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16 May 2013

Operation: Punish Our Enemies: Not Just Another 'Garden-Variety' Washington Scandal

(h/t Uncle Joe Biden for the 'garden variety' label.  What your IRS has done is certainly no 'garden variety slap' across the faces of the American people)

Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

By Peggy Noonan

We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they're seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration's credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don't look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone.

Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed.

As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president's answers when he's pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not.

The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally unconnected to him. He's shocked, it's unacceptable, he'll get to the bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you.

But he is not unconnected, he is not a bystander. This is his administration. Those are his executive agencies. He runs the IRS and the Justice Department.

A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is to too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town.

The IRS scandal has two parts. The first is the obviously deliberate and targeted abuse, harassment and attempted suppression of conservative groups. The second is the auditing of the taxes of political activists.

In order to suppress conservative groups—at first those with words like "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names, then including those that opposed ObamaCare or advanced the second amendment—the IRS demanded donor rolls, membership lists, data on all contributions, names of volunteers, the contents of all speeches made by members, Facebook posts, minutes of all meetings, and copies of all materials handed out at gatherings. Among its questions: What are you thinking about? Did you ever think of running for office? Do you ever contact political figures? What are you reading? One group sent what it was reading: the U.S. Constitution.

The second part of the scandal is the auditing of political activists who have opposed the administration. The Journal's Kim Strassel reported an Idaho businessman named Frank VanderSloot, who'd donated more than a million dollars to groups supporting Mitt Romney. He found himself last June, for the first time in 30 years, the target of IRS auditors. His wife and his business were also soon audited. Hal Scherz, a Georgia physician, also came to the government's attention. He told ABC News: "It is odd that nothing changed on my tax return and I was never audited until I publicly criticized ObamaCare." Franklin Graham, son of Billy, told Politico he believes his father was targeted. A conservative Catholic academic who has written for these pages faced questions about her meager freelance writing income. Many of these stories will come out, but not as many as there are. People are not only afraid of being audited, they're afraid of saying they were audited.

All of these IRS actions took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. They constitute the use of governmental power to intrude on the privacy and shackle the political freedom of American citizens. The purpose, obviously, was to overwhelm and intimidate—to kill the opposition, question by question and audit by audit.

It is not even remotely possible that all this was an accident, a mistake. Again, only conservative groups were targeted, not liberal. It is not even remotely possible that only one IRS office was involved. Lois Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, was the person who finally acknowledged, under pressure of a looming investigative report, some of what the IRS was doing. She told reporters the actions were the work of "frontline people" in Cincinnati. But other offices were involved, including Washington. It is not even remotely possible the actions were the work of just a few agents. This was more systemic. It was an operation. The word was out: Get the Democratic Party's foes. It is not remotely possible nobody in the IRS knew what was going on until very recently. The Washington Post reported efforts to target the conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency by May 2012—far earlier than the agency had acknowledged. Reuters reported high-level IRS officials, including its chief counsel, knew in August 2011 about the targeting.

The White House is reported to be shellshocked at public reaction to the scandal. But why? Were they so high-handed, so essentially ignorant, that they didn't understand what it would mean to the American people when their IRS—the revenue-collecting arm of the U.S. government—is revealed as a low, ugly and bullying tool of the reigning powers? If they didn't know how Americans would react to that, what did they know? I mean beyond Harvey Weinstein's cellphone number.

And why—in the matters of the Associated Press and Benghazi too—does no one in this administration ever take responsibility? Attorney General Eric Holder doesn't know what happened, exactly who did what. The president speaks in the passive voice. He attempts to act out indignation, but he always seems indignant at only one thing: that he's being questioned at all. That he has to address this. That fate put it on his plate.

We all have our biases. Mine is for a federal government that, for all the partisan shootouts on the streets of Washington, is allowed to go about its work. That it not be distracted by scandal, that political disagreement be, in the end, subsumed to the common good. It is a dangerous world: Calculating people wish to do us harm. In this world no draining, unproductive scandals should dominate the government's life. Independent counsels should not often come in and distract the U.S. government from its essential business.

But that bias does not fit these circumstances.

What happened at the IRS is the government's essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position's powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don't, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn't stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.

And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It's not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.

The IRS’s Curious Immunity:  It’s worse than the PATRIOT Act. 

By Charles CW Cooke

Cast your minds back to the great PATRIOT Act freakout of 2001, during which Americans were reminded hourly that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and Benjamin Franklin’s famous line about liberty and safety seemed to have been emblazoned onto every last protest sign.

