More IRS abuses of power against conservative groups
The hits just keep coming for the Internal Revenue Service, as the dam of revelations bursts wide open. First up: a stunning expose from left-leaning website ProPublica, which says it was handed confidential tax information on conservative groups by the office that was targeting Barack Obama’s political enemies, to use as fodder for election-year stories:
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.
The IRS did not respond to requests Monday following up about that release, and whether it had determined how the applications were sent to ProPublica.
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. (We made sixof those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)
One of the applications illegally handed out by the IRS was for Karl Rove’s group, Crossroads GPS. [Update - Jammie Wearing Fool recalls the Obama campaign's lawyer, Robert F. Bauer, demanding this sort of information about Crossroads GPS.]
ProPublica says they received no confidential unapproved applications from liberal groups. Incidentally, if you’re wondering why they sat on this until now, ProPublica thinks it has a right to the information in question. Apparently they decided to pile on once the IRS scandal went huge.
ProPublica notes that responses (including legitimate responses) to its requests for information on tax-exempt organizations seemed to be coming from the Washington D.C. area, as well as Cincinnati. That dovetails with a Washington Post report which destroys the last remnants of the “rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati” dodge employed by desperate IRS officials – an excuse that was already as unbelievable as President Obama’s claim that he heard about the IRS scandal by watching the evening news on Friday:
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.
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.
Lois G. Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, told reporters Friday that the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were undertaken by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati to target groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.
In one instance, however, Ron Bell, an IRS employee, informed a lawyer representing a conservative group focused on voter fraud that the application was under review in Washington. On several other occasions, IRS officials in Washington and California sent conservative groups detailed questionnaires about their voter outreach and other activities, according to the documents.
The Washington Post article builds a good case that both the former IRS commissioner, Douglas Bush Appointee Shulman (I’m pretty sure that’s his middle name, based on liberal media accounts) and the current Acting Commissioner, Steven T. Miller, are guilty of lying to Congress when they denied knowledge of the political audits, since the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration briefed them in March 2012.
That “conservative group focused on voter fraud” was Houston-based True the Vote, which really got the works from the Obama Administration after they applied for non-profit status in July 2010. From Breitbart News:
Within two years, multiple federal agencies, along with an EPA-affiliated Texas state agency, began auditing True the Vote and its founders, visiting their group, their businesses, and asking questions of people who knew them. The IRS was not the only governmental agency involved.
True the Vote’s experiences with the IRS’s abuse of power were recently discussed by Catherine Engelbrecht in a previous interview with Breitbart News. She said: “We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010. Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They’ve requested to see each and every tweet I’ve ever tweeted or Facebook post I’ve ever posted. They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future.”
Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family’s firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership–which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”
The Democratic Party of Texas filed a lawsuit against her, as did an ACORN affiliated group. Both the FBI and the BATF continued to poke around her life, the lives of people in her Tea Party group, and her businesses.
Ultimately, the IRS determined that it actually owed a refund to Engelbrecht; the BATF found nothing wrong in any of its repeated visits and audits; OSHA’s fine-toothed comb found reason to demand $25,000 from Engelbrecht’s family business; and TCEQ demanded the Engelbrechts spend $42,000 on additional storage sheds.
Naw, none of that sounds like an organized effort to abuse government power for the purposes of intimidating the ruling Party’s political opponents. As long as you join the Party in welcoming ballot-box fraud, you have nothing to fear, citizens.
You can also stay out of trouble by accepting Party orthodoxy on the re-definition of marriage – which, as you may recall, became official Party doctrine after its glorious leader, Barack Obama, suddenly “changed his mind” on the subject, following years of nominally opposing same-sex marriage. The National Organization for Marriage, a prominent group that holds the opinion Obama used to agree with, has a long-standing complaint about confidential tax information somehow finding its way into the hands of the Human Rights Campaign, a group that supports Obama’s new position… and is headed by the co-chair of the Obama 2012 campaign. NOM renewed its calls for justice when the IRS scandal exploded:
“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “The only questions are who did it, and whether there was any knowledge or coordination between people in the White House, the Obama reelection campaign and the Human Rights Campaign. We and the American people deserve answers.”
In March 2012 the Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post published NOM’s Form 990 Schedule B from 2008 containing the identity of dozens of donors. The HRC claimed the tax return was provided by a ‘whistleblower.’ For months previous to the publication, the HRC had been demanding that NOM publicly release this confidential information even though federal law protects the identity of contributors to nonprofit groups. The publication of NOM’s tax return occurred just a few months after Joseph Solmonese, then president of the HRC, was appointed a national co-chair of the Obama reelection campaign. An analysis of the published documents shows that they could only have originated with the IRS.
“We’ve seen in recent days an admission that the IRS intentionally targeted conservative groups for harassment and scrutiny,” Brown said, “but what NOM has experienced suggests that problems at the IRS are potentially far more serious than even these latest revelations reveal.”
While we’re talking a stroll down Memory Lane, do you remember Frank VanderSloot? He’s one of the Romney donors who appeared on a Stalinesque “enemies list” published by the Obama campaign. Shortly afterward, a private investigator with a history of digging dirt for Democrats was caught rummaging through his divorce records. And shortly after that, he was suddenly hit by massive audits from the IRS and the Department of Labor. Shazam! What an amazing coincidence! There sure do seem to be a lot of connections between the Obama 2012 campaign and these suspicious audits. And none of these unprecedented audits, or leaks of confidential documents, ever seem to hit the President’s political supporters.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) have introduced bills that would call for the immediate termination of IRS employees who violate the Constitutional rights of taxpayers, coupled with criminal charges.
The Republican Governors Association, headed by Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and vice chairman Scott Walker of Wisconsin, has demanded the immediate termination of all IRS employees involved in the audit scandal, followed by the appointment of a special prosecutor. In a letter to President Obama, Jindal and Walker wrote:
We write to you today disturbed after learning that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been unfairly targeting and applying added scrutiny to applicants for tax-exempt status based on their conservative beliefs. To be blunt, this is Big Brother come to life and a witch hunt to prevent Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights.
The First Amendment gives Americans the ability to freely express their opinions regardless of their political beliefs. The actions of the IRS are an attempt to gag the voices of Americans who may disagree with the policies and left-leaning ideology of your administration. Quite frankly, this is un-American.
This is a subversion of American liberty and a secret but direct attack against the U.S. Constitution.
Jindal and Walker are right. Obama and his allies have grown fond of throwing accusations of “un-American” behavior at those who dissent from their policies, but this really is about as un-American as you can get. And it doesn’t appear to have been limited to the IRS.
But I hope Governors Jindal and Walker aren’t holding their breaths waiting for a constructive response from President Obama, because even as these abuse-of-power scandals were raising mushroom clouds across his Administration, he was blaming Republicans for making Americans cynical about government.
“If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that,” Obama muttered darkly. He really should consult his lawyers about the wisdom of threatening his political opponents with “consequences” right now.
Update: Writing at ViralRead, Robert Stacy McCain brings forth another story of a small Tea Party group, the Laurens County Tea Party of South Carolina, subjected to inappropriate scrutiny by the IRS. The group’s application for 501(c)4 status was dragged out for two years without a peep from the IRS… and then, in September 2012, they were suddenly hit by the now-familiar blizzard of intrusive information demands that only President Obama’s political opponents seem to receive, including requests for information that was already included in their two-year-old initial application.