Miller had been briefed.
In several letters to members of Congress, Miller went into painstaking detail about how applications for tax-exempt status were screened. But he never mentioned that conservative groups were being targeted, even though people working under him knew as early as June 2011 that tea party groups were being targeted, according to an upcoming report by the agency’s inspector general.
It wasn’t just the Tea Party and limited-government groups who were targeted by the IRS, they also targeted pro-Israel groups. One such organization reported being questioned regarding its religious views toward Israel:
“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel? Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel,” the IRS asked in a letter sent to the religious group, which asked not to be named.
The IRS admitted applying special scrutiny to pro-Israel groups, but that admission was later retracted by the Justice Department. (ASIDE: Note that the IRS is part of the Treasury Department, so this scandal now spans departments.)
Now, pro-Israel groups are very different from Tea Party groups, but they do have one thing in common: The Obama administration is hostile to both.
In case you had any confidence that the IRS’s internal investigation of the IRS scandal was going to be thorough, don’t. ProPublica, the group (I suppose I should say “a group”, as there are surely more) to whom the IRS leaked confidential information on Tea Party organizations, says they haven’t even been contacted by the Inspector General’s offices.
UPDATE: The IG’s office also appears to be unaware that the IRS targeted pro-Israel groups as well as conservative groups. (At least, IG’s spokesman is.)
The IRS’s misconduct in its Tea Party persecution is not limited to targeting them for extra, intrusive scrutiny. They also were illegally leaking information to the press:
The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year. . .
In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public.
Now combine this with the incredibly intrusive demands for information, not only about the applicant organizations, and not only about the organizations’ employees, but about the organizations’ employees’ families, and combine that with an explicit threat to make everything public, and you get a clear picture of what they were trying to do: If they couldn’t intimidate Tea Party groups out of applying for tax-free status, they wanted to damage them by releasing personal information.
Just to be clear, this isn’t speculation. As above, they were already doing this.
Where would they get the idea to do this? As Glenn Reynolds notes, unsealing private records is Obama’s signature move. It’s not exaggerating to say his entire political career was founded on it.
Why would they think they could get away with it? They probably noticed that the Obama administration is very good to its underlings who commit misconduct in (what they view as) a good cause. If you ship thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, you get promoted (while the whisleblowers are punished). If you leak confidential information from the Justice Department in an effort to harm Republicans, and then perjure yourself about it, you get not even a slap on the wrist.
POSTSCRIPT: Now that we know that the IRS is willing to release confidential information to damage the administration’s political opponents, how do you feel about Obamacare giving the IRS access to your health care records?
UPDATE: James Taranto has several more examples of the IRS leaking confidential information.
One of the defenses offered by the IRS’s apologists to try to mitigate the scandal is the idea that this was just a few low-level people in an IRS field office, and thus it doesn’t reflect on the IRS as a whole. Not so.
We learned yesterday that the Cincinnati office that did this was the only office that handles this type of request, so if Tea Party groups were to be targeted this way, Cincinnati is that place it would happen. Today we find out that it’s not true anyway:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
It could be broader still. Adding a more sinister aspect to the IRS’s malfeasance, there’s this:
An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a “secret working group” devoted to investigating conservative organizations.
I don’t know what that means. Probably the analyst was just being dramatic, but the House investigation will surely want to question him under oath.
On Sunday, I wrote:
We’ll get a sense pretty soon of whether the White House feels safely distant from this on Monday. If they do, they will announce an independent investigation. If they don’t, that will be an indication that they are worried this will come back to bite them.
Well, know we know. On Monday the president finally commented, only in response to a direct question and not to announce an independent investigation. He’s sticking with the non-independent one:
The [inspector general] is conducting their investigation and I’m not going to comment prematurely.
Ah yes, the I-can’t-answer-questions-while-the-investigation-is-underway ploy. Mustn’t neglect that!
UPDATE: This came out later in the day, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it
Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that he had ordered an FBI investigation to determine whether the Internal Revenue Service broke any laws when it targeted conservative groups for closer scrutiny of their tax-exempt status.
“I have ordered an investigation. … The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken,” Holder said. “I think as everyone can agree if not criminal, [those actions were] certainly outrageous and unacceptable.”
The FBI is certainly more independent than the IRS inspector general, but it’s no special counsel. One reading of this is that Holder is confident that the scandal won’t come back to the White House. But if that were true, he would appoint a special counsel. He isn’t doing that. Another reading is that he is confident that he can control the investigation.
I actually think a third reading is most likely: If you read his remarks carefully, this could be a very narrow investigation; one in which they’re not looking to get to the bottom of it, just to see if any laws were broken. If they find only disgusting partisan abuse of power, but nothing they can prosecute in court, they fold up shop and say nothing. Then the administration says the FBI cleared them.
Only time will tell.
Within a year of the Tea Party’s appearance on the national scene, the IRS was targeting them for increased scrutiny:
The timeline contained in the draft report indicates that IRS scrutiny of tea-party and other conservative groups began as early as 2010 and came to the attention of Ms. Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt-organizations division, at least by the following year.
Also, the criteria used to identify conservative groups was quite broad:
The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.
This is important, because it puts the lie to the notion (never very plausible in the first place) that this was some sort of ill-conceived labor-saving strategy. That might be possible if they were merely using a keyword search, but if they are reading the documents looking conservative content, it’s the opposite of labor-saving strategy. They were expending extra effort to identify conservative applicants.