IRS inappropriately asked for conservative groups’ donor lists for a so-called “secret research project”

There’s a long-standing legal precedent that prevents the federal government from accessing information that belongs to private organizations. In 1958, the Supreme Court, ruled that the State of Alabama violated the rights of NAACP members when it demanded information from the civil rights organization, including its membership list.

“Effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association,” wrote Justice John Harlan in the unanimous opinion. “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”

The Internal Revenue Service, however, doesn’t care. Or, at the very least, the powerful tax agency didn’t care when it was scrutinizing nonprofit organizations, the bulk of which had conservative leanings. Judicial Watch has obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in October 2013 in which IRS officials say that donor lists were needed for a unexplained “secret research project”:

Stuck in the Senate: House-passed government funding measures stalled by Harry Reid

“One of my great frustrations with Congress is the chaos,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) before members of the Carrollton Rotary Club on August 27. “I think we need a change in Washington, D.C., but when you get there you realize why there is so much inertia and how hard it is to change things when you get there.”

During the speech, Rep. Massie highlighted his frustration with the Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for going over the appropriation bills the House has passed so they may pass it before Congress hits the September 30th deadline. According to Massie, the Senate won’t review any of the nine bills that have passed so far:

“They’re not planning on passing any of them in the Senate. They are planning on doing one bill continuing resolution.”

While the House has spent the summer ensuring the bills funding the government for the new fiscal year are passed, Senate members have been reluctant to go over the specifics. The difference between passing several bills and one major bill, Massie explained, is that a continuing resolution will be their last shot at keeping the government functioning once they run out of time, putting the decision in the hands of four people, instead of the whole congressional body.

America’s Ever-Expanding Regulatory Swamp

Maybe I’m biased because I mostly work on fiscal policy, but it certainly seems feasible to come up with rough estimates for the damage caused by onerous taxes and excessive spending.

On a personal level, for instance, we have a decent idea of how much the government takes from us and we know the aggravation of annual tax returns. And we tend to have some exposure to government bureaucracies, so we’re familiar with the concept of wasteful spending.

But how do you quantify the cost of regulation and red tape? Well, here are some very large numbers to digest.

Americans spend 8.8 billion hours every year filling out government forms.

The economy-wide cost of regulation is now $1.75 trillion.

For every bureaucrat at a regulatory agency, 100 jobs are destroyed in the economy’s productive sector.

The Obama Administration added $236 billion of red tape in 2012 alone.

In other words, the regulatory burden is enormous, but I worry that these numbers lack context and that most of us don’t really grasp how we’re hurt by government intervention.

So let’s look at some additional data.

Only Congress can authorize military action: A stronger response against ISIS may be necessary, but Obama must seek approval

The United States’ airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is prompting some members of Congress from both parties to push for authorization for any further military action that President Barack Obama wants to take.

The situation is not unlike the push in the House of Representatives in August 2013 to put pressure on President Obama to seek congressional authorization against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-VA) penned separate letters to the White House, signed by more than 170 colleagues, in which they encouraged the administration to come to Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently told the Associated Press that, in light of the current situation in Iraq, he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily,” but said that such a campaign would need to be approved by Congress. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has also said that President Obama must ask Congress for further action against ISIS, something that has gotten under the skin of his Democratic colleagues.

Get ready for a showdown over free speech: Harry Reid will push partial repeal of the First Amendment next week

When the Senate returns to Washington next week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to bring up S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively repeal political speech protections in the First Amendment.

Reid filed a motion to proceed on the constitutional amendment on August 1, just before the chamber adjourned for its summer recess. Although the original text of the amendment gave Congress the sole power to regulate political speech, including campaign finance regulations, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with substitute language to allow states to implement their own rules and regulations, in addition to those passed by Congress.

The measure, however, is an attempt to diminish the influence of issue-focused nonprofit organizations and political action committees, which, Senate Democrats say, are often funded by corporate interests. Section 2 of the amendment would allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit “corporations or other artificial entities created by law…from spending money to influence elections.”

HealthCare.gov CEO: This enrollment period is going to be even more complicated

Things are running far from smoothly at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters.

According to The Hill, HealthCare.gov’s newly appointed CEO admitted concern when talking about the many challenges the agency will have to face once the enrollment period rolls in.

