Recent Posts From Jason Pye
It wasn’t just Tea Party and other limited-government groups that were targeted by the IRS. The bureaucratic agency, which is apparently too big for the Obama Administration to know what’s going on, also targeted an Iowa-based pro-life group:
On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”
“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”
Unbelievable. Regardless of how one my feel about the abortion issue, this sort of questioning is completely inappropriate, and it is very much a religious liberty issue. What difference does the content of their prayers actually make and why does the government need to know about it? And why do they need to know how often or what percentage of their meetings are spent in prayer?
Despite the Justice Department coming under fire for its seizure of AP phone records, which put the press in the middle of the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers, Attorney General Eric Holder is planning another controversial move.
Holder, who is certainly no stranger to scandal due to the DOJ’s involvement in Operation Fast and Furious and his subsequent refusal to turnover documents related to the gun-running scheme, is planning to use “regulatory power to make smaller changes” to gun control laws:
In an interview with Attorney General Eric Holder, after discussing the IRS scandal of seizing AP phone records, NPR’s Carrie Johnson checked in with Holder on the issue of gun control. According to Johnson, Holder stated that although the White House lost the battle over expanding background checks for gun purchasers, the administration will be trying again later this year to push gun control in Congress and using their “regulatory power to make smaller changes in the meantime.” Confirming the administration’s unrelenting commitment to what many believe is an infringement of the Second Amendment, Holder declared that the goal is, “moving the needle in the way in which the American people want, which is to make guns less accessible to people that should not have them.”
The IRS scandal continues to get creepier. Yesterday, we told you the story of Justin Binik-Thomas, a Cincinnati-based activist who was mentioned by name in the agency’s queries to the Liberty Township Tea Party, an organization with which he had no affiliation. It appears that this is not just some isolated incident.
The Daily Caller reports that Dylan Nonaka and the Leadership Institute, a well-known conservative organization based in Arlington, Virginia, were also targeted in IRS requests for more information from the Hawaii Tea Party:
In what former Republican executive and activist Dylan Nonaka is calling a massive invasion of privacy that suggests a coordinated effort to target conservative groups, two IRS offices last year independently and simultaneously conducted costly audits and sought tea party-related training materials that they apparently believed could be tied to Nonaka.
The scandal currently engulfing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) no doubt has the attention of the country. As you know this bureaucratic agency singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for additional scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status.
There has been some focus on the very odd questions asked of these groups. Some were innocuous, though still very much over the line, while others, as David French of the ACLJ said, are a “far left wish list of discovery of the Tea Party.”
During his testimony on Capitol Hill today, acting-IRS Commission Steven Miller, who resigned earlier this week, told the House Ways and Means Committee that there was no political motivation in his agency’s screening of Tea Party groups. That’s obviously not true. In fact, the very clear intent of the IRS to single out and intimidate this groups is even more clear after reading the questions sent to the Liberty Township Tea Party, a group based just north of Cincinnati.
Under penalties of perjury, the Liberty Township Tea Party was asked for additional information, ranging from queries about family members to fundraising to current and planned employees/volunteers to outreach programs with the local school district.
But one request sticks out. The IRS wanted to know about the Liberty Township Tea Party’s relationship with one particular person, Justin Binik-Thomas:
After the IRS and DOJ scandals became public knowledge late last week and earlier this week, Reuters used the stories as a chance to analyize President Barack Obama’s civil liberties record.
While he seemed like a stark contrast to George W. Bush during the 2008 presidential campaign, the analysis reveals that Obama’s administration, has been a disappointment on civil liberties. Some constitutional lawyers interviewed by Reuters attribute this to the “realties” of the presidency.
But do these so-called “realities” give a president the excuse to infringe upon civil liberties? And shouldn’t there accountability when administration officials, whether they be in the IRS or DOJ, act in a manner is grossly out of line?
In an editorial at The Daily Beast, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, sees the scandals this week as both a failure of President Obama’s leadership and part of his administration’s continuing assault on civil liberties:
So who is really responsible? Who knew what, and when did they know it?
The day the story broke, Carney tried to deflect blame by claiming that the “IRS is an independent enforcement agency.” However, it is a part of the Department of the Treasury, which answers to the president.
Democratic campaign strategist David Axelrod argued that the “vast” size of the federal government makes it impossible for the president to know what is going on beneath him in the Executive Branch.
