You can’t make this stuff up

July 12, 2013

The law is supposed to forbid the IRS from compromising the privacy of taxpayers’ information, but as we well know, it has failed to prevent it. Nevertheless, with astonishing chutzpah, the IRS now claims that same law also forbids the IRS from revealing which of its employees violated the law.

Their privacy, not ours, is sacrosanct.

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Happy Birthday

July 12, 2013

No one can sing Happy Birthday in public without paying royalties to Warner/Chappell Music, who owns the copyright to the song, over a century after it was composed. But a lawsuit now claims that Happy Birthday should not be under copyright, and they seem to have a strong case.

(Via Instapundit.)


Oh, the irony

July 12, 2013

The Supreme Court bans protests on its grounds.


Clapper was warned of question, still lied

July 12, 2013

People have tried to defend Obama administration intelligence chief James Clapper for lying to Congress, saying that Ron Wyden’s question on classified operations in an unclassified setting put him in an awkward situation. That seems to make some sense, until you learn that Clapper was warned of the question in advance. He also failed to avail himself of the opportunity to correct his statement after the fact.

In short, he lied, not because he wanted to keep the operation secret from the world, but because he wanted to keep it secret from Congress.

(Previous post.)


State Department spikes child abuse investigation

July 12, 2013

The New York Post reports:

A State Department whistleblower has accused high-ranking staff of a massive coverup — including keeping a lid on findings that members of then-Secretary Hillary Clinton’s security detail and the Belgian ambassador solicited prostitutes.

A chief investigator for the agency’s inspector general wrote a memo outlining eight cases that were derailed by senior officials, including one instance of interference by Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

Among the bombshell findings: A DS agent was called off a case against US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman over claims that he solicited prostitutes, including minors.

“The agent began his investigation and had determined that the ambassador routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” says the memo. . .

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo.

Gutman was a big Democratic donor before taking the post, having raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and helping finance his inaugural.

(Via Instapundit.)


IRS workers finger Washington

June 11, 2013

The IRS claims that all its misconduct was limited to a few front-line workers. We already knew that wasn’t true, but those front-line workers — tired of being scapegoated — are starting to give specifics and name names:

Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency’s Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.

The Cincinnati agents didn’t provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.

Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.

One of the agents explained that she had no autonomy when it came to Tea Party targeting:

Elizabeth Hofacre, the Cincinnati staffer, said that she started receiving applications from Tea Party groups to sift through in April, 2010. Hofacre’s handling of those cases, she said, was highly influenced by Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington.

Hofacre said that she integrated questions from Hull into her follow-ups with Tea Party groups, and that Hull had to approve the letters seeking more information that she sent out to those organizations. That process, she said, was both unusual and “demeaning.”

“One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education,” Hofacre said, according to transcripts reviewed by The Hill. “Whereas in this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process.”

“I thought it was over the top,” she added, in interviews held by investigators in both parties from the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees. “I am not sure where it came from, but it was a bit unusual.”

(Previous post.) (Via Legal Insurrection.)


Organizing for Tax-Exempt Action

June 11, 2013

One of the defenses offered for the IRS’s targeting of conservative, Christian, and pro-Israel groups is that is that political organizations oughtn’t be tax exempt in the first place. For example, here’s extreme leftist Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA):

We’re talking about whether or not the American taxpayers will subsidize your work. We’re talking about a tax break. If you didn’t come in and ask for this tax break, we would have never had a question to ask of you.

(ASIDE: The “we” is a nice touch. McDermott actually identifies himself with the IRS’s misconduct. Most liberals aren’t that honest.)

So what about the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization Organizing for Action? Until a few months ago the organization went by a different name: Barack Obama 2012. Indeed, their web site is still located at barackobama.com. There is no more political organization in America.

(Previous post.)


Another State Department scandal

June 11, 2013

I can’t even keep track of all the scandals any more. Here’s the latest:

CBS News has uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks. . .

CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”

The memo also reveals details about an “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller, “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases.”

In such cases, DSS agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is “very” upsetting.

Sexual assaults and drug trafficking, and “senior State Department officials” quashed the investigations.

Beyond the appalling misconduct itself, just think about the ramifications: The people defending our embassies are being sexually assaulted and given drugs. Is it just possible that this might reduce their effectiveness a little bit? But “senior State Department officials” are fine with that. Is it no wonder the attack against our Benghazi consulate succeeded?

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Shulman’s wife was “fair” elections advocate

June 7, 2013

The wife of Douglas Shulman (commissioner of the IRS when its targeting of conservative, Christian, and pro-Israel groups began) works for Public Campaign, a left-wing organization working for “fair” elections that is funded by a knave’s gallery of leftist groups:

Earlier this month, when news broke of the targeting scandal broke, Public Campaign president and CEO Nick Nyhart belittled the concerns of disenfranchised conservatives.

“There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status,” Nyhart said in a statement provide to ABC. “It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.” . . .

Public Campaign receives “major funding” from the pro-Obamacare alliance Health Care for America NOW!, which is comprised of the labor unions AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, and the progressive activist organization Move On, among others.

That doesn’t smell good.

(Previous post. ”Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


All your data are belong to Obama

June 7, 2013

I’m starting to think that the Obama administration’s plan to deal with the scandals is to have so many of them we can’t keep them straight any more. In the latest scandal, the NSA collected call data on all telephone calls placed on Verizon’s network in the United States. (The dragnet explicitly excludes calls that originate and terminate in foreign countries.) Before I got a chance to note it here, it was revealed that the NSA is collecting credit-card transactions as well.