The former head of Connecticut’s state exchange Kevin Counihan believes the shorter sign-up period, among other issues, will certainly add more anxiety to the enrollment process, creating headaches for government officials and distress to consumers.

It’s not enough to know technical flaws have been linked to one of the most disastrous government-run program launches in history. It’s also not enough to know that the failure is undoubtedly associated with the Obama administration’s faulty managerial skills; now, we are faced with yet another uncomfortable reality, government officials never learn the lesson.

While reporting the exchange website has indeed gone under extensive repairs since the last botched attempt to provide a health care plan marketplace for consumers, The Hill also highlighted Counihan’s remarks regarding his HealthCare.gov concerns:

“In some respects, it’s going to be more complicated. Part of me thinks that this year is going to make last year look like the good old days.”

No, members of Congress don’t need or deserve more compensation

Back in April, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) complained that he and his colleagues on Capitol Hill are underpaid, lamenting that many members of Congress “can’t even afford to live decently when they’re at their job in Washington” on their $174,000 annual salary.

Moran, who is retiring at the end of the current term, cited the fact that many of his colleagues live in their offices as part of his reasoning. This is sort of a misleading point since many members do this for reasons that don’t include financial necessity. Still, the Virginia Democrat, who represents a district literally across the river from Washington, said that members need more compensation, and floated the idea of a per diem allowance.

Well, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance and Our Generation released a report last week on congressional compensation that blows Moran’s arguments completely out of the water. As it turns out, members of Congress do pretty well for themselves, all things considered.

The report finds that members of Congress are paid a three times more than the average American worker, with total compensation coming out to “around $286,000 per year.” The average American worker earns a little more than $55,000 each year.

Vulnerable Senate Democrat who once complained about Washington’s addiction to spending has failed to live up to her rhetoric

Kay Hagan made out of control federal spending and the surge in the national debt an issue during her successful 2008 campaign for U.S. Senate against then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).

“You only need to look at what kind of state senator I’ve been for the last ten years to see what kind of U.S. senator I’ll be,” said Hagan in a 2008 campaign speech, a clip of which was made available on the NRSC Rapid Response YouTube channel. “While Washington spends itself into a hole and mortgages the future for our children and our grandchildren, I’ve produced five balanced budgets,” she adds before the clip cuts away.

The criticism was valid. Dole had largely toed the party line on spending, approving much of then-President George W. Bush’s domestic and foreign policy agenda in her first and only term in the upper chamber.

Here’s your shock story of the day: ISIS fighter killed in Syria worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Since the disclosures last summer about the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus, Americans have been endlessly told that federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies need vast and wide-reaching abilities to monitor domestic and foreign terror threats.

Despite claims that these domestic surveillance programs, including the controversial bulk phone metadata collection program, have prevented acts of terrorism, there isn’t much, if any, evidence that backs that up.

In its December report on the NSA programs, the White House Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, for example, noted that bulk metadata program “was not essential to preventing attacks.” A separate report, published by the New American Foundation, explained that the most controversial NSA program had “no discernible impact” in preventing terrorist attacks.

Now, there’s a story from a Fox affiliate in Minnesota about an American supporter of ISIS, one who was killed last week in Syria while fighting for the Islamic militant organization, who worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and had access to airplanes:

Microsoft to the Obama administration: No, you can’t have access to users’ emails stored on servers overseas

A federal judge has ruled that Microsoft must turn over emails stored on a server in Ireland, but the software giant, in the face of a contempt charge, is so far refusing to comply with the order, according to Windows IT Pro, because it infringes on the sovereignty of a foreign country:

Judge Loretta Preska, the chief of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. But she suspended the order temporarily amid complaints from international companies—and tech companies in the US—that argued that allowing US authorities to search and seize data held internationally was illegal.

On Friday, however, she lifted that suspension after prosecutors successfully convinced her that her order was not appealable. The removal of the suspension legally requires Microsoft to hand over the email immediately.
[…]
In the view of Microsoft and many legal experts, federal authorities have no jurisdiction over data stored outside the country. It says that the court order violates Ireland’s sovereignty and that prosecutors need to seek a legal treaty with Ireland in order to obtain the data they want.

 


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