Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cruising the Web

If you had doubt that the IRS was acting in a purely ideological way and was just checking out all 501(c)(4) application, check out the information from USA Today detailing how conservative groups would wait two or more years to get their tax exempt status approved, but liberal groups with words like "Progress" or "Progressive" in their names got approved in just a few months. Lois Lerner, the head of the office granting tax-exempt status, even granted retroactive tax-exempt status in a month to a fraudulent charity established by President Obama's half-brother.

And a conservative group could get their application approved lickety-split if they slapped a liberal-sounding name on their organization.

Brian Walsh writes in the US News that Senate Democrats had been pressing the IRS to take just the sorts of partisan activities that the IRS indeed did engage in.
Over the last three years, Democratic senators repeatedly and publicly pressured the IRS to engage in the very activities that they are only now condemning today. At the same time, Republicans repeatedly and publicly warned against this abuse of government power and pointed to a series of red flags that strongly suggested conservative political organizations were being targeted by the IRS. Those warnings were deliberately ignored by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress....

The same Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee [Max Baucus] who this week is calling for hearings into IRS activities, specifically called on the IRS to engage in that very conduct back in 2010. And he wasn't the only one. Just last year, a group of seven Senate Democrats sent another letter to the IRS urging them to similarly investigate these outside political organizations....

So lost amid the hubbub surrounding the news that the IRS engaged in McCarthyite tactics to target specific political groups, and their subsequent apology for those tactics, has been the fact that the lobbying campaign from Senate Democrats actually worked.

From Max Baucus to Chuck Schumer to Jeanne Shaheen, key Senate Democrats publicly pressured the IRS to target groups that held differing political views and who, in their view, had the temerity to engage in the political process. The IRS listened to them and acted. And other Democrat senators like Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor said and did nothing about it.
And don't buy the line that the IRS is a non-partisan organization. It is populated by political partisans.
The Cincinnati office where the political targeting took place is much more partisan, judging by FEC filings. More than 75 percent of the campaign contributions from that office in the past three elections went to Democrats. In 2012, every donation traceable to employees at that office went to either President Obama or liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The IRS officials whose names appear in the IG report are also Democrats with partisan histories. William Wilkins, IRS general counsel and one of the agency's two explicitly political appointees, is a former Democratic congressional aide, lobbyist (clients included the Swiss Bankers Association), and Democratic donor.

Joseph H. Grant, who ran the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division that includes the Cincinnati office, is a former Democratic staffer on the House Ways & Means Committee.

Many dedicated and professional civil servants serve the IRS. But the recent revelations still aren't surprising. If you give people the terrifying power to tax and the right to police political speech, some partisans will abuse that power.
John Hinderaker summarizes the multi-faceted aspects of the IRS scandal. Here is yet another element of the partisanship exercised by the IRS with the story that "[t]he Internal Revenue Service allegedly told an Iowa pro-life group they had to sign documents promising not to protest or picket Planned Parenthood and they told a Texas pro-life organization they had to promote abortion."

Jay Cost examines how Obama's main strategy throughout his political career has been to mobilize bias to "convince fickle swing voters that the opposition is just no good." A president who relies on a strategy of demonizing his opponents is not one who can achieve bipartisan compromise.

Er, yes. This is why cabinet secretaries cannot be soliciting donations from the very businesses they regulate.
But several executives said they were uncomfortable with the discussions because the federal government has the power to approve or reject the health plans they want to sell in insurance markets that will be run by federal officials in more than 30 states.
Yet that is exactly what Kathleen Sebelius was doing to pressure insurance companies to donate to Enroll America, a group set up to support Obamacare and run by a former Sebelius aide. And this is just another example of how Kathleen Sebelius has been misusing power for the sake of enacting her chosen policies.

This is what crony government looks like:
Political allies — think Solyndra and unions — get special goodies, while those who oppose the regime’s agenda are demonized and singled out for scrutiny. The IRS targeting of groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names and those that advocate less spending smacks of the tactics of banana republic strongmen. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro would be proud.

Ah, the irony: “At least in the Nixon administration, using the word ‘patrioitic’ did not put you on the enemies list.”

So if the DOJ had an overarching warrant to find out whom hundreds of AP reporters were talking to on the phone, are they also going after the New York Times for their story on the Stuxnet? The DOJ won't answer.

Oh, dear. Chris Matthews' leg just isn't tingling in quite the same way this week.

Apparently, Jay-Z is a dead-ringer for some guy hanging out near the NY Public Library in 1939. Or he is a member of the Illuminati. Or he time-traveled to do research for The Great Gatsby though, if that was how he showed up in the photo, he picked the wrong decade.