This was so bad that even Obama’s boot-lickers at the New York Times lost patience with him, writing that he had “lost all credibility”, although they softened their criticism a few hours later.

This was Barack Obama in 2007, pledging to end the supposed abuses of the Bush administration:

Obama proclaimed, “No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” He then cast his massive dragnet to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime using the FISA court rather than national security letters. Oh, that’s much better.

I feel it necessary to contrast what Obama is doing (I suppose I should say, what Obama’s administration is doing, since he will surely turn out have been out of the loop once again) with what happened during the Bush administration. The Bush-era terrorist surveillance program was tapping the phones of specific foreign terrorists.

That, of course, is exactly what they should have been doing. The part that somehow became controversial is they kept listening when those foreign terrorists placed calls to the United States. Of course. It’s utter foolishness to suggest that we should stop listening to terrorists when the call the United States; indeed, those are the calls we most need to hear. But a dishonest media reported the matter as though the administration was tapping domestic phones rather than foreign ones.

The Bush-era program was spying on foreign terrorists, not Americans. The Obama-era program is the exact opposite: It spies on every American who uses Verizon or a credit card, and it specifically excludes foreigners!


Free speech is dying

June 6, 2013

The nation that invented individual liberty has abandoned it:

A 22-year-old man has been charged on suspicion of making malicious comments on Facebook following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby.

Benjamin Flatters, from Lincoln, was arrested last night after complaints were made to Lincolnshire Police about comments made on Facebook, which were allegedly of a racist or anti-religious nature.

He was charged with an offence of malicious communications this afternoon in relation to the comments, a Lincolnshire Police spokesman said.

(Via Power Line.)

We don’t know the specifics of the “malicious comments”, but they don’t matter. If the comments weren’t inciting violence (which is not reported, and presumably would have been had it been so), they should have been protected speech, and once would have been, no matter how offensive they might be.

Fortunately this could never happen in America. Oh, dang:

The [Eastern District of Tennessee’s] top federal prosecutor, Bill Killian, will address a topic that most Americans are likely unfamiliar with, even those well versed on the Constitution; that federal civil rights laws can actually be violated by those who post inflammatory documents aimed at Muslims on social media. “This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian says in the local news story. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”

(Via Instapundit.)


157 meetings

June 6, 2013

Doug Shulman, the IRS commissioner when most of the known IRS misconduct took place, made at least 157 visits to the White House. If that seems like a lot, it really is. It’s nearly twice the number of known visits as the second-most-frequent high-level visitor (86). Shulman’s boss, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, made only 48 known visits.

Nevertheless, he says he can’t remember the substance of any of those meetings.

(Previous post. ”Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Explain the prayers

June 6, 2013

When the IRS demanded to know the substance of tax-exempt applicants’ prayers, it was not a few isolated incidents. The IRS made a practice of inquiring into applicants prayers:

Please explain in detail the activities at the prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organization spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.

(Previous post.)


That’s a lot of bad apples

June 6, 2013

House investigators have found 88 IRS employees with documents relevant to the IRS scandal.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Anti-Israel IRS

June 6, 2013

The Washington Free Beacon advances the story of the IRS’s targeting of pro-Israel groups. It seems that the targeting was not limited to stalling tax-exempt applications, it extended to audits as well.

This segment of IRS targeting is unique in that it’s been in the public record since 2010:

Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

The complaint specifically alleged an explicit IRS policy, and it named names. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the allegation was true, but now we have proof that the IRS does this sort of thing. The House committee it going to want to subpoena that guy.

Interestingly, by targeting pro-Israel groups, the IRS followed the urging of the New York Times, which ran pieces blasting tax-exempt pro-Israel groups:

Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.

People are engaging in activities the government (by which he means the Obama administration) opposes? Horrors! What is this, a free country?

The White House may end up being technically blameless in this scandal, but it is clear that a very large segment of the left was all in favor of turning the IRS into a political weapon.

(Previous post.) (Via Power Line.)


Holder to investigate himself

May 29, 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to believe Barack Obama’s audacity:

President Obama announced Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder would launch a review into the Justice Department’s (DOJ) targeting of journalists who report on classified information.

I’m looking forward to Eric Holder’s searing report on the misconduct of Eric Holder. . .

(Previous post.)


Obama fine with being kept in the dark

May 28, 2013

In the Obama administration, the say-nothing-during-ongoing-investigation excuse has metastasized into a learn-nothing-during-ongoing-investigation. The White House says that President Obama was perfectly happy to be kept in the dark about the severe misconduct taking place in his administration.

(Previous post.)


IG delayed IRS report

May 28, 2013

The Inspector General is supposed to report “particularly flagrant problem” to Congress within seven days. Doing so would have exposed the IRS scandal during the 2012 election campaign, but instead the IG delayed the report for months.

The IG admits that he delayed the report because he was concerned it would be used politically:

Inspector General J. Russell George told Issa’s panel he withheld the information because he feared lawmakers would leak it to the public.

Recall that conservatives had been complaining for years, and for years the IRS and the liberal media were dismissing their complaints as entirely unfounded. Yeah, I’d say that the revelation that the Tea Party’s allegations were 100% true might have become public, and indeed it should have.

It’s not the IG’s job to ignore statutory deadlines because of the possible political consequences. That’s misconduct all its own.

POSTSCRIPT: This also further demolishes the absurd notion that it could be in any way improper to answer questions while an investigation is ongoing. When the investigation can be stalled indefinitely for practically no reason at all (e.g., “I was studying for and then taking a final.”), this is plainly just an excuse to avoid answering questions forever.

(Previous post.)


