Friday, May 17, 2013
IRS Rules Already Clear On 501(c)(4) Political Activity
Americans for Limited Government - Fairfax, VA: In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, outgoing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Steven Miller suggested that the targeting of tea party and other groups was in part caused by Congress' failure to provide "clear rules" on what constitutes political activity.
"With respect to political activity, it would be a wonderful thing to get better rules," Miller said, stating the rules needed to be "more clear."
But those rules are already clear, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens noted.
"IRS rules already stipulate that political activity is electioneering, that is, express advocacy for or against a candidate standing for public office and direct contributions to candidates or candidate committees. And it is already clear based on IRS rules that 501(c)(4) organizations are allowed to engage in a limited amount of political activity provided it does not constitute a majority of its activity, plus an unlimited amount of lobbying and issues advocacy, that is, advocacy in favor or against legislation or regulations or court rulings, provided that it furthers its tax-exempt function," Mehrens stated.
"Miller may not agree with those rules, but to suggest they are not clear is incorrect," Mehrens explained.
Miller explained the targeting: "What happened here was someone saw some tea party cases come through. They were acknowledging that they were going to be engaged in politics. This was the timeframe in 2010 when Citizens United was out. There was a lot of discussion in the system about the use of (c)(4)s."
Except, Citizens United clarified that organizations are allowed to engage in politics, Mehrens explained. "If anything, Citizens United made things more clear, not less. The Supreme Court simplified the rules and stated that organizations have a First Amendment right to engage in political activity, period."
Miller continued in his testimony, explaining the process for centralizing these cases: "People in Cincinnati decided let's start grouping these cases, let's centralize these cases." This meant quarantining the applications and sending them to Exempt Organizations (EO) Technical, based in Washington, D.C. for special scrutiny.
"The way they centralized it, troublesome. The concept of centralization, not," Miller said, suggesting that targeting political activity of groups was permissible. Elsewhere in testimony, he agreed that the agency was targeting political activity: "the litmus test if anything was political activity."
Mehrens blasted the practice, "The IRS processes thousands of tax-exempt applications a year that engage in issues advocacy, lobbying, and yes, political activity without any hassle or special scrutiny. They are allowed by law to engage in these activities. Yet, these tea party cases were selected for special scrutiny. This created inconsistency in the processing of applications, when the revenue procedures state that centralization is supposed to establish uniformity. Liberal groups doing the same thing as tea party groups were not centralized."
But, even if liberal groups had been targeted too would not have helped, Mehrens added, "Targeting organizations for special scrutiny on the belief that they might exercise their First Amendment protected rights to engage in political activity in is an egregious violation of the freedom of speech. If it had been done consistently for groups of all stripes would not have made it better."
Miller suggested the practice was "not illegal," but Mehrens said, "Of course it was illegal. These actions violated the First Amendment to the Constitution which is the 'supreme Law of the Land'."
Interview Availability: Please contact Americans for Limited Government at (703) 383-0880 ext. 103 or at email@example.com to arrange an interview with ALG experts including ALG President Nathan Mehrens.
Tags: Internal Revenue Service, IRS, Commissioner Steven Miller, IRS Rules, 501(c)(4), political activity, Citizens United, House hearings, Americans for Limited Government, Nathan Mehrens To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Formula for Abuse of Power
by Ken Blackwell, Contributing Author: John F. Kennedy as a candidate liked to tweak his opponent, Richard Nixon. When the Wall Street Journal criticized Republican Nixon, Kennedy jumped on it. “That’s like L’Osservatore Romano criticizing the Pope!” The press corps knew that that Italian newspaper was the house organ of the Vatican. They loved the fact that Catholic Kennedy was throwing such a witty jab at Nixon.
So, we all need to pay attention when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews criticizes President Obama. That’s like L’Osservatore Romano kniocking the Pope. Matthews was the kennel master for the lapdogs of the Obama media. He said in 2008 that he “felt a thrill going up my leg” whenever Mr. Obama spoke.
That was then. Now, Chris Matthews has issued a stern rebuke over the Obama administration’s mounting scandals. He particularly focused in on Mr. Obama’s lax management style and his obvious inattention to the nitty-gritty demands of being a Chief Executive. Matthews grilled a guest:
So what part does he like? He likes going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in Ohio or somewhere," Matthews continued. "But what part does he like? He doesn't like lobbying for the bills he cares about. He doesn't like selling to the press. He doesn't like giving orders or giving somebody the power to give orders. He doesn't seem to like being an executive.”
President Passer-by, however, was not joining the fray. Carney repeated Obama’s assertion that the IRS’ actions would be outrageous only if they are true. Never mind that the IRS has already admitted the violations and apologized. (Tuesday night, Obama issued a statement saying he had seen the inspector general’s report and directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “to hold those responsible for these failures accountable.”)
Here’s a quote from a mission statement that sounds like something to attract the IRE of the IRS:
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
That quote, of course, is from America’s mission statement, the Declaration of Independence. It refers to that hands-off manager, King George III, and his abuses of power.
New Offices? How about the Independent Payment Advisory Board? This unelected, unaccountable body was created under Obamacare to decide whether you really need that heart bypass — when you are 82.
For enforcement of Obamacare’s myriad requirements, the president has chosen none other than the IRS. He wants another 16,000 agents to harry and harass you and eat out your substance.
They will look over all your papers and effects, and hover over you while Mr. Obama is just passing by. If you think this IRS scandal is serious — and we do — just imagine what President Obama will do with another army of snoopers to swarm you.
Ken Blackwell is a conservative family values advocate. Blackwell is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and a visiting professor at Liberty University School of Law. He is a contributing author to the ARRA News Service.
Tags: formula, abuse of power, Obama administration, IRS, Ken Blackwell To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
House Oversight Hearings Begin on IRS Abuse of Conservative Organizations
Today in Washington, D.C. - May 17, 2013
The Senate was not in session today and will reconvene on Monday at 2 PM, when it will take up S. 954, the farm bill. Yesterday, the Senate voted 97-0 to confirm MIT professor Ernest J. Moniz to be Secretary of Energy.
The House was in session this morning voting on Amendments to and passing HR 1062 (235-161) — "To improve the consideration by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the costs and benefits of its regulations and orders." Amendments approved prior to the passage of the bill were: Sessions (R-TX) Amendment No.1 (voice vote) – Mandates that assessment plans required under this Act include analysis of any jobs added or lost as a result of the regulation, differentiating between public and private sector jobs. Hurt (R-VA) Amendment No.2 (233-163) – Expresses the sense of Congress that rules adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) comply with the same standards required of the SEC. Requires the SEC to ensure that any rules adopted by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), and other national securities associations comply with the standards set forth in the bill.
