If the IRS was really interested in cleaning up the issue of political groups abusing tax-exempt status to conduct partisan warfare, what kind of groups would they go after? Which targets would give more bang for the buck, almost literally? Hint: It would be those groups that accrue enough resources to have a large impact — the major players in the 501s that raise large amounts of cash through deductible donations and then turn those assets into regional or national campaigns. Smaller players wouldn’t really be worth it … if reform and justice are your primary motivations.
And yet, the IRS effort between 2010 and the presidential election last November exclusively targeted small start-ups opposed to the administration’s agenda whileleaving the big players alone, the Associated Press reports today:
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 that were most influential in the elections and are organized under a section of the tax code that allows them to hide their donors.
“The IRS goes AWOL when wealthy and powerful forces want to break the law in order to hide their wrongful efforts and secret political influence,” said Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat who is among a small Senate group pushing campaign finance reform measures that would force these big outside groups to disclose their donors. “Picking on the little guy is a pretty lousy thing to do.”
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity were among those that spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts to help Republicans. Democrats were aided in similar fashion by Priorities USA, made up of former Barack Obama campaign aides, and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, an opposition research group led by a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
And yet those groups so far have escaped investigations into whether they have crossed the blurry line under the law between what constitutes a tax-exempt “social welfare” organization that is free from donor reporting requirements and a political committee subject to taxes and disclosures.
Why might that be? Groups like American Crossroads and Priorities USA can afford to defend themselves, even if we entertain for a moment the fantasy that this IRS would go after a group of former Obama advisers. Bullies don’t pick on those who can effectively defend themselves. Also, these groups get a lot of attention, and starting a war with Karl Rove would have exposed this effort a lot more quickly than anyone in the IRS or the Obama administration might have wanted.
Had these enforcement efforts actually been legitimate, the IRS would have wantedthat kind of attention. The fact that they actively avoided accruing it speaks volumes about its perceived legitimacy even among its perpetrators.
This tells us, then, that the IRS wanted to target conservative groups who couldn’t afford to defend themselves, and who could be easily intimidated out of organizing for their agendas. That’s not a strategy for reform or enforcement, but simply a brute-force bullying effort in order to sideline grassroots opposition to the current administration. Contra the AP, that’s not irony at all, but corruption and abuse.
Even those hardly sympathetic to the victims in this case are making that case. Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley from New York told Fox News that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman lied to Congress when he denied any of these activities were taking place:
Following the House’s opening investigative hearing into the IRS’s revelation that it gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Crowley was asked if he believed Douglas Shulman lied to Congress.
“I think Mr. Shulman did,” said Crowley in an interview with Fox News. “My understanding is that it was common knowledge if they were going after political groups back then.”
Crowley was referencing a 2012 House Ways and Means Committee hearing in which Shulman, in response to questions from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), held that the IRS was not targeting specific groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“There’s absolutely no targeting,” said Shulman at the time.
The encounter raised suspicions for Boustany as well, who recounted the incident during the same interview with Crowley.
“He said, absolutely not. He categorically denied it,” recalled Boustany on Friday. “But he was aware of what was going on during this time frame because we know that [a] senior technical advisor had already been sent out to Cincinnati to investigate what was going on and to report back.”
Lying to Congress in the course of a committee hearing and/or investigation is a felony whether under oath or not, which carries a potential five-year sentence. Perhaps Shulman might have some interesting revisions to add to his two earlier appearances before Congress on this matter, especially if it becomes clear that either the Department of Justice or (more likely) a special prosecutor has a room at Club Fed in mind for him.
via Hot Air
A 3-D printed drone is shot down by insurgents near a far-flung base manned by the U.S. military. Within hours, a small lab dropped onto the base by a helicopter days before churns out a replacement — along with plenty of ammunition and reinforced shelters for the troops. A few miles off a nearby coastline, a naval ship-turned-factory harvests resources from the sea and uses on-board printers to make everything from food to replacement organs.
It’s a far-out vision for future combat, but at least one naval officer thinks it could happen. According to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Llenza, who sketched out the scenario in the latest Armed Forces Journal, 3-D printing could arguably “upend the way we think about supply chains, sea basing and even maritime strategy.” And by we, Llenza doesn’t just mean Americans. The Chinese military is already bragging about how they are printing parts for their next-gen aircraft.
Aside from drones — which have already been printed — ammunition could potentially be produced with the machines, as the casings would be “relatively easy,” he writes. (The Pentagon would just have to find a way to produce the propellants.) Additive manufacturing also “offers a new way to think about building shelters or other structures on a beachhead or forward operating base.” The hope, as the theory goes, is that large-scale investments in 3-D printing could take a lot of strain off the supply lines modern military forces depend on to survive.