DOJ spied on NYT

May 27, 2013

It wasn’t just the AP and Fox News, the Justice Department spied on the New York Times too.

It will be interesting to see how the NYT responds. Will they roll over for Obama even when his administration attacks them personally? I wouldn’t bet against it.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


Holder approved warrant application

May 27, 2013

Eric Holder personally signed off on the warrant application naming Fox News reporter James Rosen as a criminal accomplice:

The Justice Department pledged Friday [to] review its policies relating to the seizure of information from journalists after acknowledging that a controversial search warrant for a  Fox News reporter’s private emails  was approved “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, including “discussions” with Attorney General  Eric Holder.

A second report confirms that Holder’s approval was not pro forma, he took part in the discussions. (This is significant, because Holder has already used the excuse that he can’t read every memo that crosses his desk.)

Not only does this put Holder hip-deep in the journalist surveillance scandal, it also seems to make him a perjurer:

In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.

That testimony was given under oath, since the House has wisely suspended its “no oath” courtesy for Cabinet secretaries in Holder’s case.

Moreover, if Holder tries to weasel out by claiming that he never actually intended to prosecute Rosen, then he made false claims on the warrant application:

If that’s their defense, they knowingly lied to the judge who would, hopefully, reject the request if they admitted it was just a fishing expedition for information.

But that might be the best stance to take, since the warrant application was already filled with false claims:

Moreover, the affidavit asserts that the “targets” of the investigation (including Rosen) were a risk to “mask their identity and activity, flee or otherwise obstruct this investigation.” It is highly questionable whether Holder believed any of that to be true. (Really, he imagined a Fox News reporter would flee the country? He thought Rosen would don a disguise?)

The good news is that, although Holder could end up disbarred, he’s very unlikely to face prosecution for his perjury; his own Justice Department would have to approve such a prosecution. If there were ever any doubt at all as to whether that could happen, they’ve already removed it.

(Previous post.)


Lerner’s history of religious persecution

May 24, 2013

Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS scandal, had a history of grossly inappropriate political  and religious inquisitions in her previous job at the FEC. She ran a 6-1/2 year investigation/persecution of the Christian Coalition, that cost her target over hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. She required 81 depositions, responses to nearly 2000 legal documents, and production of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, many of which had to be found, by hand, in uncatalogued government warehouses. All of her massive fishing expedition produced nothing; in the end the Christian Coalition was cleared of any wrongdoing. But, as they say, the process itself is the punishment.

Most striking about the investigation was its inquisition into private religious activities, even going so far as to demand to know the contents of individuals’ prayers, a repetition of which we have seen in the current scandal.

In short, this woman should never have been in a position of public trust at all, much less a sensitive position such as head of tax-exempt organizations.

Looking back, the IRS press release announcing Lerner’s appointment is ironic:

“Lois is an integral part of the EO team and has successfully increased the IRS presence in the exempt community,” said Steven T. Miller, Commissioner of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, of which EO is a part. “Her integrity, skills and judgment are exceptional and will allow us to continue to provide improved service and enhanced enforcement of the tax laws.”

Increased the IRS presence in the exempt community? I’d say she has. Integrity and judgment? Not so much.

But, snark aside, this release points at another deeper problem: Why should the IRS be aiming to increase its presence in the first place? The IRS is a massive parasitical agency. At best it may be necessary, but it should always be trying to minimize its presence, not enhance it.

(Previous post.)


IRS misconduct never stopped

May 24, 2013

One of the lines used to minimize the IRS scandal is that all the IRS’s misconduct is in the past. It’s not. The IRS was continuing to stall Tea Party applications as recently as this month.

UPDATE: Lois Lerner signed letters harassing Tea Party applicants in March 2012, long after the policy supposedly ended.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS harasses adoptive families

May 23, 2013

An astonishing 69% of all adoptive family claiming the adoption tax credit were audited by the IRS.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Yeah, that’s plausible

May 22, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS investigated targeting of conservatives, said nothing

May 22, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”) (Via Ace of Spades.)


White House lies about Benghazi memos

May 22, 2013

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.”

(Emphasis mine.)

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.

(Previous post.) (Via the Corner.)


Did DOJ spy on Attkisson too?

May 22, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal was managed in Washington

May 22, 2013

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.”

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


DOJ spied on Fox as well as AP

May 21, 2013

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: At least five different phones at Fox News, and the phone of James Rosen’s parents.

(Previous post.)


Heh

May 21, 2013

As Peter Ingemi puts it, nothing says “this was just rogue agents in Cincinnati” like the top IRS official taking the Fifth.

UPDATE: Or, at Glenn Reynolds puts it: “The Obama administration finally finds a constitutional amendment it can get behind.”

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS lies

May 21, 2013

I don’t think this breaks any new news, but it’s a good summary.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Chief of Staff informed regarding IRS misconduct

May 21, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Read all IRS remarks with a jaundiced eye

May 21, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”) (Via Instapundit.)


IRS minders

May 21, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IG confirms Gunwalker smear strategy

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


NYT defends IRS misconduct

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Holder lies about contempt citation

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Why the IRS scandal is Obama’s fault

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


They knew

May 20, 2013

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!

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


Chief IRS targeter now running Obamacare

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post. “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS didn’t scrutinize large organizations

May 20, 2013

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.

(Previous post: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”)


IRS OMG

May 17, 2013

“Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”

(Previous post.)


IRS stole 60 million medical records

May 17, 2013

Another IRS scandal:

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.

(Previous post.)


Gov’t grievance with AP may not have been over public safety

May 17, 2013

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.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Non-denial denial

May 17, 2013

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. . .

(Previous post.)