The major event of the day, was The House Ways and Means Committee initial hearing to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) admitted practice of targeting conservatives and political opponents of President Obama. Committee Chair, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) opened the hearing stating:
Four days later, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) confirmed that, “the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status.” The report also confirmed that this abuse of power began as far back as 2010.
This revelation goes against the very principles of free speech and liberty upon which this country was founded. The blatant disregard with which the agency has treated Congress and the American taxpayer raises serious concerns about leadership at the IRS.
Let’s establish the facts that we do know. Based on the TIGTA report we know that for an 18-month period beginning in Spring 2010, IRS employees in the agency’s Determinations Unit employed keywords such as “tea party,” “patriot,” and “9/12” to target applicants for tax-exempt status. These groups were then subjected to further IRS investigation and document requests.
IRS employees later expanded their search to include groups concerned about government spending, debt, taxes, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or trying to “make America a better place to live.” Let me repeat that, people were targeted for trying to “make America a better place to live.”
These Americans had their applications delayed for nearly three years, and at least 98 applicants were asked for improper and inappropriate information such as donor lists and whether family members planned to run for public office.
During that delay, and while applications of conservative groups sat untouched for more than a year, other applications with names like “progress” and “progressive” were approved in just a matter of months. The headline in USA Today from earlier this week really says it all: “IRS gave liberals a pass; Tea Party groups put on hold.”
TIGTA’s audit found that some of those cases should have been set aside because of concerns related to their potential political activity, but no such review was done. Without objection, I enter the USA Today news report into the record.
This week, we learned that senior IRS officials knew about this activity almost two years ago, in June 2011, and IRS’s leadership in Washington knew of it in May 2012 – a year ago.
Despite a two-year long investigation by this Committee, the IRS never told the American people or their representatives about this simple truth. In fact, we were repeatedly told no such targeting was happening. That isn’t being misleading, that is lying.
But now, we know the truth – or at least some of it. We also know that these revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. It would be a mistake to treat this as just one scandal. This may be the one generating headlines, but in total I count at least five serious violations of the taxpayers’ right to be treated fairly, honestly and impartially by their government.
First, back in August of 2010, a "White House official" discussed the tax status of a private company – a clear intimidation tactic.
Second, in June 2010, the targeting of conservative groups began.
Third, in May 2011, the IRS started to threaten donors to conservative leaning non-profits that they were liable for certain taxes.
Fourth, in March of 2012, the Huffington Post published the confidential 2008 donor list of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative tax-exempt organization.
And fifth – but unlikely the final transgression – ProPublica announced that the IRS had leaked confidential applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups.
Mr. Miller, with all due respect, this systemic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation. And, as much as I expect more people need to go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers.
There isn’t a person I come into contact with back home – or anyone in this country frankly – who does not fear the IRS. They fear getting something wrong on their tax filings. And, they fear the IRS’ ability to audit them and wreak havoc in their lives. Especially when all they are trying to do is improve their lives, let alone, God forbid, trying to “make America a better place to live,” which is what the IRS targeted them for.
Under that kind of thinking, every civic group in America is at risk – the Knights of Columbus, the Rotary, the JC’s, the American Legion and VFW clubs. I’m sure you’re aware of the saying that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Well, under this Administration, the IRS has abused its power to tax, and it has destroyed what little faith and hope the American people had in getting a fair shake in Washington.
This will not stand. Trimming a few branches will not solve the problem when the roots of the tree have gone rotten. And, that is exactly what has happened with our entire tax system – it is rotten at the core, and it must be ripped out so we can start fresh. Only then will the American people get a tax system that treats them fairly and honestly, as they deserve.
And, while that is a larger discussion, it is directly tied to the issue before us today – how and why our tax system has gone so far off-track. Many questions still remain:
Why did the IRS repeatedly target the American people and then keep that fact covered-up for so long?
Who started the targeting, who knew, when did they know and how high did it go?
Who leaked private taxpayer information?
Why were the names of donors asked for, and what was done with those lists before they were supposedly discarded?
When did the Administration know about each of these, and what was its reaction?
Listening to the nightly news, this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups – and political intimidation – in this Administration. It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.
The American people have a right to the truth, to a government that delivers the facts, good or bad, no matter what. President Obama promised to be different and to deliver a better government, the most transparent in history.
He was right. America deserves better. It is time to end the corruption at the IRS and fix a tax code that allows Washington and the IRS to pick who wins and who loses in America.
I expect nothing less than total cooperation by the IRS and this Administration as we investigate what happened and what we must do to fix it.
USA Today noted, "The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., said he, too, wanted to find out why the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny, and that IRS officials responsible should be fired. But he took exception to the injection of campaign politics into the hearing. 'If instead this hearing becomes an effort to score political points, it will be a disregard of the duties of this committee,' he said." USa Today also noted, "The agency's chief watchdog testified Friday that the Internal Revenue Service has not fully addressed the problems that led it to improperly subject Tea Party and other conservative groups to extra scrutiny. 'We do not consider the concerns in this report to be resolved,' Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said."
David Weigel at Slate noted "By general acclimation, the greatest Moment from today's battering of the IRS (with an assist from the bored, doomed outgoing acting commissioner) came when Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly went buck wild. After pressuring the witness a few times and getting non-answers, Kelly finally just went on a tirade about the IRS, the "monster under the bed," the force that terrifies hard-working Americans. When he finished, Kelly earned spontaneous applause from the public seats."
Tags: House, Ways and Means Committee, oversight, IRS, abuse of conservatives To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Agent McConnell Has Infiltrated the Bureaucracy
The trouble was that, as is often the case with putatively bipartisan bodies, the posts required nominees to meet certain ostensibly nonpolitical criteria that by their nature all but rendered the posts partisan carve-outs. In this case, McConnell needed to find a Republican who was “income eligible” for the available seat, meaning someone who earned less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which came out to a little over $14,000 a year.
So where on the fruited plain did Mitch McConnell find a competent, dedicated conservative lawyer without two nickels to rub together? As it turns out, in a rectory. Enter Father Pius Pietrzyk, a Dominican parish priest who happened to be a University of Chicago Law School graduate and a stalwart member of the Federalist Society. After practicing corporate and securities law at a big Chicago firm for three years, Pietrzyk left in 2002 to pursue a calling he found more meaningful. He was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church in 2008.
As a Dominican, he took a vow of poverty. And in 2010, President Obama nominated him, and the Democratic Senate confirmed him, to the LSC board of directors. There he sits next to board chairman John G. Levi, another Chicago lawyer (albeit with a significantly higher net worth), whose greatest claim to fame might be that he hired young Michelle LaVaughn Robinson and Barry Obama in the late 1980s.
