IRS

50 shades of greed: Sierra Club and Non-profit Cronyism

sierra club

I often find myself an anachronism within the Beltway - a modern day libertarian/conservative who cares for the environment. However, I have always wondered why there is an absence of balanced approach by environmental groups. While advocating for their goals, there never seems to be a comprehensive push for true clean energy by these activists.

But then recently I came across E&E Legal’s report , which tells the tale of the unfettered bias and influence hedge fund managers have with respect to Sierra Club’s Board, the direction of its Policy Programs, and its research and outright manipulation of grassroots membership. It is appalling and worthy of an investigation by the IRS, the SEC and any other Federal agency with legal oversight.

For example, E&E was able to uncover that nearly half of Sierra Clubs’ 18 Board Members were or still are in a position to financially profit from the single largest policy effort undertaken by the Club. Board members regularly received private notice of Sierra Club actions before the public. Companies owned, founded or operated by Board Members held strategic market investments which directly benefitted from public announcements of Sierra Club reports, policy campaigns, and even testimony before local, state and federal governmental entities.

The staggering part is that there is no public admission of this inherent conflict of interest anywhere on the Sierra Club publications, or their Board’s public information. No where does Sierra Club disclose the direct and material benefit that Sierra Club’s Board Members gained for their positions of influence which the Board Membership granted them.

Bernie Sanders, the Faux Socialist, Government-Loving Statist

sanders

This was originally posted at International Liberty.

 

It’s not often that I disagree with the folks who put together the Wall Street Journal editorial page. For instance, they just published a great editorial on that cesspool of cronyism and corruption that is otherwise known as the Export-Import Bank.

Isn’t it great that the voice of capitalism actually supports genuine free markets!

That being said, a recent editorial rubs me the wrong way.

It’s about the presumably quixotic presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. These excerpts will give you a flavor of what the WSJ wrote.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed independent Socialist, has decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination… He thinks the American economy is fundamentally unfair, and that government must tax and spend even more heavily… He thinks Social Security should increase benefits, no matter that it is heading toward insolvency. Higher taxes can make up the difference. …He wants single-payer health care, though his own state gave up the experiment as too expensive.

So what’s my disagreement?

Mitchell on Taxes, Part 2: Now the White House Wants to Raise Taxes without Congressional Approval?!?

This was originally posted at International Liberty. You can read Mitchell’s thoughts on the Flat Tax here.

I’m not reflexively opposed to executive orders and other unilateral actions by the White House. A president and his appointees, after all, have a lot of regulatory authority.

This is because, for better or worse, many of the laws approved in Washington basically express a goal and identify some tools. It’s then up to the relevant agency or agencies to promulgate regulations to enforce and implement those tools in order to supposedly achieve those goals.

But here’s the catch. The executive branch has to make at least a semi-plausible case that any given action is consistent with the law.

And the problem with this White House is that it has been using regulations and executive orders to change laws, thwart laws, and ignore laws.

There have been several instances of the White House arbitrarily deciding to ignore or alter major parts of Obamacare.

Another IRS scandal: One in 10 Tea Party donors were audited by the tax agency

In  light of the recent vote held by the Republican-led House to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, new evidence suggests that conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS division entrusted with organizations that have tax exempt status, had 10 percent of the names from their donors’ lists audited. The percentage represents a much higher rate within targeted groups, especially when compared to how often average Americans are audited.

The House voted on Wednesday to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. House Republicans insist that that the former IRS director only invoked her constitutional right after she declared her innocence to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Because new revelations pertaining to this case saw the light of day, Republicans were the first to jump at the new information.

According to the documents, nearly one in every 10 tea party donors were subject to audits after groups were forced to turn in their lists of donors, a rate that is suspiciously higher than the average 1 percent audit rate for the general public.

While the IRS maintained that it never targeted conservative or liberty-minded groups at the beginning of the investigation, the agency finally came clean, at least enough to admit that its agents were in fact singling out conservative or libertarian groups.

Ron Paul: IRS is coming after Campaign for Liberty

Ron Paul

Campaign for Liberty is doing everything it can to fight back against harassment from the Internal Revenue Service over access its donor list, but former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) warns that fines the organization faces could be “devastating.”

“Well, they’re after us,” Paul, a three-time presidential candidate, told Neil Cavuto on Wednesday. “They want money from us. They fined us almost $13,000 with daily penalties if we don’t cough it up.”

In an email to supporters on Thursday, Paul, who founded Campaign for Liberty in 2008, explained that the IRS had handed liberty-minded nonprofit with “a hefty fine” and “demanded” that it “turn over sensitive contributor information.”

Paul told Cavuto that the IRS asked for Campaign for Liberty’s donor list two years ago, but that the organization managed to get the tax agency to back off, citing a civil rights-era Supreme Court decision.

