“House committee: Obama encouraged IRS to target conservative groups”
Words can’t express my utter shock. Well, unless the words were “yawn” and “duh”:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday released a report that finds President Barack Obama and other top Democrats encouraged the IRS to investigate conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
The report says this encouragement from the White House shows that the IRS targeting scandal was rooted in politics, and is not the result of lower-level officials, as the Obama administration has claimed.
“The committee’s investigation shows that as the president generated attention to the issue of nonprofit political speech in 2010, IRS employees followed his public messaging,” according to the 77-page report. “With jurisdiction over nonprofits and tax law, IRS employees read and acted upon the news reports.
“In this way, the IRS targeting is – and always has been – rooted in political machinations. Put simply, as the president’s political rhetoric drove the national dialogue and shaped public opinion, the IRS received and responded to the political stimuli.”
The report finds that Obama’s involvement began at his January, 2010 State of the Union speech, in which he criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Democrats said that ruling unfairly unleashed a wave of political spending by corporations, since it struck down limits on political donations by companies.
In the weeks and months following that speech, Obama called conservative groups with tax-exempt status “shadowy” entities with “innocuous” and “benign-sounding” names. Obama also urged a “fix” to the decision, which he said let these groups “pose” as non-profit groups.
The report then details several emails from Lois Lerner, the director of tax exempt organizations at the IRS, who said the IRS needed to take steps to resolve Obama’s complaints.
The report cites emails in which Lerner said there was pressure on the IRS to “fix the problem,” that “everyone is up in arms” about the Citizens United case. In one email, she wrote that “everybody is screaming at [the IRS] right now: fix it before the election,” according to the committee.
“In response to a news article about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s complaint against Americans for Prosperity, Lois Lerner wrote to her boss: ‘We won’t be able to stay out of this – we need a plan!’ ” the Committee wrote. “Lerner later initiated a project to examine 501(c)(4) political speech in response to an article in a tax-law journal.”
The report says the Justice Department also internalized Obama’s rhetoric. It quotes Justice’s Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith, who cited a New York Times story in late 2010 about non-profits funding campaigns, and said that “this seems egregious to me.”
It finds that at Smith’s direction, Justice met with Lerner and other IRS employees to examine the issue, and that led to a Justice Department request for information about various non-profit groups.
Just last week, Issa said the IRS appears to have violated the law by handing this information over, in a format that included confidential taxpayer information.
“[T]he causal relationship between this rhetoric and the IRS targeting is clear,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Monday. “The President declared repeatedly that conservative groups ‘posing’ as nonprofits with ‘benign-sounding’ names were ‘a threat to our democracy.’ The IRS listened and, in turn, it subjected conservative groups to systematic scrutiny and delay.”
But beyond simply heeding Obama’s warnings, the report found that the IRS worked closely with Democrats on the issue.
“The IRS received tips from Democratic sources about upcoming actions concerning nonprofit political speech, and the IRS even assisted Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in preparing letters to the agency criticizing nonprofit political speech,” the committee wrote.
Obama’s rebuke to SCOTUS over Citizens United was enough to set the ball rolling. The rest was taken up by his foot soldiers. All of which is part of a pattern in this presidency, as well as an MO for the hierarchical progressive “governing” dynamic.
All of which remains beside the point: a select committee with a special prosecutor should have been empaneled long ago; this “server crash” nonsense would then hold no credibility (not that it does now to all but the least sentient among us). I’ve said from day one that Boehner and the GOP leadership had no interest in pursuing this beyond mere political theater. And I believe now as I did when this story broke that the reason for this is that a number of establishment Republicans — of the very kind who are now so interested in “crushing the TEA Party” — were complicit, either actively or by turning a blind eye to what they knew was happening.
A government using its tax collection apparatus as a partisan force is so deeply troubling — and so deeply incongruous with representative republicanism — that unless and until this becomes a full-blown national scandal, I will hold out little hope that our constitutional system can be salvaged.
There are only two ways left to fight the federal, big government fan dance both parties are engaged in: a convention of the states or an assertion by states of their 10th amendment rights, coupled with a refusal to follow dictates and / or bureaucratic regulations being used to target industries that fuel the economy of particular states or particular geographical locales. And then the second way.