Now, placing a ringer on an out-of-the-way board might not be the equivalent of repealing Obamacare or flipping the Senate, but in McConnell’s world it was a real win in the war of attrition that Republicans are quietly fighting inside what you might call the Other Government: namely, the bureaucratic state comprising more than 100 bipartisan boards and commissions created by Congress to regulate everything from Wall Street to farm credit, the post office to nuclear safety, Social Security to federal elections.
Many of these bodies are exactly as obscure as you are thinking. (Wikipedia helpfully tells me that the Commission on Key National Indicators, for instance, works with the National Academy of Sciences to “review research on the selection of a set of key national indicators [and] determine how to implement and establish a key national indicator system.”) But others are big-deal, big-government bureaucracies with familiar abbreviations such as SEC, FTC, FCC, FDIC, and NLRB. And because there isn’t a Republican in the White House, it falls on McConnell to fill their Republican slots.
President Obama tends to make his appointments to these boards the way they have usually been made: willy-nilly. Some will be well-known policy experts or academics politically aligned with the president. Others will be patronage picks of bundlers and allies. And others will be “friends of friends.”
Usually, it’s the same way with Senate leaders who do not belong to the president’s party. In the Senates of Bob Dole and George Mitchell, during the administrations of Clinton and George H. W. Bush, appointments were commonly viewed as so many caucus carrots, intended to keep members happy. (The attitude continues today. One GOP Senate staffer said of the relatively rare cases in which the Senate Democratic leader makes personnel choices instead of the White House, “Anytime Harry Reid gets to appoint two people, you can guarantee that one of those two people will be from Nevada.”)
Not so with McConnell. According to a number of sources inside the Senate Republican shop, McConnell saw Obama’s comfortable victory in 2008, and the Democrats’ daunting majority in the upper chamber, and knew he had to find creative ways to conduct asymmetric political warfare. On the legislative side, that meant first and foremost keeping Republicans unified against the president’s agenda, especially by ensuring that they kept their hands off Obamacare — a strategy whose overall success was marked by four years of liberals’ complaints about Republican intransigence. On the regulatory side, it meant scrapping the view that appointments are opportunities to do favors for your colleagues, and instead searching every nook and cranny of the country for sharp conservatives to take little-heralded but critical regulatory jobs.
“The way I like to think of it is, as leader, McConnell’s primary job is to unite 45 Republicans on as much legislation as possible,” McConnell speechwriter Brian McGuire told me on the Hill. “He has to be concerned about everybody in the conference and weighing all the equities that implies. [Appointments are] the one aspect of his job that he can act on unilaterally, and so to me this really reflects his conservative instincts.”
To translate his instincts into names, he brought in GOP veteran Dan Schneider. To look at Schneider’s government rap sheet — stints at the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Labor Department — you’d think he was a die-cast liberal. But when I spoke with him for this story, he said he likes to think of himself as a loyal conservative sent behind enemy lines “to monitor the radicals.”
Schneider came onto McConnell’s radar via the senator’s wife, Elaine Chao. When George W. Bush appointed Chao to head his Department of Labor, Schneider became her first White House liaison, and she gave him free rein to find conservatives to fill more than 200 slots inside the department. He impressed, and, after the Obama transition, migrated into McConnell’s office, where he oversees a sort of national conservative talent search with the title “Policy Advisor and Counsel for Nominations.”
Schneider operates according to a set of five criteria for screening potential nominees first developed by E. Pendleton “Pen” James, Ronald Reagan’s director of personnel management. First, were the nominees competent in the subject matter? Second, were they philosophically compatible with Senator McConnell? Third, did they possess high character and integrity? Fourth, were they tough? Fifth, were they team players?
The result, two or three hundred appointees later, is measurable.
Take the LSC, where not just Father Pius but four other McConnell-Schneider picks were confirmed and are serving. Among them is Sharon L. Browne. Browne was principal attorney for California’s Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), one of the oldest conservative/libertarian public-interest law firms in the country, formed in part by veterans of Reagan’s gubernatorial administration. As president, Reagan had tried and failed to get a PLF lawyer on the LSC. But McConnell succeeded in seeing Browne through, even though her nomination was hotly opposed by the American Bar Association, no doubt in part because she successfully sued the California Bar in 1995, forcing them to settle on a claim that they had taken funds reserved for poverty programs and used them for political operations.
She brought that fight to the national level, and together with McConnell’s other picks, she got enough Democrats on board to promulgate a regulation making legal-service grantees financially liable for spending grant money on political advocacy instead of what it was intended for.
On the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which went from sleepy New Deal installation to big-time regulator after Dodd-Frank, McConnell installed Tom Hoenig, the former president of the Kansas City Fed and a famed inflation hawk. In the lead-up to the financial crisis, Hoenig voiced concerns about the banking system. In its aftermath, he urged the government not to bail out equity holders. He later opposed Henry Paulson’s interventions, the Bush and Obama bailouts, and Dodd-Frank.
On the Federal Trade Commission, McConnell handed Obama the name of Josh Wright, a holder of both a Ph.D. in economics and a J.D. and widely considered his generation’s greatest mind on antitrust law. Before his confirmation, Wright had been highly critical of the FTC’s exceedingly thin two-year antitrust investigation of Google’s search-engine practices. Seventy-two hours after his confirmation to the FTC board, the investigation was dropped with minimal consequence for Google.
Then there is Chris Beall, an infrastructure expert whose first job was building natural-gas pipelines for the Koch brothers and who had spent most of the rest of his career in finance, privatizing dozens of public utilities. On McConnell’s recommendation (and, one assumes, to Joe Biden’s lament), Obama nominated Beall — the man who built climate-change conduits for the Co-Princes of Darkness — to the board of directors of Amtrak.
The list goes on. It is populated by individuals with both expertise and conservative pedigrees, in many cases already known for advocating the sorts of causes that annoy the White House — and who nevertheless were formally nominated by the White House. McConnell values this list not just because it stocks bureaucratic Washington with Obama opponents, but also because it constitutes a farm team for the next Republican administration, credentialing conservatives, many of whom have not had government experience, to take more senior roles once the GOP returns to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Of course, nomination negotiations between the Senate and the White House have always been a little like Cold War spy exchanges — you give us our two NLRB guys and we’ll give you a judge; two under secretaries for an FCC commissioner and a player to be named later; and so on — but McConnell’s innovation has been to stack his side of the trades with as many Jason Bournes and James Bondses as he can, where his predecessors might have stacked them with congressmen’s nephews and senators’ golf buddies.