Dems refuse to condemn IRS

May 17, 2013

Senate Democrats have put a hold on Rand Paul’s (R-KT) resolution condemning the IRS for targeting conservatives.

(Previous post.)


IRS admits scandal revelation was staged

May 17, 2013

The IRS now admits that the supposedly extemporaneous revelation of its misconduct was actually staged.

(Previous post.)


IRS misconduct extended to DC and two other offices

May 17, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Second court invalidates Obama recess appointment

May 16, 2013

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.


Administration imposes nationwide speech codes

May 16, 2013

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.


Obamcare shakedown

May 16, 2013

It got buried by the IRS’s admission of political targeting, 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.)


IRS targeted pro-lifers

May 16, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


More IRS lies

May 16, 2013

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.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


How did the IRS start targeting conservatives?

May 16, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


New Republic defends IRS

May 15, 2013

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.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Labor applications outnumbered Tea Party

May 15, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


IRS did not scrutinize liberals

May 15, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


A brief history of IRS intimidation

May 15, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


EPA also targeted conservatives

May 15, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Obama administration spied on AP

May 15, 2013

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.


IRS misconduct ongoing?

May 14, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Heh

May 14, 2013

Jon Stewart:

I didn’t realize that apologies are sufficient in IRS-related issues!

(Previous post.)


Hmm

May 14, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Obama administration asks court to abolish Congress’s subpoena power

May 14, 2013

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?)


Dirty to the top

May 14, 2013

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.

Perjury.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


IRS targeted pro-Israel groups too

May 14, 2013

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.

UPDATE (5/28): More here.

(Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


About that IG investigation

May 14, 2013

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.)

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal deepens

May 14, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


IRS scandal broadens

May 14, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


No investigation

May 14, 2013

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.

(Previous post.)


Another IRS misrepresentation

May 13, 2013

The Washington Post reports:

The Cincinnati office was not filled with low-level apparatchiks. It was the division specifically tasked with evaluating applications for such nonprofit groups.

(Previous post.)


IRS targeted Tea Party as early as 2010

May 13, 2013

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.

(Previous post.) (Via Hot Air.)


Printed guns and the law

May 13, 2013

As might be expected, the anti-gun establishment instantly freaked out at the prospect of printable guns. (They say they’re concerned about undetectable guns, but that’s disingenuous. Our ability to detect guns is already spotty. They’re worried that if people can print guns, they’ll never be able to ban them.)

But what to do about it? Legislating against printable guns is slow, and would be ineffective anyway. The only thing to do is disappear the plans, and fast.

So that’s what the Federal government is trying to do. The US State Department ordered Defense Distributed to take down the plans from its web site. Why the State Department? Because they are the ones empowered to control arms exports. By posting the plans, Defense Distributed was exporting munitions.

This is obviously pretextual, and also ineffective, since the plans had already been downloaded  hundreds of thousands of times. But is it even legal? The answer seems to be no:

Wilson has complied with the takedown request for now. But he’s hinted at further challenges to the government’s decision. From his point of view, plans for the Liberator fall into a legal category that escapes regulation. . .

“We’re quite familiar” with the rules, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Wilson told me. . .

He argues that ITAR doesn’t regulate publicly accessible technical information. If your designs are put on library or bookstore shelves (something Wilson has actually done), ITAR effectively passes you over. You can read the relevant sections of the regulation, 120.10 and 120.11, here for yourself.

And he seems to be right:

§ 120.10 Technical data.
(a) Technical data means, for purposes of this subchapter . . .

(5) This definition does not include . . . information in the public domain as defined in §120.11. . .

§ 120.11 Public domain.
(a) Public domain means information which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public:

(1) Through sales at newsstands and bookstores; . . .

(4) At libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents;

You never know what a court will decide, but according to the plain meaning of the law, the government’s actions here don’t seem to be legal.

UPDATE: The Daily Caller notes that the government already has lots of gun blueprints available on-line.


IRS admits targeting Tea Party

May 12, 2013

Now that the IRS has admitted targeting Tea Party groups, let’s take stock of where we are. The IRS claims, risibly, that politics played no role in its decision to target the Tea Party:

Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.

Even most of the usual leftist apologists find this absurd. For instance, Time’s Joe Klein writes, “Does anyone actually believe this?” The Washington Post adds “it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.”

ASIDE: The IRS does still have a few apologists. The New York Times seem to think it’s okay, editorializing “The IRS does its job.” (That was in March 2012, but it’s hard to see what has changed materially since then.) National Journal seems to think it’s no big deal, calling it a “mishap” and then revising it to a “blunder”, both of suggest that this can somehow happen without deliberate misconduct.

Let’s not make the mistake of giving the IRS any credit for coming out with this. The agency denied the charges for months. They only admitted to it now because the story was coming out soon anyway, and they tried to dump it on a Friday (as if a story this explosive could be buried).

The claim that only “front-line people” were involved seems to be a lie. Senior officials knew what was going on. The IRS’s director seems to have perjured himself when he testified in March 2012 that Tea Party groups were not being targeted. According to the AP, senior officials were aware by June 2011 at the latest.

Hot Air has a list of some of the outrageous things the IRS demanded. They demanded a whole sheaf of personal information on present and past employees, and their families, and promised to make all of that information public.

Even the left is jumping on this, in part because the IRS’s conduct is too outrageous to excuse (except perhaps by the NYT), and in part because they think that the scandal won’t reach back to the White House. They shouldn’t be so sure. This is a president who jokes about abusing the IRS, and which has snooped through IRS records on its political opponents before.

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.

(Previous post.)