None of this amounts to the official position of the Pentagon, but publications like the Armed Forces Journal serve as influential arenas where many theories and ideas from military officers — some which are later incorporated — are first put up for debate. And it’s no surprise the potential (and existing) military uses of 3-D printers has been getting a lot of recent ink.
In April, Navy lieutenants Scott Cheney-Peters and Matthew Hipple sketched out a theoretical future Navy in the widely read U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings that imagined ships capable ofharvesting the oceans for 3-D printing material, and floating factories capable of manufacturing repair parts for a fleet of ships. Even shipyards, the authors wrote, could be effectively converted into giant 3-D printers. Llenza, who is also a Senior Naval Fellow at the non-partisan Atlantic Council, has taken that concept and run with it.
But there are also dangers, he warns…
“Can you name ONE of the conservative groups that were “improperly targeted” which ACTUALLY fits the description for 501(C)4 status?”
Observers like andrewkletzien are in the unfortunate position of defending the IRS. Pretending the IRS was acting correctly and honorably. Why?
Because they’re abusing power in ways they approve of, against groups they disapprove of.
Convenient, isn’t it?
For the uninitiated, what’s being suggesting is this:
The IRS was simply doing its job. Because these Conservative groups, boy, their motives are questionable. Or outright illegitimate. Better set them aside for special scrutiny. Put the screws to them. They’re gaming the system. Better flag them. Surely they’re up to something sinister.
The sheer stupidity of this is extremely revealing. Note: for 27 months, leading up to the 1012 election, all of the Conservative and Tea Party groups were blocked from approval. Not just some of them. Or half of them. Or most of them. All of them.
But hey, it could be just a coincidence. Due diligence, on the part of IRS. Hey, they’re just doing their job, right? Up until recently, the taxpaying American public didn’t fully understand what the IRS’s real job is. The folks at the IRS had no illusions, they understood. And they carried out their mission. Being called upon to explain it to Congress–who they hold in contempt—is a mere inconvenience, not worthy of picking out matching socks, much less preparing an honest presentation. This is business as usual. They still have bonus checks they probably haven’t cashed. This isn’t grounds for punishment, they’re rewarded for this. For doing their real job.
For the record, concerned citizens on any side of the ideological spectrum, if they’re honest, are equally concerned, if any group is targeted and harassed for political reasons. Conservatives would object–perhaps not as vocally, but they’d recognize the implications, and voice objections– if Liberal and Progressive groups were harassed and denied, while Conservative applications were mysteriously approved. It’s chilling. It’s a texbook intimidation tactic. More characteristic of second-rate tin-horn Military Dictatorships, not Constitutional Democratic Republics.
The overwhelming majority of fair-minded Liberals are alarmed by the pattern of harassment against Conservative groups, and object vigorously in their defense. andrewkletzien is not among them, apparently.
If a Republican were in the White House, and the IRS was targeting and harassing Liberal groups, they’d be screaming bloody murder. Charging that it’s unfair, calling it what it is: an Enemies List.
And they’d be right.
Why the double standard?
Applicants with Liberal or Progressive or green-sounding names were passed through, given approval. According to the current ruling class, progressive-sounding applicants are the “good guys”, with pure motives. And given less scrutiny.
As the investigation unfolds, I wouldn’t be surprised if Progressive applicants weren’t just approved, but given privileged status. Herded into the fast-lane on the seal-of-approval conveyor belt, given a merit badge, and an ice cream cone.
The best example of this double standard: in one case, a Conservative group’s application got the customary pointless runaround, endless delays, and failed to get approval. Its founder got tired of waiting. Then reapplied, after adopting an intentionally-misleading, but more favorable-sounding name “Greenhouse”. Viola! — quick approval. The group’s politics were unchanged. Only the name.
The IRS’s dishonesty is self-evident. The pattern of abuse is transparent.
No group should be targeted based on politics, obviously, it’s wrong either way. The process has to be neutral. Otherwise the IRS is breaking the law, abusing its power, and violating the rights of citizens. Period.
But—if you can be seduced into directly or indirectly supporting of that kind of systematic abuse, because it suits your political agenda—well, good luck when you get screwed.
The irony is: in America, even your opponents would come to your defense, object to the abuse, and support your equal rights. Which is more than can be said andrewkletzien.
Statists love big powerful government agencies. Especially when they abuse power and wield authority in ways that’s favorable for them, but
criminally abusive inconvenient for their enemies. But when it goes the other way, and their rights are abused? If their special political causes are targeted for harassment, oh, that’s a different story. Now they’re victims.