And while a few appointments to commissions with Democratic majorities aren’t going to undo the progressive agenda all by themselves, they can prevail in the right spots, and gum up the works in others. Daniel Gallagher, a longtime SEC staffer and regulatory expert whom McConnell tapped to return as one of five SEC commissioners after a stint in the private sector, is a good example. In at least two instances, Gallagher convinced Democratic SEC commissioners to flip their votes on major regulations, ensuring their defeat in favor of Republican alternatives. In other cases Gallagher merely stymied former Democratic SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro, capturing more ink in the financial pages and industry tip sheets and coordinating dissenting opinions on regulations that courts later relied on in overturning them. According to one source familiar with the dynamics of the SEC, Gallagher was generally “running circles around” the Democratic commissioners.
I asked Schneider, whose office is tucked into one of the fractal corners of the leadership suite on the Senate side of the Capitol, how much of a difference he thinks all of this makes at the macro level. How would Washington and America be different if McConnell were appointing good ol’ boys from Kentucky to all these slots? Standing next to a wall unit dominated by hunting maps — he is an outdoorsman — and a binder of dossiers, Schneider takes a minute to think. Then he responds in his affable Kansas cadence: “My boss’s goal is to make sure that our people, collectively, beat their people day in and day out, that our people are smarter and sharper and better than theirs.”
And while that is not measurable in every instance, he asks me to consider a counterexample. “There is not a bipartisan health-care board,” he says. “Consequently, we have 20,000 pages of regulations on the implementation of Obamacare. This matters.” Indeed, the eight-foot-high paper stack, printed out and wheeled around the Capitol on a hand truck as a clever, if unwieldy, political prop, was at that moment standing just a few rooms over in McConnell’s reception area.
I spoke to several individuals who are part of Schneider’s kitchen cabinet — think-tankers and public-policy professionals whom he regularly consults when headhunting nominees. They agreed that the biggest effects of McConnell’s appointment strategy are likely “ecological” and “cumulative.” The Hudson Institute’s Tevi Troy, who frequently huddles with Schneider on picks, even joked that he regretted this story was being written, since he thought McConnell was doing “brilliant” work; he didn’t want the other side to take notice.
When I asked McConnell himself to comment for the story, he was characteristically matter-of-fact, and hardly bashful. “We’ve had a very aggressive effort to do what we could on the regulatory side,” he told me over the phone, in his monotone drawl. “The core question was, ‘Can you have an impact on public policy at a time when you’re outnumbered?’ I think after almost five years of doing this, we have.”
McConnell has expressed himself on the subject even more succinctly than that. Schneider tells me that after he had located, recruited, and shepherded a “rock star” nominee through confirmation, the boss popped his head into the office to deliver a simple command: “Keep ’em coming.”
Tags: Obama administration, Mitch McConnell, Senator, Kentucky, Senate Republican Leader, appointments To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Second Court Rules Another President Obama NLRB Recess Appointment Is Unconstitutional
In its ruling today (NLRB v. New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation), the Court found that the President’s action resulted in a nominee being “invalidly recess appointed to the Board during the March 2010 intrasession break” and therefore “vacate[d] the [NLRB’s] orders” in the New Vista case.
The Court said the Administration’s argument that the Senate is in recess for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause even when it is meeting regularly “was incompatible with the Constitution,” and “would eviscerate the [Constitution’s]divided-powers framework.” If the Administration’s view of the Recess Appointment Clause were to prevail, the Court said, “then the President could circumvent the Senate’s constitutional role simply by waiting until senators go home for the evening.”
Given that the Senate had passed legislation that the Administration wanted during the same type of session that the Administration now says doesn’t count, the Court also noted that the Administration’s position would lead to absurd results: “Holding that the Senate is unavailable during these sessions requires a definition of availability that allows the counterintuitive situation in which the Senate is available to enact legislation while simultaneously unavailable to provide its advice and consent.”
“Last year, the President made an unprecedented power grab by placing political allies at a powerful federal agency without even trying to obtain the Senate’s advice and consent. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit correctly struck down the unlawful, so-called 'appointments' to the NLRB,” Sen. McConnell said, “It’s time for the unlawfully appointed nominees to step down.”
Tags: US. Circuit Court, NLRB v. New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation, Pesident Obama, Recess appointment, unconstitutional, unlawful appointees, Mitch McConnell To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
U.S. House Votes to Repeal Obamacare
229-195 — "To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010." Two Democrats joined 227 Republicans i voting for repeal while 195 Democrats voted to keep this oppressive bill. Nine Representatives (4 Democrats and 5 Republicans) did not vote.
This is the third time the Republican-led House has voted to fully repeal the president’s health care law since 2011. President Obama has signed several other bills that repeal or defund parts of the law -- you can see a list of those bills here.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 45, fully repealing and defunding the president’s health care law:
Tags: US House, votes, repeal, Obamacare To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
AP: Ouster Of IRS Official Isn't Ending Investigations -- McConnell: It’s Bigger Than Just The IRS
The Senate and began consideration of the nomination of Ernest J. Moniz, of Massachusetts, to be Secretary of Energy. At 2 PM, the Senate is scheduled to vote on confirmation of the Moniz nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he plans to bring S. 954, the farm bill, to the floor on Monday. Yesterday, the Senate voted 83-14 to pass S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. Prior to passage, senators voted to agree to an amendment from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and reject two amendments from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). Also yesterday the Senate voted 91-7 to confirm Marilyn Tavenner as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and 56-41 to confirm William H. Orrick, III as U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California.
The House today will vote again on the repeal of Obamacare. The House Oversight Committee announced Wednesday that it would hold a hearing May 22, featuring Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax exempt organizations, and Shulman, the former commissioner. The Senate Finance Committee announced a hearing for next Tuesday.
Yesterday the House passed by voice vote H.R. 573 - To amend Public Law 93-435 with respect to the Northern Mariana Islands, providing parity with Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The House approved (415-1) H.R. 767 "To amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to modify the Pilot Project offices of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project," H.R. 701 (416-6) "To amend a provision of the Securities Act of 1933 directing the Securities and Exchange Commission to add a particular class of securities to those exempted under such Act to provide a deadline for such action," and H.R. 384 (420-3) "To establish the position of Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and for other purposes."
The AP writes today, “Don't look for the outcry over the Internal Revenue Service's improper targeting of tea party groups to subside with the ouster of the agency's acting commissioner. Three congressional committees are investigating and the FBI is looking into potential civil rights violations at the IRS, Attorney General Eric Holder said. Other potential crimes include making false statements to authorities and violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in some partisan political activities, Holder said. President Barack Obama said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had asked for and accepted Steven T. Miller's resignation.”
Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Last night, the President took an important symbolic step in accepting the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Miller. I had called for this resignation on Monday, when we learned that Mr. Miller signed his name to one if not more letters that we know now couldn't have possibly been truthful. But let’s be clear: this symbolic step was just that, symbolic. What Americans want right now are answers about what happened at the IRS, why it wasn’t disclosed earlier, who was ultimately accountable for this behavior — and assurances that this kind of thing isn’t still going on at the IRS or anywhere else in the federal government because the allegations of ideological targeting only continue to multiply.”