More non-existent election fraud

May 10, 2013

Remember, election fraud never, ever happens. Pay no attention to stuff like this:

A jury in South Bend, Indiana has found that fraud put President Obama and Hillary Clinton on the presidential primary ballot in Indiana in the 2008 election. Two Democratic political operatives were convicted Thursday night in the illegal scheme after only three hours of deliberations. They were found guilty on all counts.


Paul gets an answer, sort of

March 15, 2013

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KT) staged a 13-hour filibuster to try to extract from the Obama administration an answer to a very simple question: Under what circumstances does the president have the power to kill Americans on US soil without any judicial process?

The answer to this question is not obvious. Even in a purely law-enforcement context, sometimes an active criminal needs to be shot on sight. But, at the other extreme, no one would suggest that the president may assassinate Americans for political differences. Clearly the power should exist but is severely limited.

But what exactly are those limitations? The problem is that the administration won’t say. Paul succeeded in getting the administration to admit that its power to kill Americans is not unlimited:

Dear Senator Paul:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill Americans not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” The answer to that question is no.

Sincerely,
Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Yes, that’s the entire letter. (ASIDE: Either due to a strange oversight or a fit of pique, the White House released the letter to the media but never actually sent it to Paul.) It’s good that the administration admits to some limits, but this tells us virtually nothing about where they see those limits.

On September 11, 2001, while the Pentagon was still burning, the Justice Department was already at work drafting legal rules that would govern the War on Terror. Some of those rules came under fire, of course, but the Bush administration put them out forthrightly and abided by them. That’s called respect for the rule of law.

Later, when the Bush administration’s critics (most of them hypocritically, but some in good faith) attacked those rules, they had specific legal opinions to dispute.

In contrast, the Obama administration never began working seriously on drafting rules for drone warfare until they began to fear they might lose the 2012 election. Once they won the election, the effort apparently evaporated.

Barack Obama’s attitude toward all this is clarified by a revealing exchange with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV):

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad. . .

In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO. He also tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush, whom many Democratic senators attacked for secrecy and for expanding executive power in the national security realm.

“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said.

(Via the Corner.)

Instead of offering a legal justification (which the administration refuses to give), Obama explains that he (unlike Dick Cheney) is a good guy. To paraphrase: We don’t need legal strictures when the right person is making the decisions. More tersely: I don’t need legal justification; I’m Obama.

That’s called disrespect for the rule of law.

This matter is too important to allow the Obama administration to make it up as they go along. If the administration will write and publicize rules governing domestic drone strikes, we can debate those rules. But if they refuse to do so, Congress needs to do it.


Fourth amendment applies at the border

March 12, 2013

The 9th Circuit Appeals Court has ruled that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches does apply at the border. This might seem obvious, but it goes against existing precedent which holds that there is an exception at the border.

That decision will probably be overturned, but I’m guessing that the DHS claim to be able to perform unreasonable border searches nearly anywhere will not stand up.

The court also ruled that password-protecting a computer does not create reasonable grounds for suspicion. I certainly hope that holds up.


This is the NLRB

March 6, 2013

Fox News has a column running down some of the out-of-control NLRB’s most outrageous rulings. I think the most outrageous is its decision that employers must turn over the names of whistleblowers to the union, so the union can punish them. A close second is its decision that stores cannot forbid clerks to post signs telling customers to take their business elsewhere.

Fortunately, these rulings are all likely to go away, since they were issued by illegal recess appointees. Unfortunately, once Obama loses the appeal, he’ll just appoint the same lunatics again, and they’ll make the same decisions again.


DOJ admits Swartz prosecution was political?

March 1, 2013

If this story in the Huffington Post is true, Justice Department officials have admitted to Congress that Aaron Swartz was prosecuted for his support for open information:

A Justice Department representative told congressional staffers during a recent briefing on the computer fraud prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz that Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” played a role in the prosecution, sources told The Huffington Post.

Swartz’s 2008 manifesto said sharing information was a “moral imperative” and advocated for “civil disobedience” against copyright laws pushed by corporations “blinded by greed” that led to the “privatization of knowledge.” . . .

The “Manifesto,” Justice Department representatives told congressional staffers, demonstrated Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.

This is the Huffington Post, so the story could well be bogus. But it’s worthy of note because it would confirm my theory of the reason for the Swartz prosection, which is otherwise hard to explain.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Baseball’s evil empire

March 1, 2013

The New York Yankees admit, in court, that they are “baseball’s evil empire”.


Take Biden’s advice, go to jail

March 1, 2013

The very same people who want to lecture us about how dangerous guns are haven’t the first clue about how to safely handle firearms. On some level, I suppose that isn’t surprising, but they ought to be required to get some basic firearms instruction before prattling on about banning guns.

This story perfectly illustrates the point, while also providing yet another instance of our vice-president being a blithering idiot. No one should ever take Joe Biden’s advice. If you do, you could go to jail:

I did one of these town-hall meetings on the Internet and one guy said, “Well, what happens when the end days come? What happens when there’s the earthquake? I live in California, and I have to protect myself.”

I said, “Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.”

As any responsible gun owner could tell you, you never pull the trigger without being sure of your target, which is difficult to do when firing through a door.

worried-girl-scouts

 

Not for the first time, taking Joe Biden’s gun advice could get you arrested for reckless discharge of a firearm. In fact, a Virginia man has been arrested for exactly that. We don’t know that he actually got the idea from Biden (although if Biden is to be believed, he gives the advice often), but he did exactly what Biden suggests — fire his shotgun through a door — and, sure enough, was arrested for reckless discharge of a firearm.