“[T]he NAACP fought this way back in 1958 and it was ruled by the Supreme Court [that] you don’t have to turnover names for privacy reasons,” he said. “And they asked us to do that two years ago. We didn’t do it. They accepted our letter, but they’re back at it again.”

Majority of Americans Say Federal Taxes Are Just Too High

Americans are scrambling to have their taxes prepared by the end of the day to satisfy Uncle Sam’s thirst for their hard-earned money. Their lack of enthusiasm could have something to do with the fact that over half of the population claims taxes are just too high.

According to Gallup, 42 percent of Americans still say that they are paying enough, or “about right,” while 52 percent say that the taxes they are paying are too high. About two years ago, 46 percent of Americans said taxes were too high, indicating that there has been an increase in the number of people feeling they are simply paying too much.

Gallop found that the view that taxes are fair is more popular among Democrats, whereas Republicans tend to see their tax burden as not fair. According to the latest poll, 54 percent of Americans still regard the income tax as fair. However, this view is becoming less popular over time. According to Gallup, it hasn’t been this low since 2001.

Among Republicans, 57 percent say taxes are too high and 49 percent say what they pay is not fair. Among Democrats, 55 percent say they pay about right, and 69 percent say that what they pay is fair.

Among Independents, the numbers indicate that the difference between those who think their taxes are fair and those who think taxes are not fair is of 7 percent. Slightly more Independents (51%) say the federal income tax they have to pay is fair against 44 percent that say the taxes they pay are not fair.

Disgraced ex-IRS official will not get immunity in exchange for testimony

When disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner appears before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, she will not receive immunity for any testimony she gives, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA):

“Her attorney indicates now that she will testify. We’ve had a back and forth negotiation,” Issa told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “But quite frankly, we believe that evidence that we’ve gathered causes her in her best interest to be summoned to testify.”

The evidence that Issa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has obtained are emails showing that Lerner drafted the proposed IRS regulations that would restrict political speech of nonprofit groups that engage in public policy discussions. The regulations are currently being considered by the IRS.

Wallace asked whether the House Oversight Committee offered Lerner immunity in exchange for her testimony. “We did not,” Issa replied, adding later that he believes the disgraced IRS official will answer all the committee’s questions about the powerful tax agencies targeting of conservative groups.

Democrats Urge IRS to Crush Conservative Free Speech

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press… — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Perhaps at no time in its history since the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts have the citizens of the United States been more in danger of losing their First Amendment right to free speech than they are today. How ironic then, that the attacks are coming primarily from the political left, who have long declared themselves defenders of free speech.

Yet the astute William F. Buckley seems to have had it right when he observed that Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”Such reviling of opposing speech is rampant today, and is getting worse.

Following the revelation last year that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups with words like “TEA Party” or “Patriot” in their names, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder claimed to be shocked and appalled that this agency would be used as a bludgeon to silence their political opponents. Senior IRS official Lois Lerner resigned, and refused to testify before Congress, invoking her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. The nation was assured that the Obama administration would get to the bottom of it.

Obamacare’s Employer Mandate Delays Head-to-Head

“[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…” — Article II, Section 3 (The Faithful Execution Clause)

Yesterday’s announcement of additional Obamacare employer mandate delays offers us yet another occasion to turn to actual the law passed by Congress.  When the four statutory Obamacare provisions below are viewed head-to-head against the new Obama Administration/IRS regulatory guidance, it’s clear that one of these things is not like the other.

EXHIBIT I: EFFECTIVE DATE

Statutory Authority - PPACA Section 1513(d):

(d) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.

Obama Administration/IRS - Preamble to the February 10, 2014 Final Regulations (Page 106):

Section 1513(d) of the Affordable Care Act provides that section 4980H applies to months after December 31, 2013; however, Notice 2013-45, issued on July 9, 2013, provides as transition relief that no assessable payments under section 4980H will apply for 2014…Notice 2013-45 provides that the employer shared responsibility provisions under section 4980H (and the information reporting provisions) will become effective for 2015.

Obama administration delays employer mandate until 2016

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced this afternoon that it will delay enforcement of Obamacare’s employer mandate until 2016 for businesses with less than 100 employees.

The employer mandate is a provision of Obamacare that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees, defined as someone who works at least 30 hours a week, to offer health insurance benefits or face a punitive, $2,000 per worker tax.

The provision was supposed to take effect at the beginning of 2014, as required by statue. Businesses expressed concern about the mandate, and many responded by cutting hours or dropping health benefits. The Treasury Department unilaterally delayed enforcement of the provision last summer, making the announcement in a blog post.

The Treasury Department announced today that it is delaying enforcement of the provision for businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees until the beginning of 2016.

“While about 96 percent of employers are not subject to the employer responsibility provision, for those employers that are, we will continue to make the compliance process simpler and easier to navigate,” said Mark Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy.


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