Hugh Hewitt interviewed Leader McConnell last night who explained how the IRS abuses are part of a larger pattern: “I’ve been talking about this since June of 2012. There were Tea Party groups in my state complaining about this back then. But you know, it’s bigger than just the IRS, Hugh. Let’s just go back to the Obamacare debate for a moment. Secretary Sebelius, the head of HHS, sent out a directive to health insurance companies saying they couldn’t tell their policy holders how they felt about Obamacare. And now, she’s shaking them down for money to spend on ads trying to convince the American people they ought to like Obamacare. We’ve had similar moves over at the Securities And Exchange Commission by Obama appointees, the Federal Communications Commission by Obama appointees. And now, they’ve messed with the one agency everybody in America really knows about, and that’s the IRS. They’re the one agency with the power to shut us down. And look, this is a huge, huge scandal. You know, we don’t know who knew what and when, we don’t know how high it goes up.”
And there are more questions the IRS needs to answer. This morning, Leader McConnell said, “Last May, Senator Hatch — the top Republican on the Finance Committee — sent a letter to the IRS inquiring about reports that someone at the IRS had leaked confidential donor information from [the National Organization for Marriage] to an advocacy group whose political goals were in direct conflict with its own. NOM has since released documents suggesting that this information came from one source — from within the IRS itself. All this took place, by the way, in the middle of a national political campaign. Significantly, one of the NOM donors whose name was leaked was none other than Mitt Romney. What a coincidence. And what about the group it was leaked to? Well, it was headed by a guy who was named a co-chair of the Obama campaign, and who published the confidential donor information on the website of the organization he ran – an organization opposed to the goals of NOM. . . . . No one should be intimidated by the government into shutting up as part of our political process. And that’s why the Republican members of the Finance Committee are sending a letter today to Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration requesting investigation into this very issue. Because, without this sort of inquiry, we may never have confirmed the inappropriate harassment of conservative groups that was going on at the IRS for two years. Apparently, this is the only way to get this Administration to take responsibility for its actions.”
On another important angle, Newsmax noted that the current scandal facing the Internal Revenue Service proves that the agency cannot be trusted to implement Obamacare.
Tags: Washington, D.C., IRS Scandal, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
There is No There There -- Is There?
IRS and HHS Can’t Be Trusted With Our Health
Phil Kerpen, Contributing Author: “We have a large government,” political consultant David Axelrod offered as a plea of ignorance to all of the scandals swirling around his boss. “Part of being president is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.” And yet, thanks to Axelrod and Obama, we now stand on the precipice of the largest expansion of government power in almost half a century: Obamacare, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
PPACA massively expands and empowers the same IRS that President Obama himself admits is an out-of-control agency that is being ineffectively managed by his administration. And it also creates sweeping new powers for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is being engulfed in its own scandal that, most likely, Obama will also claim to know nothing about.
According to the Government Accountability Office, Obamacare creates 47 broad new tax and regulatory powers for the IRS, including taxes on individuals, employers, health insurance providers, and medical device manufacturers. Implementing these taxes and attendant regulatory requirements will mean collecting a vast amount of data, including sensitive health information.
The IRS has already proven itself unworthy of such new powers. Not only in its systematic targeting of political enemies, shamefully including those groups “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” which was supposed to be a fix to early targeting based on the words “tea party” and “patriot.” These groups were, illegally, asked to reveal their membership lists and answer detailed intrusive questions. And while hundreds of conservative groups opposed to PPACA and its vast expansion of IRS power were stalled for over two years, liberal groups engaging in the exact same activities were approved quickly with no questions asked.
It is not an open question whether IRS abuse of power will extend to PPACA implementation; it has already happened. The same IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman (a Democrat originally appointed by President Bush and retained by President Obama) who told Congress falsely, “There’s absolutely no targeting,” also spearheaded an illegal IRS rulemaking that effectively blocks states from exercising their lawful right under PPACA to opt out of the law’s vast new taxpayer-funded subsidies and employer penalty taxes.
Michael Carvin of Jones Day, the lead counsel in a recently filed lawsuit against the rule said: “The IRS rule we are challenging is at war with the Act’s plain language and completely rewrites the deal that Congress made with the states on running these insurance exchanges.”
So the same IRS that steamrolled political opponents is already overstepping its new health care powers to steamroll states. And the IRS is also, in a separate lawsuit, accused of illegally seizing 60 million private health record of 10 million individuals.
Meanwhile, the other lead agency in PPACA implementation has its own scandal. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been calling corporate CEOs and shaking them down for donations to a left-wing group called Enroll America to aggressively promote PPACA and urge people to sign up for the law’s new entitlement program. Her actions violate several federal laws, and any other week it would have been a lead story instead of relegated to the number four scandal slot.
And while Sebelius is dialing-for-dollars, she is also reallocating money from a slush fund created by the law toward public relations and political activity instead of using it to help people with preexisting conditions. About 40,000 people with preexisting conditions will go without any coverage this year because Sebelius chose to end enrollment in the federal Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan in order to instead fund TV advertising and grants to lobbying groups. So HHS is abusing taxpayer dollars as well as shaking down private citizens for coerced donations, all to maximize spending on their political push to build support for the unpopular law, instead of actually helping sick people.
The scandals will only get worse. Government is already, by David Axelrod’s admission, too vast for the president to understand, let alone effectively manage. And it is spinning further out of control, with the health of the American people in the balance. Health care is simply too important to subject to politics and bureaucratic manipulation. It’s time to repeal PPACA and start over with real health care reform that empowers patients and doctors, not the IRS and HHS.
© 2013 Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment and the author of Democracy Denied: How Obama is Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him. Phil Kerpen is a contributing author for the ARRA News Service.
Tags: Phil Kerpen, American Commitment, IRS, Internal Revenue Service, scandals, HHS, Department of Health and Human Services, Obamacare, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, PPACA, repeal PPACA To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
The President as Sergeant Schultz
Alan Caruba, Contributing Author: How is it that, time and again, the most powerful man on the planet doesn’t seem to have a clue what is happening in his own government? Famed for never accepting blame for anything, the more I see President Obama these days, the more I am reminded of Sergeant Hans Schultz of the TV sitcom, “Hogan’s Heroes”, that ran from 1965 to 1971.
The wonderful Hans Banner the actor who played the prisoner of war guard left an indelible legacy with his repeated denials, “I know nothing. I hear nothing, and I see nothing”; often all three at the same time to avoid being implicated in Col. Robert E. Hogan’s manipulation of Werner Klemperer’s Col. Wilhelm Klink, the camp commandant of Luftwaffe Stalag 13.