If President Obama is not watching over the Executive Branch, then who is?
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has delivered another blow to President Barack Obama, who has had an incredibly rough week due to a series of very serious scandals, by finding a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to be unconstitutional:
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday said an appointment President Barack Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board was invalid, becoming the second circuit to question the validity of the labor board’s decisions.
The 102-page opinion, in a case called National Labor Relations Board v. New Vista, focused on the appointment of Craig Becker, a former board member who was appointed by Obama during a two-week Senate break in March 2010. (Becker stepped down from the board in 2012.) These breaks are often referred to as “intrasession” breaks, as opposed to intersessions, when the Senate is between sessions.
“We hold that the ‘recess of the Senate’ means only intersession breaks, and so we conclude that Member Becker’s appointment was invalid,” Judge Brooks Smith of the 3rd Circuit wrote in a 2-1 decision that Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen joined and Judge Joseph Greenaway dissented from.
There were actually three recess appointments made by President Obama to the NLRB in January 2012, but the appellate court only focused on one. In a decision earlier this year, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals found all three to be unconstitutional.
While Democrats are paying lip-service to holding the IRS accountable for its targeting of Tea Party groups, ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is trying to spin the scandal as a reason to limit political speech:
The IRS is under heavy fire from both parties following recent revelations that some in the agency singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for a certain tax-exempt status.
Pelosi condemned those actions Thursday, saying those responsible “were wrong and must be held accountable.” But the Democratic leader was also quick to link the scandal to the broader issue of campaign finance, arguing that the episode would never have happened if Congress overhauled the system to eliminate so-called 501(c)(4) groups altogether.
Those groups, which do not have to disclose their donors, have gained power and prominence since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision empowered them to participate directly in elections provided they focus primarily on “social welfare” and not candidate advocacy.
“These actions highlight why we must overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “There is a very thin line … that these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations must make their priority promoting social welfare, rather than engaging in politics. Clearly, this has not been [the case].
During a press conference yesterday at the White House, President Barack Obama reiterated once again that he was not aware of the Internal Revenue Service targeting Tea Party groups until saw the news reports last Friday. The claim comes despite White House lawyers being made aware of the scandal just last month.
Even if you believe that the White House didn’t know about these discriminatory tactics, David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Obama, has another theory for what enabled a scandal of this magnitude — government is just too big and too bureaucratic:
In an interview earlier this week with Joe Scarborough, Axelrod called the scandal an “interesting case study” and then proceeded to blame the size of government for the problem. “If you look at the Inspector General’s report, apparently, some folks down in the bureaucracy — you know, we have a large government took it upon themselves to shorthand these applications for tax-exempt status in a way that was idiotic and also dangerous,” he said.
We heard it on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday from Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). He made it very clear to his fellow members that the vote to repeal ObamaCare was a “vote to stop the IRS.”
That proclamation was true for two reasons. First, the IRS was given authority to enforce ObamaCare’s individual mandate and the collect the fines imposed on Americans who don’t purchase health insurance coverage. The IRS has also far exceed its statutory authority by imposing fines on businesses that don’t offer coverage to employees in states that rejected the insurance exchanges. Those points by themselves are concerning enough.
The second point is that the IRS official who oversaw the office that dealt with tax-exempt organizations during the time the agency was discriminating against Tea Party groups is now leading the office responsible for ObamaCare:
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
Just a few moments ago, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 45, which would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — more commonly known as “ObamaCare” — by a 229 to 195 vote. An earlier motion by House Democrats to recommit the legislation to committee failed, 190 to 230.
Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) described the vote to repeal as a “vote to stop the IRS,” a reference to the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups and the new authority it has been given under ObamaCare.”
“The chief enforcers of this law – the IRS – have been outed as partisan political operatives. They’ve harassed and bullied and suppressed the political opponents of the Obama Administration,” said Graves from the floor of the chamber. “Now they want to be in charge of our health care? Give me a break. I don’t think so.”
“Members, this is your chance. This is your chance to weigh in on the IRS scandal,” he added. “A vote to repeal is a vote to stop the IRS.”
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Senate will take up the ObamaCare repeal measure, despite their recent string of serious concerns with the law, including worries about rising insurance premiums and poor implementation efforts by the administration. President Barack Obama has promised to veto any measure that repeals the increasingly costly law.