Back then, government overreach was distinctly uncouth. “If the events of September 11, 2001, have proven anything,” comedian Jon Stewart lamented, “it’s that the terrorists can attack us, but they can’t take away what makes us American — our freedom, our liberty, our civil rights.” He paused: “Only Attorney General John Ashcroft can do that.”

Ashcroft and the PATRIOT Act were widely disparaged by critics who warned of an imminent descent into tyranny. But one detail in particular was singled out for discussion: “Library patrons in Santa Cruz are seeing a new type of sign these days: a warning that records of the books they borrow may wind up in the hands of federal agents,” warned the San Francisco Chronicle. Why? Because, as Salon’s Christopher Dreher noted, “the USA PATRIOT Act gives the government broad new powers to seize library and bookstore records — and prevents librarians and booksellers from complaining.”

When interest in this provision exploded, the American Library Association put out a statement: “The American Library Association believes that freedom of expression is an inalienable human right, necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance of oppression, and crucial to the cause of justice, and further, that the principles of freedom of expression should be applied by libraries and librarians throughout the world.”

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) joined in, complaining that the Act was “an open door for government to browse into our records.” Leaping into action, the ACLU ran an entire fundraising drive on this issue, adding that now “your medical records, records and lists of individuals who belong to political organizations are also fair game for the government to seize.” And, when the FBI first used the PATRIOT Act in 2005 to get information from a library, the New York Times covered the story in detail.

Opposing the Act in Congress, Senator Russ Feingold (D., Wis.) contended that the measure would keep “records of what books someone has taken out of the library.” After it passed overwhelmingly, Vermont’s independent senator, Bernie Sanders, sought to repeal the provision. This was the first change to the Act to be proposed in the Senate. And one Senator Barack Obama, contributing to the reauthorization debate in 2006, characterized the law as having “powers it didn’t need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.”

None of this is to say that these groups were wrong. America was swept up in reaction after a despicable act of terror and, in such times, dissenting voices are imperative. As with all government, the Department of Homeland Security posits a potential threat to liberty and its implications must be discussed. Moreover, the PATRIOT Act is problematic and many conservatives are unfortunately blind to some of those problems. But it is peculiar how selectively government departments are called on their potency. Where are the reformers and the dissidents now that the IRS has been caught playing games with its considerable power? Is it still beyond the pale to suggest that the problem lies at the very root of the income tax itself?  Discussing the work of the IRS, Politico reports:

The Internal Revenue Service asked tea party groups to see donor rolls.

It asked for printouts of Facebook posts.

What else? Oh, yes:

And it asked what books people were reading.

As a matter of fundamental principle, I fail to understand why people putatively concerned with privacy are so comfortable with having to report to the government the details of everything they earn — and to explain how they earned it, from whom, where, and when — but so terrified at the prospect of the state’s discovering that they’ve been reading Dan Brown.

Certainly, the requirement that certain “social welfare” groups justify their eligibility if they intend to take advantage of exemptions from the tax code is a reasonable one. Moreover, to have an income tax is inevitably to have an IRS. But, given this, what explains the comfort with the income tax in the first place? Why is the IRS less worrying to the Left than is the DHS?

Especially in light of this abuse, why is the ACLU not calling for the creation of a tax system that does not require individuals casually to share so much private information with the state? If national-security concerns, as Feingold insisted, cannot trump privacy, then why can the state’s economic convenience?

Both the IRS and the DHS may ask pretty much whatever they please, and both may conduct capricious and invasive investigations without too much in the way of probable cause or oversight. But if anything, the IRS is considerably the more intrusive of the two — and it is set to become even more so as Obamacare wraps its ugly tentacles around us all. As a matter of course, I am required annually to hand over a great deal of my personal information to the state, not because I have done anything wrong but as a condition of my existing and earning a living. Contrarily, I will likely come into the DHS’s purview only if I do something wrong, if they target the wrong person, or if the security services cast too wide a net. When they next expire in 2015, the more worrying components of the PATRIOT Act should certainly be revisited and expunged. But, while they should not be on the statute books, it remains true that these components have almost never been used. The IRS, meanwhile, abuses its power daily. Where is the conniption?

It’s not just books. USA Today reports that the IRS asked the tea-party groups for the “names of donors,” for “a list of all issues that are important to the organization” (along with the organization’s “position regarding such issues”), for records of conversations members had, and for information as to whether members had any intention of running for public office. As my colleague Andrew Stiles recorded yesterday, the IRS even went so far as to instruct a teacher within a conservative educational group to “to identify the students I’m teaching and what I’m teaching them.”