Obama’s way of dealing with everything has been to talk it to death and he has been responding to questions from the press, claiming that the accusations are all “a sideshow” or that “there’s no there, there.” It is not working. In the case of Benghazi-Gate, his lies are so blatant that it has gone from an embarrassment to a full-fledged cover-up.
Those of us who follow the President closely know that he has been lying consistently before and since being elected--twice. His two “memoirs” have been picked apart by reporters who have written their own books on the subject. It would appear that Obama picked up the habit of lying early on in life as the son of a Kenyan who had abandoned his mother, the step-son of an Indonesian whom his mother also divorced, and a man who remarkably was a friend or associate of a long list of shady characters you might more likely find in a detective novel.
He dismissed his close friendship with former 60s Weatherman terrorist, Bill Ayers, as someone who lived in his Chicago neighborhood. He had to throw his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, under the bus when it became known he said many bad things about America over the course of the many years Obama was a member of his church. The man who conducted Obama’s wedding and christened his children said of 9/11, “the chickens have come home to roost” as if it was America’s fault it was attacked.
Even so, this is small potatoes compared to the way the many “renewable energy” companies received billions in government loans and rapidly went bankrupt. It turned out that many of the many of the men who created those companies where major “bundlers” and contributors to his 2009 presidential campaign. Of the most famous bankruptcy, Solyndra, Obama said, “That was not our program, per se. Congress-Democrats and Republicans—put together a loan guarantee program…” Maybe so, but we have not seen such a program lose so much money in such a short time, betting on solar and wind power projects. The taxpayers got stuck with the bill. The number of actual “green” jobs ended up costing over a million dollars each to create.
Of his failed “stimulus” package, Obama said “Apparently there weren’t as many shovel ready jobs as we thought.” Before spending millions to allegedly revive the economy, you are supposed to know such things.
If not Benghazi-Gate, than the IRS targeting of conservative, patriot, and constitution education groups could provide the fulcrum to bring down Obama’s presidency. Despite his denials of knowledge about the program within the IRS to harass and deny these groups non-profit status, vital to raise donations and funding, and the firing of the IRS commissioner, this is a scandal with which ordinary taxpayers can identify, fearful of audits. Imagine now as the realization sinks in that it is the IRS that will be administering Obamacare!
Up to now Obama could count on the mainstream media to ignore much of the blunders, failures and lies that characterized his first term, but the scandals coalescing as his second term begins have a weight that includes the growing unhappiness of the White House press corps who are tired of being lied to or having to listen to press secretary Jay Carney speak to them as if they were a bunch of witless clowns.
It is said that “the fish stinks from the head” and what we are witnessing is an administration whose corrupt political practices have seeped deep into the government agencies for which Obama is responsible.
It is still too soon to know which scandal or combination of scandals will bring down his presidency, but it will only take a few more eye-witnesses and whistle-blowers to turn Obama into the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind the curtain and pulling the levers to fool Dorothy and her pals or, in our case, those of us who still believe laws should be obeyed and power should not be abused.
© 2013 Alan Caruba. Alan is a writer by profession; has authored several books, and writes a daily column, "Warning Signs" disseminated on many Internet news and opinion websites and blogs. He is a contributing author at ARRA News Service.
Tags: President Obama, scandals, Know Nothing, Sergent Schultz, op-ed, Alan Caruba To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Acting IRS Director Resigns
The Washington Posts reports: "President Obama on Wednesday demanded and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Miller, as part of a multi-pronged effort to quell controversies that threaten to dominate his second term.
"The action was Obama’s first substantive step to address a political uproar stemming from the IRS’s disclosure that it had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. It capped a day when the White House tried to dampen two other furors that had put Obama on the defensive — the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records and the administration’s editing of talking points about the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last year. . . ." [Read More]
Tags: IRS Drirector, resigns, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
McConnell On the Resignation of IRS Chief
In February 2012, Tea Party organizations reportedly received letters from the regional IRS office in Cincinnati, demanding hundreds of pages of documents with little indication of the criteria being applied.
On March 14, 2012, Sen. McConnell joined ten other GOP senators in sending a letter to IRS Commissioner Shulman seeking assurance that “this recent string of inquiries has a sound basis in law and is consistent with IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt organizations across the spectrum.”
“We have received reports and reviewed information from nonprofit civic organizations in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas concerning recent IRS inquiries perceived to be excessive. It is critical that the public have confidence that federal tax compliance efforts are pursued in a fair, even-handed, and transparent manner—without regard to politics of any kind. To that end, we write today to seek your assurance that this recent string of inquiries has a sound basis in law and is consistent with the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt organizations across the spectrum. … It is imperative that organizations applying for tax-exempt status are able to rely on a consistent and foreseeable review structure from the IRS.” (Twelve Republican Senators, Letter To IRS Commissioner Shulman, 3/14/12)
“Given the potentially serious implications of selective or discriminatory enforcement, we request that you hold further IRS-initiated demands for information from 501(c)(4) applicants beyond the extensive information already required of all applicants (in Form 1024 and Schedule B...” (Twelve Republican Senators, Letter To IRS Commissioner Shulman, 3/14/12)
On June 15, 2012, Sen. McConnell spoke on the issue at the American Enterprise Institute (video here), singling out the IRS actions for special criticism.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “the tactics I’m describing extend well beyond the campaign headquarters in Chicago. To an extent not seen since the Nixon administration, they extend deep into the administration itself. … Earlier this year, dozens of Tea Party-affiliated groups across the country learned what it was like to draw the attention of the speech police when they received a lengthy questionnaire from the IRS demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts, and donor information. One of the group’s leaders described the situation this way: ‘[groups like ours] either drown … in unnecessary paper work … or you survive, and give them everything they want, only to be hung.’ The head of one national advocacy group has released documents which show that his group’s confidential IRS information found its way into the hands of a staunch critic on the Left who also happens to be a co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election committee. The only way this information could have been made public is if someone leaked it from inside the IRS. And just last week we learned of an IRS decision revoking the tax-exempt status of small political nonprofit groups that undoubtedly foreshadows an effort to do the same to bigger groups on the Right that the Obama Administration regards as a threat to its campaign. ... let’s be very clear: no individual or group in this country should have to face harassment or intimidation, or incur crippling expenses, defending themselves against their own government, simply because that government doesn’t like the message they’re advocating.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks At AEI, 6/15/12); (Video Here At Minute 11:15)
On June 15, 2012, Sen. McConnell published an op-ed in POLITICO.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “One thing that has always distinguished America is the enthusiasm with which its citizens have organized around issues they believe in. Alexis de Tocqueville observed this more than 175 years ago, ‘In no country in the world,’ De Tocqueville wrote, ‘has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a greater multitude of objects than in America.’ Recent events, however, suggest that this principle is under serious threat — not only from some left-wing groups, which have resorted to intimidation to grind their critics into submission, but by an administration that has used the tools of government to do the same.” (“Fighting For The First Amendment,” Politico, 6/15/12)
McConnell: “Dozens of tea party-affiliated groups across the country learned earlier this year what it was like to draw the attention of the speech police when they received a lengthy questionnaire from the Internal Revenue Service, demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts and donor information. As the leader of one organization described it: ‘[Groups like ours] either drown … in unnecessary paperwork … or you survive, and give them everything they want, only to be hung.’” (“Fighting For The First Amendment,” Politico, 6/15/12)
On June 18, 2012, Sen. McConnell joined a letter with ten other GOP senators to IRS Commissioner Shulman, reiterating their concerns with the IRS’s inquiries and stressing that Congress has made privacy the rule not the exception.
