Monday, May 13, 2013

Pull another one

How gloriously ironic it is that the IRS officials targeting conservative groups applying for nonprofit status for extra-intrusive scrutiny singled out groups that wanted to "educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution." Perhaps those IRS workers should have headed to some Tea Party rallies themselves just to find out a bit more about the Constitution themselves.

We're being told that this was all being done by some low-level staffers in Cincinnati who determined for themselves that they would target conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And this was all the result, of course of the Citizens United decision because that led to the a burgeoning of political groups filing for being a tax-exempt status. But the IRS didn't target all such groups, just the conservative ones.
On June 29, 2011, according to the documents, IRS staffers held a briefing with Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” She raised an objection, and the agency adopted a more general set of standards. Lerner, who is a Democrat, is not a political appointee.

But six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to social welfare groups, the document says. On Jan. 15, 2012, the agency decided to look at “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement,” according to the appendix in the IG’s report.
Just in case you were wondering what the IRS was asking such groups, Mary Katharine Ham has rounded up a selection of "10 crazy things the IRS asked Tea Party groups." When you look at the questions being asked, remember that these were nonprofit groups that had to now hire lawyers, accountants, and staffers to round up all this information. That was all money and time that couldn't be spent by the 298 targeted groups on their chosen tasks of rallying people against the dangers of an expanded government that would include an increasingly powerful IRS.
Toby Marie Walker, president of the Waco Tea Party, said the IRS subjected her group to a series of unreasonable requests after it applied for tax-exempt status in June 2010. The requests came in early 2012, Walker said, after being initially informed by an official in the Cincinnati field office that he was “sitting on a stack of tea party applications and they were awaiting word from higher-ups as to how to process them.”

The agency asked the group’s treasurer to supply information on its “close relationship” with current candidates and elected officials as well as future candidates, along with detailed information about its contributors and members. It also asked for transcripts of any radio interviews its officials had done and hard copies of any news articles mentioning them.

“That would take me years to do,” Walker said, noting that in some cases, Chinese media outlets referred to her organization. “Am I responsible for every news article across the globe?”

The group had even more difficulty providing transcripts and details of speakers at its events, since they hosted informal gatherings such as “rant contests” where anyone could come and express their views.

If this whole story doesn't chill you about the misuse of the government's taxing power, remember that the IRS has a major role in implementing Obamacare.

I'd read about the complaints about the IRS targeting from conservative groups a couple of years ago in conservative media. Yet it took an Inspector's General Report two years later for this story to break through to the MSM. And we are supposed to believe that this was being done without senior officials knowing about it or doing anything about. The IG report blasts that excuse.
The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.

But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog's report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with "Tea Party," ''Patriot" or "9/12 Project" in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
So when the head of the IRS, a Bush appointee, testified in March of 2012 that no such targeting was going on. Well, why not? Once such allegations arose, why wouldn't senior IRS officials be extra-diligent in tracking down the story and making sure they stopped such an outrageous policy? Why did it take two years for the IG to investigate this and get a complete picture of what was going on? The evidence was all there for anyone to find out. It would seem that it would take only a few weeks to track down what was going on if it was all supposedly centered in one off ice in Cincinnati. Could it be that they wanted to extend this through the 2012 election. The chief counsel of the IRS knew about this back in August of 2011.
Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS' Rulings and Agreements office "held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue."
Yet the chief counsel didn't inform other senior officials what was going on or even brief the IRS Commissioner what was going on even though several Congressional committees were writing him to ask what was going on.

You can imagine what would have happened if this story had broken out in October of 2012? Just as the administration stonewalled to keep the true story on Benghazi coming out before the election, apparently, senior IRS officials kept this story buried. As John Hinderaker writes,
So the harassment of conservative groups began much earlier than the IRS told us yesterday, when the agency’s spokesman said the improper conduct occurred “during the 2012 election.” As I wrote yesterday, I was skeptical about that since I had heard of the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS well before the 2012 campaign season.

It now appears that this is one more scandal that the Obama administration managed to keep quiet until after November’s election. One wonders how many more skeletons will come tumbling out of the closet, now that Obama is safely re-elected.
As National Review writes, there are at least three problems with what the IRS did.
There are at least three separate categories of wrongdoing here. The first is the targeting of groups that were believed to be critical of the Obama administration or the federal government in general. The second is the demanding of information that was irrelevant to the tax-status questions at hand, which would have been wrong even if the practice had been applied evenhandedly across the political spectrum. The third is the misleading of Congress and the public about these practices....This episode is not the only reason we have had to question the rectitude of the IRS’s conduct in recent years. Somehow, Mitt Romney’s tax returns managed to be leaked, as did documents from American Crossroads, the organization associated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. The misuse of confidential IRS documents is a crime, and a serious one.

To target individuals and organizations because of their political and religious beliefs is a serious offense to our constitutional order. To use federal employees, offices, and records to do so is the misappropriation of government funds and other resources.

The IRS is a bureau of the Treasury Department, which means that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew bears some responsibility here, though the bulk of the misdeeds seem to have been done before his tenure. Rather than disclosing these actions voluntarily, the IRS has attempted to hide them and to obscure the culpability of its employees. Lois Lerner told National Review on Friday that no disciplinary action had been taken against any employee, and then retracted that statement, saying that she would not discuss the subject. But disciplinary action — at least — is clearly called for. The IRS’s failure to be fully forthcoming on this issue, and the lack of satisfactory steps toward reform and transparency, must weigh substantially upon our evaluation of Lew’s leadership.
The Washington Free Beacon reminds us of other ways that the IRS has been targeting President Obama's political opponents such as publicly releasing confidential IRS information on Koch Industries and targeting donors to conservative public advocacy groups. And the IRS claims that it can read people's emails without a warrant. What a comforting thought.

When the Abu Ghraib story broke out, liberals didn't make excuses for the administration by saying that it was all being done by a few clowns on night duty at the prison thinking it was funny to take pictures humiliating enemies taken prisoner in Iraq. The criticism extended up and down the military. Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign in the wake of the scandal. Instead we're being told that it took two years for senior IRS officials to figure out what low-level staffers were doing in Cincinnati. Pull another one.