Next to being a proud supporter of a Federal Agency with the power to harass and abuse political enemies, the most precious status symbol a big-government advocate can have is being an oppressed victim.
(CNSNews.com) – 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.
I expect that as the firestorm heats up, the IRS will release some relatively harmless stuff, and serve up a couple of low-level human sacrifices. Only time will tell if it works.
A limited hangout, or partial hangout, is a public relations or propaganda techniquethat involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details. It takes the form of deception, misdirection, orcoverup often associated with intelligence agencies involving a release or “mea culpa” type of confession of only part of a set of previously hidden sensitive information, that establishes credibility for the one releasing the information who by the very act of confession appears to be “coming clean” and acting with integrity; but in actuality, by withholding key facts, is protecting a deeper operation and those who could be exposed if the whole truth came out. In effect, if an array of offenses or misdeeds is suspected, this confession admits to a lesser offense while covering up the greater ones.
In case you’re wondering how this game is played.
via Daily Pundit.
Two really good articles in WSJ this week, the first by Kimberly Strassel, the second by Peggy Noonan. —The Butcher
The bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service did exactly what the president said was the right and honorable thing to do.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an “independent” agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that’s not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. “He put a target on our backs, and he’s now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?” asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
Mr. VanderSloot is the Obama target who in 2011 made a sizable donation to a group supporting Mitt Romney. In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a “wealthy individual” with a “less-than-reputable record.” Other donors were described as having been “on the wrong side of the law.”
This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.
Political abuse of the IRS threatens the basic integrity of our government.
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 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.
NBC’s Lisa Myers reported this morning that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election:
The IRS commissioner “has known for at least a year that this was going on,” said Myers, “and that this had happened. And did he share any of that information with the White House? But even more importantly, Congress is going to ask him, why did you mislead us for an entire year? Members of Congress were saying conservatives are being targeted. What’s going on here? The IRS denied it. Then when — after these officials are briefed by the IG that this is going on, they don’t disclose it. In fact, the commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this. Imagine if we — if you can — what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different.”
Justifiable Cause: The Obama administration is making the case for conservatism better than Mitt Romney ever didPosted: May 16, 2013
The Obama administration is doing a far better job making the case for conservatism than Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, or John Boehner ever did. Showing is always better than telling, and when the government overreaches in so many ways it gives support to the conservative argument about the inherently rapacious nature of government.
First let’s get our terms straight. Conservatives are not the same as Republicans. The former believe in a philosophy which stays roughly fixed and the latter belong to a party that occasionally embraces the philosophy but deviates when necessary to win elections, pass legislation, and follow the selfish aims of those who are in office and want to remain there. Conservatives argue against the expansion of government, whereas Republicans sometimes enlarge it to please their constituents or themselves. Republicans also sometimes botch foreign policy operations and spin themselves silly in their aftermath, which is why the Benghazi revelations are left out of this grand unification theory.
Though some of these scandals will allow Republicans to score points in the daily tally of who is ahead and who is behind, there is a larger benefit to conservatives that goes beyond the fall in the president’s approval ratings or the boost Republican Senate candidates may get in 2014. Those outcomes rely on further adjudication of these issues. It may turn out that President Obama had nothing to do with any of them. It could simply be rogues in various agencies. Or, maybe President Obama orchestrated the whole kaleidoscope of wrongdoing on the White House whiteboard. You don’t have to embrace either of those theories to see that it’s much easier to agree with the conservative notion that government is a mess. We have enough evidence of that already.
Conservatives argue that the more government you have, the more opportunities you will have for it to grow out of control. That is why my frequent correspondent Charles Flemming cheers every story I write about Washington gridlock. He wants less government, so he’s fine if it does nothing.
Another conservative correspondent points to economist James Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize in 1986 for his work studying economic incentives in government. His argument was that politicians are not benevolent agents of the common good but humans acting in their own self-interest or for a special interest. “If there is value to be gained through politics,” Buchanan wrote, “persons will invest resources in efforts to capture this value.” Since Democrats and Republicans alike are sinful, each side will find ways to work that is self-interested, rapacious, and boundary breaking. Keep the government small to limit the damage.
Whether these scandals are the result of base motives or a desire to act for the greater good, the eventual result is the destruction of individual liberties. Your IRS comes down on you because you have the wrong ideology or, in the name of protecting the citizenry, the Justice Department starts listening to your phone calls.
“After we win this election, it’s our turn. Payback time. Everyone not with us is against us and they better be ready because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded, the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay. Congress won’t be a problem for us this time. No election to worry about after this is over…”