“‘Congress has made privacy the rule, and not the exception,’ wrote the Senators. ‘A list of donors who have given money to specific charitable organizations is something that carries great value to certain interested parties, as trading of personal information about private citizens has become common practice. Unfortunately, the public release of private donor information exposes citizens to possible harassment and intimidation by those who oppose the goals of the charitable organization.’” (Ten Republican Senators, Letter To IRS Commissioner Shulman, 6/18/12)
“… the IRS is requesting the names of donors and contributors to organizations that apply for tax exempt status. In doing so, the IRS appears to be circumventing the statutory privacy protections that Congress has long provided donors.” (Ten Republican Senators, Letter To IRS Commissioner Shulman, 6/18/12)
Tags: IRS, Chief, resigns, Mitch McConnell, repsonds To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
McConnell: IRS Actions Part Of Administration Acting As‘Speech Police; Boehner: Who's going to jail over this scandal?
The House is in session but most bills to be considered are administrative in nature. Any bills completed will be noted in tomorrow's report.
Speaker John Boehner today addressed the growing IRS scandal whereby administration officials admitted to wrongfully targeting conservatives and political opponents of President Obama, and reportedly gave preferential treatment to liberal groups and allies of the White House. Boehner said: “The IRS admitted to targeting conservatives, even if the White House continues to be stuck on the word ‘if.’ My question isn't about who is going to resign. My question is who's going to jail over this scandal?”
The House Ways & Means Committee will hold a hearing to investigate the IRS this Friday at 9:00 AM ET, and the Oversight & Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday.
The people appear to agree with the Speaker's position. Rasmussen Reports that "57% Want IRS Offenders Jailed or Fired.Most voters believe the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups was politically motivated and think most of those involved should be severely punished
Yesterday, the Senate rejected two amendments to S. 601. The Senate resumed consideration of S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. Today they voted 83-14 to pass S. 601, as amended. The Senate began consideration of the nominations of Marilyn Tavenner to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and William H. Orrick, III to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California. They will vote on confirmation of the Orrick and Tavenner nominations later today.
In committee, Senate democrats are ramming through an Amnesty bill to bring to the floor for a vote.
On the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the latest news on the IRS scandal, saying, “It seems like, with each passing hour, the facts get more and more inconvenient for senior folks over at the IRS. Yesterday, it was reported that the agency may have gone after a ministry founded by Billy Graham. We also learned that the very same IRS office that admitted to harassing conservative groups also released nine pending applications for tax-exempt status to the liberal investigative group ProPublica. How did we find out? ProPublica revealed it.”
USA Today reports, “In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn't be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows. As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like ‘Progress’ or ‘Progressive,’ the 'liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.”
According to ABC News, “Cincinnati was far from the only IRS office where agents put conservative groups seeking tax exempt status under heightened scrutiny, according to documents obtained by ABC News. David French, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice representing 27 groups that say they were unfairly scrutinized by the IRS, provided letters from two different agents in Washington, D.C., to tea party groups seeking tax exempt status. Other groups received demands for information from agents in two separate IRS offices in California.”
And The Wall Street Journal adds, “Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the Justice Department has opened a criminal probe of the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of tea-party groups, while an investigative report blamed the agency's managers for allowing the practices to continue for more than 18 months. . . . The inspector general's report left unanswered a key question—how exactly IRS workers came to focus excessively on conservative groups. ‘We could not specifically determine who had been involved in creating the criteria’ that led to selection of so many applications from conservative groups for extra review, the report said in a footnote. The report called on the IRS to better document the reasons for choosing groups for extra review, request better guidance on rules by the Treasury Department, and quickly resolve cases—some of which ‘have been in process for three years.’”
Frustrated with the new reports but no answers yet from the IRS, Leader McConnell said, “Basically all we’ve gotten from the IRS, on the other hand, is an attempt to scapegoat some folks out in Cincinnati and a laughable attempt to move past this whole issue with a ridiculous op-ed claiming ‘mistakes were made.’ Well, most folks don’t think that ignoring the Constitution is simply a ‘mistake.’ I like the fact that one group the IRS targeted, when asked by the agency to provide reading materials related to their mission, mailed them a copy of the Constitution. And today, I’d like to encourage every group that feels like it’s been unjustly targeted to do the same. Maybe just underline the First Amendment before you put it in the envelope. Because that’s what this is all about.”
He pointed out, “[L]et’s not forget that we wouldn’t know any of this if congressional Republicans hadn’t demanded better answers than the ones we were getting from the Administration. When I and several of my colleagues wrote to the IRS last year seeking clarification on allegations that they were harassing conservative groups, the response we got was essentially ‘nothing to see here, move along.’ When I pressed the issue in a speech last June, the Left either ridiculed the suggestion or ignored it. When IRS officials were asked point blank in congressional hearings whether this was happening, they said point blank that it wasn’t. Well, turns out it was.”
But that’s not the whole story. The Daily Caller writes, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service’s extra scrutiny of conservative groups is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a ‘pattern’ of this administration acting as the ‘speech police.’ In a phone interview with The Daily Caller, McConnell pointed to past actions by various agencies . . . and said that the IRS’s actions simply fell into that same mold. ‘This IRS investigation is certainly about the IRS, but it’s about the broader issue of the administration’s abuse of power and efforts to silence the critics of the administration,’ McConnell said.”
Writing about an interview Leader McConnell had with Larry Kudlow yesterday, CNBC notes, “McConnell said the limitations on free speech extended beyond the IRS, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. ‘The Department of Health and Human Services, during the Obamacare debate, issued a directive to the health insurance companies telling them they could not say to their policy holders what their objections were to Obamacare,’ . . .
On the Senate floor today, Sen. McConnell said, “If the President is truly concerned about this issue, as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with us to get to the bottom of this. And people will be held accountable. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the Administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. It could be criminal. And we’re determined to get answers.”