Aaron Swartz and the FBI

February 24, 2013

The now-public FBI file on Aaron Swartz supports my theory about what was behind his persecution at the hands of the US Attorney.  The FBI long had their eye on him because of his PACER caper, in which Swartz tried to download public court documents and make them available to the public. (The government quickly shut down the program that Swartz used, defending the important principle that public court documents should not be easily accessible by the public.)

I speculated that the government later threw the book at Swartz, not because of JSTOR (even the nominal victim didn’t want to press charges), but because of PACER. The fact that they were watching Swartz for years because of PACER makes that all the more likely.

(Previous post.)


Your government at work

February 23, 2013

You can’t make this stuff up: The Obama administration is sticking up for the right of steelworkers to work drunk.


Lawless Chicago

February 23, 2013

Last December, in Moore v. Madigan, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns in public. In light of Heller and McDonald, the decision was pretty much a no-brainer. The ruling threw out Illinois’s law banning the bearing of arms in public, but stayed the ruling for 180 days to give Illinois time to craft a new law that comports with the Constitution.

However, the Cook County (Chicago) state attorney’s office has said that Illinois can ignore the ruling. In what can only be called a novel legal theory, they claim that the federal courts are powerless to declare state laws unconstitutional:

“Only the Illinois Supreme Court can declare a statue from (the legislature) unconstitutional,” Castiglione told lawmakers Tuesday.

Astonishing.

POSTSCRIPT: Just a couple of days later, the full 7th Circuit denied Illinois’s appeal. The case now goes to the Supreme Court, if they chose to take it. I think they will, not to overturn it, but to extend it to the entire country.


Our lawless government

February 23, 2013

The NLRB, which has been operating illegally for the last year, announced last month that it will simply ignore the Appeals Court ruling against it, and has been proceeding to carry out its agenda as if nothing had happened. In essence, they decided to cover their ears and yell “I can’t hear you!”

In view of their brazen lawlessness, the Appeals Court has now stepped in once again, ordering the NLRB to respond to a petition challenging their authority to continue operating.


Defend yourself, the government won’t

February 22, 2013

In 1981, the landmark precedent Warren v. District of Columbia found that there is a

fundamental prin­ciple that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police pro­tection, to any particular individual citizen.

Ponder that while we consider a basic question: What drives gun-control advocates? I think there are two camps: stupid and evil.

Some controllists are clearly stupid: Anyone who actually believes that criminals obey gun-control laws is stupid. Anyone who thinks that a madman planning mass murder will be deterred by an additional weapons charge is stupid. Anyone who thinks that gun-free zones turn away criminals rather than attract them is stupid. It is self-evident to anyone with an ounce of common sense that only law-abiding persons abide by gun-control laws.

More common than that, perhaps, are those who are functionally stupid. These are the people who do have some common sense, but don’t exercise it when it comes to guns, perhaps out of a visceral distaste for them. For practical purposes, the truly stupid and functionally stupid are the same group.

That’s the first camp. The second camp knows perfectly well that gun-control laws affect only the law-abiding, and that is precisely their aim. This is the evil group. Their ultimate goal is to abolish self-defense.

That much should be clear by looking at their aims: they wish to ban weapons for precisely the people who will use them against humans only in self-defense. But we can also look at history. The United Kingdom, the country at the end of the slippery slope that the controllists see as their model, has explicitly banned, not only any device that can be effectively used for self-defense, but the very act of self-defense itself. For just one example:

The TV presenter and Marks & Spencer model Myleene Klass has been warned by police for waving a knife at teenagers who were peering into a window of her house late at night. Klass was in the kitchen with her daughter upstairs when she spotted the youths in her garden just after midnight on Friday. She grabbed a knife and banged the windows before they ran away.

Hertfordshire police warned her she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an “offensive weapon”, even in her own home, was illegal. . .

“She is not looking to be a vigilante, and has the utmost respect for the law, but when the police explained to her that even if you’re at home alone and you have an intruder, you are not allowed to protect yourself, she was bemused.”

(Via International Liberty.) Got that? “If you’re at home alone and you have an intruder, you are not allowed to protect yourself.” Frankly, I think “bemused” is the wrong reaction.

It’s not just across the pond. In the District of Columbia, a man used a gun to save a 11-year-old boy from being mauled to death by three pit bulls, and the police are considering charging him with a crime. Message: if you save a child, you risk jail. Just let the kid die.

If you aren’t permitted to protect yourself and your family, will the government do it? Usually they can’t, of course. As the saying goes, “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”

But if they can, will they? Don’t count on it. (Well, probably they will, but that’s because most cops are good people, not because of institutional requirements.) In Warren v. DC, the court found that the government has “no general duty” to protect you. (In the horrifying incident behind Warren, the victims were brutalized for fourteen hours, hoping for the police who never came.) This principle has been affirmed by a whole series of rulings going all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The principle has been applied frequently, as recently as last month in New York City. In February 2011, Joseph Lozito subdued a knife-wielding maniac (who had already killed four people during his rampage) on the New York Subway, incurring seven stab wounds in the process. Lozito could not carry a gun (this being New York City), but the police were present for the whole incident. Unfortunately, the police just stood by, watching from behind a locked door until Lozito finished subduing the man. Lozito sued the city, but last month the city moved for dismissal, citing the long-standing rule that they aren’t required to lift a finger to help anyone.

