Add IRS-Gate to a scandal-ridden administration.
President Obama's use of the Internal Revenue Service to vex and harass his political opposition is yet more proof that he is far more interested in hunting down his domestic adversaries than Islamic terrorists.
Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said revelations the Obama IRS singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny ought to “send a chill” up Americans' spines.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told Fox News that the tax-collection agency's recently revealed strong-arming of political organizations “is as dangerous a problem the government can have.”
"This is something that we cannot let stand. It needs to have a full investigation."
News that President Obama has been playing Chicago-style Saul Alinsky hardball with political activists on the Right provides more fodder to Obama's critics in Congress -- some of whom are now taking a hard look at impeaching the president and removing him from office.
Some commentators draw parallels with President Richard Nixon, noting he came dangerously close to impeachment for unleashing the IRS on his enemies.
On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved on a vote of 28 to 10 an article of impeachment that accused Nixon of using the nation's tax-collection agency to punish his enemies. Facing seemingly certain impeachment in the House and removal from office by the Senate, Nixon resigned two weeks later.
On Friday, Lois G. Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, confirmed the IRS abuses. IRS employees in the agency's Cincinnati office targeted conservative "social welfare" nonprofits seeking recognition under section 501c4 of the Internal Revenue Code, she said. Lerner admitted that groups that included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their documents were singled out for heightened scrutiny.
Lerner denied that orders had come from on high in Washington to make conservative activists' lives difficult, but not too many people seem to believe her, especially given President Obama's frequent promises to dole out punishment to his opponents.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a former tax lawyer, said she couldn't believe that junior IRS employees took it upon themselves to challenge conservative groups.
“A low-level functionary in Ohio would have zero jurisdictional authority to intimidate an applicant from New Mexico, or California or Georgia,” Bachmann told WND.com. Such an order had to come from the top, she said.
“We learned to our horror in Benghazi it appears that every move that was made was based on politics,” Bachmann said. “Now it appears the president was willing to use the most feared agency in the U.S. for his own political purposes.”
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice told WND.com, that he too didn't buy the administration's line. “We knew from the very start that this intimidation tactic was coordinated and focused directly on specific organizations,” he said.
The Obama IRS tried to intimidate conservative groups by demanding "the identification of members, how they are selected, who they associate with, and even what they discuss,” Sekulow said.
Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of the good-government group True the Vote, which fights for electoral integrity, said she began experiencing troubling problems with the Obama administration back in 2010.
When True the Vote, based in Houston, Texas, sought 501c3 nonprofit status under the federal tax code, multiple federal agencies began investigating the group, along with Engelbrecht's family businesses.
"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."
“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like," Engelbrecht said. "My family and I have lived with great concern that we would be subject to even greater government abuses if we were vocal about what they were doing to us because of our political views and our efforts to increase governmental accountability."
Obama played dumb at yesterday's White House press conference, claiming he had first learned of the scandal from news reports Friday:
"If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're applying it in a non-partisan way -- applying the laws in a non-partisan way.
And you should feel that way regardless of party. I don't care whether you're a Democrat, Independent, or a Republican. At some point, there are going to be Republican administrations. At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones. Either way, you don't want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate. So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about.
The [Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury Department] is conducting its investigation. And I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely, but I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions. And people have to be held accountable, and it's got to be fixed. So we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this."
Americans who are still waiting for government officials to be held accountable for their handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, Pigford, and a growing list of Obama-era scandals, would be wise not to hold their breath waiting for the president to make good on his promise.
Under Obama, we now know the IRS may also have leaked confidential donor information that showed Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC gave $10,000 to the National Organization for Marriage in 2008. Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights organization, used the information in the 2012 election cycle to smear Romney as anti-gay.
“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,” NOM president Brian Brow said. “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.”
For perhaps the first time in the Obama presidency, left-wing journalists seem divided.
The ethically compromised Ezra Klein, ringleader of the infamous Journolist, a group of left-wing reporters who conspired to kill multiple stories unfavorable to President Obama, continues lying in order to protect the Obama administration. Klein has been spinning furiously ever since the scandal broke late last week.
On Friday, he blamed the campaign finance system and nonprofit law first and President Obama second. Klein rationalized that "none of the tea party groups scrutinized by the agency actually lost the 501(c)(4) designation," and that even at its "most attentive, "the IRS is treating these groups with kid gloves."
On Monday Klein continued blaming everyone but Obama for the IRS crackdown -- which he termed a "dumb mistake" -- on conservative groups. He laid responsibility for the administration's breathtaking assault on the First Amendment on supposedly under-supervised rogue employees in the IRS office in Cincinnati.
Apparently still taking cues from Klein, on Monday former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also blamed the campaign finance system for the IRS scandal.
Like Klein, Pelosi acted as if Obama's IRS had merely made a mistake, as opposed to launching a full-fledged witch-hunt against the president's conservative foes. She said that there should be “more clarity in the law regarding the activities of tax-exempt organizations along with greater disclosure and transparency," and urged the reversal of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which she said "has exacerbated the challenges posed by some of these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations.”
To his credit, Klein's left-wing Washington Post colleague Greg Sargent, admits the IRS story is a really big deal.
“In purely political terms, this is right in the conservative sweet spot — the IRS, bullying, intimidation, political thuggery, etc.," Sargent writes. "We hear that stuff regularly from the conservative media, of course, and the thundering about this one will be epic. But this time, it seems entirely justified. There should be an investigation – a real one – and we should all want to follow it wherever it goes.”
Meanwhile, egregious over-reaches by Obama are becoming the norm now that the president is safely ensconced in the White House for a second term ending January 2017.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is shaking down businesses and charitable groups ACORN-style for large donations. Businesses may be reluctant not to fork over cash to Sebelius out of a justifiable fear of offending the powerful cabinet member who is overseeing the implementation of Obamacare.
HHS, which initially denied the existence of what amounts to an extortion racket, says it needs the money because Congress appropriated far less than the administration requested for Obamacare enrollment efforts. HHS is planning to pay potentially billions of dollars to members of radical Saul Alinsky-inspired groups to educate the public about the wonders of Obamacare and get them to sign up.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the fund-raising “may be illegal.” He compared it to Reagan-era efforts to raise funds for rebels fighting the Marxist junta in Nicaragua in the 1980s after Congress curtailed federal funding. Alexander aides said the senator plans to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate the propriety of the Obama administration’s fund-raising efforts. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block are expected to contribute $10 million and $500,000 respectively.
The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice secretly procured two months' worth of telephone logs for journalists at AP, the world's largest news-gathering organization. The Obama administration has refused to say why it seized the records which covered 20-plus telephone lines used by AP in April and May of last year.
Attorneys for AP, whose reporters have been fairly reliable allies of the Obama administration in most cases, said the records listed "outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery."
AP's CEO Gary Pruitt sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding the return of the records which he said might "reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know."
Perhaps the employees of AP should have considered Obama's authoritarian inclinations before they helped to put him in the White House.
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