Tags: Washington, D.C. scandals, IRS, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Power Of Drudge: A Little Civics Lesson For Janet Napolitano And Barack Obama
Drudge is no fan of Napolitano. He regularly tweaks her as “Big Sis” (presumably an allusion to George Orwell’s “Big Brother”). Drudge is one of the most powerful — and widely respected — forces in the news business today. It suggests a kind of, well, Obamaesque clueless snobbishness to disparage him.
The Washington Examiner reported an exchangebetween the astute Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-SC, and Secretary Napolitano at a recent Congressional hearing:
“I will tell you, we found it so inherently unbelievable that statements would be made, it was hard to ascribe credibility to them,” Napolitano said, suppressing a bemused smile, adding that, “I don’t know if I’d put Forbes and Drudge in the same sentence.”
Two months ago this columnist reflected in one of his weekly commentaries for Forbes.com Opinion on a little-noticed Associated Press report stating that the DHS had issued purchase orders totaling 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. This was a story that had been circulating around the Internet for some time. AP’s fine shoe-leather reporter checked it out with DHS.
DHS did not deny (or meaningfully clarify) the claim. Instead, its spokesperson attempted to justify it with a claim of doing it to get the best price. The DHS spokesperson, AP reported, stated that DHS expends 15 million rounds every year, “mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.” This wasn’t really reassuring. 1.6 billion divided by 15 million implies “strategic sourcing contracts” for … a 100 year supply. This simply did not add up.
This columnist dismissed the possibility of anything politically sinister in this acquisition, interpreting it as “bureaucrats gone wild.” The main point of the column dealt with the discrepancy between President Obama’s avowed hostility to guns … and his opportunity to take this as a “teachable moment” to lead by example by remanding the bulk of this purchase. (Why are guns in the hands of citizens objectionable while guns in the hands of a civilian government agency admirable?)
This could have been an opportunity for Mr. Obama to bring the left and right together. The Second Amendment protects the rights of the people, not the government. As the second-ranking right in the Bill of Rights it is designed to provide a restraint on government. And the federal government now is showing precious little restraint. Libertarians, and many conservatives, as well as (if not more than) progressives, would have no objection to the federal government doing a little (and, in the case of the Department of Homeland Security, a lot) of disarmament. For Mr. Obama to have directed scaling back these purchase orders would have been quite, well, disarming.
DHS buying hundreds of millions of bullets (many, according to comments to the column by readers far more erudite than this columnist, not typically used for target practice) seems akin to Michael Bloomberg living on 20-ounce soda pops and food rich in trans fats. If Obama really wanted to change politics as usual, rather than sneer at those with whom he disagrees, he had a perfect opportunity to unite the country by scaling back the DHS ammo purchase. It was an opportunity he did not take.
The Drudge Report picked up that column. Subsequently over 900,000 people viewed it. Readers provided almost 1,000 comments, mostly astute (even when ungenerous to this writer). Meanwhile, DHS was excruciatingly slow to clarify. Mrs. Napolitano, in the Congressional hearing, kindly “reminded the audience that the DHS typically uses 150 to 160 million ammunition rounds a year.”
That’s an order of magnitude larger than that originally given to the AP by its spokesperson. US News and World Report, in an April 29th report, concludes that “DHS officials testified last week it was only planning to buy up to 750 million.”
Only? While 750 million is a little less than half that originally reported by AP it is by no means out of scale. It is not inconsistent with “strategic sourcing” purchase orders totaling 1.6 billion (this columnist having viewed web postings credibly purporting to show such purchase orders) rounds. Ordering, even over time, 750 million rounds provides an equally compelling basis for this writer’s call for restraint.
Rather than justifying, with claims of incredulity, her agency’s laxness Secretary Napolitano really should apologize. The delay in responding to a national furor bespeaks a cavalier attitude toward the citizens she has been hired to protect. When the owners of Subway — the world’s largest fast food chain — saw a wordless Facebook posting of one of their “footlongs” measuring only 11 inches they immediately issued a public commitment to rectify this. And sent out a quality control memo to all of their 38,000 outlets.
DHS, by contrast, long ignored a popular outcry apparently of almost an order of magnitude larger. If Mr. Obama vaguely wonders why so much of the public so mistrusts the government there’s a little civics lesson for him, too, here. Mr. President? Contrast the laxness of a federal agency with the alacrity of Subway in responding to public opinion. Discuss.
Secretary Napolitano also ought to be deeply penitent for her backhanded slur of Drudge: “I don’t know if I’d put Forbes and Drudge in the same sentence.” This columnist is proud of the Forbes brand high editorial standards and justified reputation for integrity. Forbes’s integrity does not demean Matt Drudge, who is the Walter Winchell of this era. (Drudge’s famous fedora suggested a subtle homage to Winchell.) Winchell was read by 50 million people a day, and 20 million listened to his radio show: “"Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press.” The Drudge Report self-reportedly received over (a characteristic) 1 billion pageviews in the past 31 days. More views than your bullets, Madame Secretary. The pen remains mightier than the sword.
According to the New York Times:
“When you look at his influence, it cuts across all kind of sites, both traditional news outlets and online-only sites,” said Amy S. Mitchell, the deputy director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism …. “He was an early and powerful force in setting the news agenda and has somehow maintained that even as there has been a great deal of change in the way people get their news.”
The Times on to note that “15 percent of the traffic at WashingtonPost.com, which is not exactly a hotbed of Tea Party foment, comes from The Drudge Report.”
Madame Secretary? Even if you have, as Joseph Welch once famously asked another high government official, “at long last … no sense of decency,” do reconsider. As former Indiana governor Thomas Branigan famously observed to Eugene C. Pulliam, publisher of the Indianapolis News and Star, it is unwise to argue “with one who buys ink by the barrel.” Or, as updated by the witty Darrell Patrick, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys their bandwidth by the gigabyte.”
It would appear that, at least in part as a result of Drudge’s attention to entirely credible reporting raising questions about DHS’s apparently extravagant ammunition purchase orders, the House Government Oversight Committee recently conducted a hearing on DHS ammo acquisition. Now the Government Accountability Office reportedly is conducting an investigation of your agency’s practices. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) have introduced legislation, the AMMO Act, restraining DHS.
Such is the power of the press. Such is the power of Drudge. It would be becoming, Madame Secretary, for you to send Matt Drudge a box of chocolates, a bouquet, and a note of apology for having slurred him for using the power of the press to hold your agency accountable. At very least it is unwise to argue “with one who buys ink by the barrel” or “bandwidth by the gigabyte.”
A little lesson in civics, and civility, for you, Madame Secretary.
And for you, with all due respect, Mr. President.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action’s Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. This article first appeared in Forbes.
Tags: Drudge, civics lesson, Janet Napolitano, Barack Obama, Ralph Benko To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
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