Vigilance, we are told, is the eternal price of liberty. Without doubt, our overzealous security regime deserves our attention. Still, while we’re at it, we might stop ignoring the monster in our midst.

Richard Milhous Obama


ObamaCare critics report IRS harassment after being reported to
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Stockman Tuesday asked two House chairmen to investigate allegations individuals reported to a White House email address for criticizing Obama’s health care reforms were targeted with Internal Revenue Service audits.

During the debate over adopting ObamaCare the White House encouraged liberal activists to report Obama’s critics to a “” email address.  At least one of those reported tells editor Erick Erickson he was then targeted with audits.  “Remember that website Obama set up to report neighbors who opposed Obamacare? A friend reported himself and got audited shortly thereafter,” Erickson tweeted May 13.

“We need to know if there were any others.  This certainly fits the rapidly-expanding pattern of people who criticize Obama suddenly finding themselves targeted by the IRS,” said Stockman.  “Obama’s IRS scandal is spreading like a cancer.”

“Government reforms adopted after Watergate prohibit the White House from coordinating with the IRS to target citizens.  We know White House critics were targeted by the IRS.  We know the White House maintained an active enemies list through  Investigators must find out how targets were picked and what, if any, White House personnel knew about it,” said Stockman.

Stockman has asked the House Ways and Means, and Government Reform and Oversight, Committees to seek answers to three questions:

1)    Were any individuals or groups reported to later subjected to IRS audits?

2)    If so, were the audits politically motivated?

3)    If the audits were politically motivated, did the White House violate federal laws prohibiting such coordination?

“Obama’s Nixonian demand that his followers provide him with an enemies list is even more disturbing in light of the IRS’ admitted wrongdoing,” said Stockman

The IRS admits targeting conservative groups with harassment, a practice which has since been revealed to be far more widespread than previously admitted.  Officials in the Washington, D.C. and California offices also admit targeting conservative groups.  

Jewish organizations also report IRS harassment after criticizing the President, and a St. Louis reporter has also come forward to allege he was also targeted by the IRS after asking Obama tough questions.

The text of the letter follows:

May 14, 2013

The Honorable Darrell Issa
Chairman, House Government Oversight and Reform Committee
2157 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Dave Camp
Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee
1102 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Esteemed Chairmen:

As you recall, during the congressional deliberations over ObamaCare the White House urged liberal activists to report the President’s critics to

The recent admission, and new revelations, the Internal Revenue Service engaged in politically-motivated harassment of conservative groups shines a disturbing new light on this and other White House efforts to target private citizens who question Barack Obama’s policies.

Since the these revelations of IRS wrongdoing several individuals and groups have claimed they were audited by the IRS after being reported to the White House’s “Flag” email address.

As the scope of the IRS scandal expands on what seems to be an hourly basis, both the Ways & Means and Government Oversight & Reform Committees should seek answers to three important questions.

1)    Were any individuals or groups reported to later subjected to IRS audits?

2)    If so, were the audits politically motivated?

3)    If the audits were politically motivated, did the White House violate federal laws prohibiting such coordination?

Citizens deserve to know just how far the IRS went in trying to silence critics of the President, and just who directed the abuses.

I trust your Committee will seek thorough answers to these questions and expose any and all wrongdoing and abuses of power, no matter how high they reach.

Warmest wishes,

Member of Congress

 Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office

By John Parkinson and Steve Portnoy
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.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Grant announced today that he would retire June 3, despite being appointed as commissioner of the tax-exempt office May 8, a week ago.

As the House voted to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act Thursday evening, House Speaker John Boehner expressed “serious concerns” that the IRS is empowered as the law’s chief enforcer.

“Fully repealing ObamaCare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

“Obamacare empowers the agency that just violated the public’s trust by secretly targeting conservative groups,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “Even by Washington’s standards, that’s unacceptable.”

Sen. John Cornyn even introduced a bill, the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” which would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate, including the IRS, from enforcing the Affordable Care Act.

“Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care,” Cornyn, R-Texas, stated. “I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also reacted to the revelation late Thursday, stating the news was “stunning, just stunning.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As usual Soph, great stuff. I'm just to the extent of lurking at HA and Ace these days. Good to see INC over there, too. Praise be.

The good works, et al.