Nate Silver has five criteria to determine whether a political scandal will resonate in an election. By those criteria, the IRS scandal could hurt Democrats next year.

As the editor of a non-profit magazine, Commentary, John Podhoretz well knows the chilling effect that IRS questions on a n application for tax-exempt status.
Trust me. I know. I run a nonprofit called Commentary Inc. We publish a monthly magazine and a Web site dedicated to conservative ideas. In 2009, we went through a year-long investigation of our tax status. If we had lost it, Commentary would’ve closed.

Some looking for a bright side, or a way out of the scandal, point out that all scrutinized groups were reportedly granted their nonprofit status. We have no reason to believe these early reports are true.

But even if they are, undergoing this kind of scrutiny is the opposite of painless for the organizations in question. It’s immensely time-consuming, it’s invasive, it’s intrusive and it’s intimidating — seemingly on purpose.

David French, a lawyer who has represented some of the groups in question, points out that a Tennessee group was asked to list “each past or present board member, officer, key employee and members of their families”who had served on the board of another organization — and has been or plans to be a candidate for public office. Members of their families?

You may imagine this is a violation of free-speech rights. It’s not. You don’t have a right to a tax exemption, and the IRS has almost unlimited power to deny it to your group.

So you must cooperate, and provide immense amounts of information, and hire legal counsel and eat up dozens if not hundreds of hours of work time that could have been spent furthering your cause.

And that is the political brilliance behind the effort — for which all due cynical respect needs to be paid to whomever came up with this BOLO tie in the first place.

President Obama, who condemned the IRS scrutiny yesterday, loves to complain that politicians making arguments against him are engaging in “distraction.” Siccing the IRS on people who are pursuing ideas contrary to the interests of the sitting administration is the politics of distraction in its purest and most disturbing form.
Why would conservatives be suspicious of the Obama administration in connection with the IRS scandal? Perhaps because of claims that the IRS leaked details about Mitt Romney's tax returns.

And in addition to targeting conservative groups who were against the growing size of government, the IRS also targeted groups that supported Israel.
Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS in 2010 alleging that one of its attorneys were told its application for tax exemption was delayed and sent to a “special unit…to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
That is just one of the details that was left out of the IG's report. And Michelle Malkin reminds us of other stories of Democrats using the power of government to go after their political foes.

And don't believe that the IRS had to implement this extra scrutiny because of a big increase in such applications with the birth of the Tea Party. The IRS began their extra scrutiny before the increase in applications began.

Megan McArdle totally destroys the argument that the IRS had to target Tea Party groups because so many applications for 501(c)(4) applications were coming in at one time.
The real scandal is that the IRS doesn't understand statistics The main defense seems to be that well, there was a big explosion of 501(c)(4) groups after the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that the free speech rights granted to citizens under the constitution extended to the groups that those people agreed to form, and that therefore the McCain-Feingold restrictions on corporate spending around election time were unconstitutional. And because the Tea Party was forming right around that time, those groups tended to be disproportionately conservative.

As a defense, this is terrible. Essentially, they're arguing that the IRS was using "Tea Party" and "Patriot" as proxies to search for groups formed after Citizens United. But you don't use a proxy when you have the ability to search on the actual variable. It's like assembling a complete database of medical records in order to study lung disease, and then deciding to search based on smoking history rather than lung cancer and emphysema diagnoses. It just makes no sense.

As I wrote yesterday, if they were worried about the post-CU explosion, they could have searched on the date the application was filed. If it's actually true that most of the groups that formed up then were a) conservative and b) illegally electioneering, a search on the date would naturally have turned up lots of illegal, conservative electioneers. We can tell just how bad their methods were by the fact that they didn't end up finding any illegality, just unnecessarily hassling groups for a couple of years.
And she corrects those who hate these independent groups and think they shouldn't be pressuring the government.
It's true that 501(c)(4) organizations are supposed to promote "social welfare", but these days, most people have decided that the best way to promote social welfare is to lobby the government to do something about it. That's why the Sierra Club, the Human Rights Campaign, and Organizing for Action (essentially an extension of Obama's campaign) can all be organized under this section of the tax code.
The administration is still misleading the public when they blame the anti-Muslim video for the riots in Cairo on the same day as the attacks on Benghazi. That was another post-hoc explanation that the administration manufactured.

Jon Stewart takes on students planning to attend college.

The White House staff is hunkering down with Democratic strategists to come out with a strategy to control scandalpalooza. Keep an eye out for a coordinated attempts to blame this all on Republicans and anonymous career bureaucrats.

And let's not forget the document dump of the Benghazi talking points memos last night. As Stephen Hayes explains, the emails directly contradict what Hillary Clinton and Jay Carney had told the public.

This is a beautiful story about the most important deal that Monty Hall ever made.