But I don’t mean to give the impression that the controllists’ campaign against self-defense merely leaves us vulnerable to rare incidents of police negligence. Too often, the government’s failure to protect the people is part of a deliberate campaign of oppression:

  • The classic example of this is the postbellum South, in which officials felt limited in how far they could go officially to oppress freed slaves, but could easily stand by while the mob put “uppity” blacks in their place.
  • In the 1991 Crown Heights riot in New York City, police (under orders from the mayor, David Dinkins) allowed the pogrom to go on for three days before finally marshalling enough force to restore order.
  • In the District of Columbia during the mid-1990s, Mayor Marion Barry once threatened to pull the police out of the wards represented by councilmen who refused to support his budget.
  • After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the police looted stores, gunned down unarmed innocents, and went door-to-door illegally confiscating (i.e., stealing) firearms and assaulting their owners. The perpetrators of the Danzinger Bridge shootings were eventually punished, after a failed police cover-up, but (as far as I can tell) no police were ever punished for looting or for stealing firearms. (The police made a big show of investigating accused looters, but in the only cases I can find they “cleared” them of the charges.) New Orleans even refused to return the stolen weapons and had to be forced to do so.

What each of these incidents have in common is they took place were guns were restricted. In New York City and the District of Columbia it was (and largely still is) basically impossible for individuals to obtain guns legally. In Louisiana, citizens have the right to own guns, but New Orleans police would routinely seize any weapons they found anyway, and as soon as Katrina hit they started going door-to-door.

The experience of blacks in the postbellum South is particularly instructive. The gun-control movement in America began out of a desire to keep blacks unarmed and defenseless. Racist anti-gun laws predate the Civil War (indeed they predate the United States), but racial gun control advanced to whole new level after the emancipation of the slaves. The KKK actually began as a gun-control organization; their mission was to take guns from blacks when the government failed to do so.

This is the intellectual lineage of the non-stupid camp of the gun control movement. They want you to be defenseless, because defenseless people make less trouble. Just as they want you to depend on the government for the necessities of life (food, health care, etc.), they want you depend on them for protection from the mob. But even if you do, you still might not get that protection, because just maybe you are someone who needs to be put in his place, or be made an example of.


2nd or 4th amendment, pick one

February 22, 2013

There’s been an interesting revelation in the case of Washington State’s proposed law that would revoke 4th amendment protection from people who own “assault weapons”. It turns out that the bill’s sponsor, who claims that the provision was somehow a mistake, has proposed legislation with the search provision twice before.

Are we to believe that the provision was inserted into a bill by mistake three different times? The notion is fanciful once, and simply preposterous three times.

Interestingly, the Washington State constitution has been found to protect the right to own an AR-15 (the canonical “assault weapon”), so the provision is explicitly attempting to revoke a constitutional right for anyone who exercises another constitutional right.


Fortunately, no one pays attention to Biden anyway

February 22, 2013

Joe Biden’s self-defense advice will get you arrested.


Civilization in decline

February 13, 2013

A British court lets a (statutory) rapist off with no jail time because he was educated in an Islamic madrassa and thought it was okay.


Unreasonable search

February 13, 2013

Here’s something I did not know: The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizures does not apply at the border. More precisely, arbitrary searches at the border are not considered unreasonable. Thus, customs agents and the like do not need probable cause, much less a warrant, to search people entering the country.

Okay, maybe that makes sense. But the Department of Homeland Security claims that it can use its powers of suspicionless search, not only at the border, but within 100 miles of the border! The ACLU has prepared this handy map, showing where the government says it can search you without probable cause:

unreasonable-zone

The Supreme Court will probably squash this eventually, but it’s an outrage that that’s necessary.


Aaron Swartz and Occam’s razor

February 9, 2013

A lot of people have written about the government’s strange decision to throw the book at Aaron Swartz, when even JSTOR (the nominal victim in the case) didn’t want to press charges.

But is it really so strange? Instead, let’s suppose that the US Attorney was faithfully carrying out government policy. What does the prosecution tell us about that policy? Swartz was a crusader for open information. (For example, before JSTOR, Swartz was making public court records available to the public.) The Obama administration — which is notoriously opposed to open information — threw the book at him.

So maybe this was a rogue US Attorney, losing sight of the big picture and of common decency. Maybe. But Occam’s razor suggests a simpler explanation: the US Attorney, taking her cue from her boss, wanted to make an example of Aaron Swartz, so she did.

UPDATE: Adding credence to my theory, an unchastened White House is cool to the idea of passing “Aaron’s Law”, which would scale back criminal penalties for harmless terms-of-use violations.


Confiscation

February 9, 2013

Wow: the government requires raisin farmers to hand over half their crop, for no compensation.


Cashing out

February 9, 2013

The man who implemented Obamacare for the Obama administration is leaving government, to start a law practice exploiting the rules he wrote. He’s just one of many, many Obama administration officials that are cashing out.

Remember when Obama said he would end the revolving door? I do, barely.


A drop of sanity

January 30, 2013

An appeals court has ruled that the EPA cannot fine fuel producers for their failure to use a product that doesn’t exist.


Court turns back would-be thieves

January 30, 2013

A federal judge has rejected an effort by the Tewksbury P0lice Department and the US Department of Justice to steal the Motel Caswell. It’s been a long road for Russ Caswell. I noted the attempted travesty in October 2011.


Unlocking the rule of law

January 30, 2013

As of this week, it is now illegal to unlock your smartphone. Okay, that’s bad in and of itself, but what’s worse is how it happened:

Did Congress quietly pass a bill prohibiting smartphone unlocking and send it to President Obama’s autopen? No. What happened was the Librarian of Congress was empowered by the execrable Digital Millennium Copyright Act to decide what modifications of our own electronic devices we are permitted to perform. In short, Congress delegated the power to make law to this functionary, and last October he exercised his power to prohibit smartphone unlocking.

It is supposed to be unconstitutional for the Congress to delegate its legislative power, but the courts have been permitting it for a long time, provided Congress provides an “intelligible principle” for the delegate to use. This is a very bad thing.

It’s bad because the bar for an “intelligible principle” is now so low as to be meaningful. But more importantly, it’s bad because the limits of Congress’s time ought to be a safeguard against tyranny, but it’s not.

It used to be that Congress was a part-time job, but the workload of the average Congressional office has doubled every five years since 1935 (according to Senator James Buckley). That means more and more laws to burden the American people.

One might think that the absolute limit of 168 hours per week would cap the amount of rules that our legislature could generate, but not if they can delegate rule-making power to others. With delegated power, the government’s ability to generate new rules is literally unlimited.

With a limit, the government would be compelled to use its power selectively, and only address high priorities. Without a limit, government issues rules for absolutely the most trivial matters. (Yes, even for spilled milk.)

There ought to be no rule binding the American people that is not passed by Congress and signed by the president (or passed over his veto). This wouldn’t ensure that Congress would exercise good judgement, but at least it would require them to set priorities, and we could hold them accountable for every rule on the books.

UPDATE: Corrected the Congressional workload doubling period.


Bob Menendez in trouble

January 25, 2013

It’s not just Sen. Menendez’s staff that are in trouble with the law, Menendez himself is in big trouble:

Emails show FBI investigating Sen. Bob Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes

If true, and they seem to have considerable evidence, his actions were not just unethical, they were criminal in both the Dominican Republic and the United States:

The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18. The PROTECT Act, a U.S. law passed in 2003, made it a federal crime for Americans to engage in sex for money with anyone under 18, even in countries where the age of consent is lower.

What might save Menendez is the fact that Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, would appoint his replacement. Faced with losing a Senate seat, the Justice Department might try to make this thing go away. (Don’t tell me they wouldn’t. These people traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels.)

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: ABC News had Menendez on This Week, and never asked him about this.

UPDATE (3/6): The Washington Post briefly ran a story purporting to debunk this, but the Daily Caller de-debunked their story, and the Post seems to be backpedaling (somewhat dishonestly). We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds wants everyone to remember that Menendez has two scandals going at once, and the influence-peddling scandal is unchanged.


Appeals court eviscerates recess appointment power

January 25, 2013

The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint officers unilaterally during “the Recess” of the Senate:

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

For the first century-and-a-half, this was interpreted to mean that the president could make recess appointments during the period between Senate sessions, of which there were typically two during a two-year Congress. Since 1947, the president has assumed the additional power to make recess during intra-session breaks in the Senate’s business. This power has never been seriously challenged, until now.

For reasons of his own, President Obama decided to arrogate to himself the power to make recess appointments even when the Senate was in session, if he deemed that the Senate wasn’t doing any real work. If this were to hold up, it would give the president the power to bypass the Senate literally whenever he chose.

ASIDE: Obama justified this by an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel. That opinion was issued just two days before the first such appointment, and overruled a standing opinion to the contrary. That opinion was issued by his own administration, and was authored by Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice.

Obama’s decision to pick this fight now appears to be an unforced error of historic proportion.

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has issued a unanimous, devastating ruling. It correctly brushes aside the administration’s claim to be able to decide for itself whether the Senate is in session:

The fourth and final possible interpretation of “the Recess,” advocated by the Office of Legal Counsel, is a variation of the functional interpretation in which the President has discretion to determine that the Senate is in recess. . . This will not do. Allowing the President to define the scope of his own appointments power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers.

But it goes further. The ruling finds that the recess appointment power only applies during “the Recess” which is to say the period between Senate sessions. Thus, it excludes the power to make intra-session appointments that the president has enjoyed for the last sixty-odd years.

But it goes further still. The ruling also finds that the wording “that may happen” is significant, and requires that the vacancy come into being during the recess as well! (I believe this is correct, but I had little hope that a modern court would decide thus.)

Thus, President Obama has received his comeuppance in truly historic fashion. By trying to arrogate to himself a virtually unlimited recess appointment power, he has invited a ruling that instead makes that power very limited indeed. Constitution 1, Obama 0.

This isn’t the end. The ruling can and probably will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may scale back the ruling, at least in regard to “that may happen”, but I think it is unlikely to overturn the central holding.

POSTSCRIPT: Although it pales in relation to the Constitutional issues at stake, it’s also important what the ruling does, which is invalidate a full year of NLRB rulings.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin lists some of the NLRB rulings that will go away. A lot of bad stuff is being invalidated, like ambush elections and “micro-unions”.


Aaron’s Law

January 19, 2013

A new bill to be introduced into Congress would take contracts out of the sphere of criminal law, and put them back into civil law, where they belong. Lawrence Lessig explains why that’s important.


Palestinian Authority admits to terrorism, but never mind

January 19, 2013

Everyone knows that the Palestinian Authority engages in terrorism against Israel, so it’s interesting but not so surprising that there exist legal documents proving that:

The document — accidentally handed over to lawyers suing the [Palestinian Authority] for $300 million on behalf of the teens’ parents — reveals a “close relationship” between the bomber and a captain in the Palestinian Authority security forces who planned the terror attack, court papers say.

The two-page memo, written in April 2012 by Maj. Ziad Abu Hamid of the authority’s General Intelligence Service, also details “at least six other critical facts” about the 2002 bombing and “clearly establishes the defendants’ material support and liability.”

But from there the story gets weird:

But Washington, DC, federal Judge Richard Leon ordered the memo returned or destroyed after the authority’s lawyers claimed it was “privileged and protected” information.

(Via the Corner.)