The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is perhaps the most hated bureaucratic institution in the country, admitted that it had targeted organizations for extra scrutiny last year simply because they had the terms “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names:
The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declared it was indeed inappropriate for the IRS to target tea party groups. But he brushed aside questions about whether the White House itself would investigate.
Instead, Carney said the administration expects a thorough investigation by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. The inspector general has been looking into the issue since last summer, and his report is expected to come out next week, the IG’s office said Friday.
Forget what you think you know about the Republican leadership in the United States Senate. Sure, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Minority Leader of the Senate Republican Conference, but the real leadership lies with at least three members.
Writing at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney notes that Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, each of whom were elected with Tea Party support, are setting the tone for the caucus on pressing legislative matters:
There are two power centers in the Senate Republican Conference. One is the official leadership under Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second is the Tea Party Troika of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul.
It’s not that there are two Republican parties. Nor is there a chasm running along ideological lines. The new dynamic is this: The official leadership has even less power than Senate leadership typically has, and the Tea Party Troika, mastering what’s called the “inside-outside game,” has more power to swing their colleagues than backbenchers normally have.
Carney cites the gun control issue as an example of the clout these three carry. Paul, Cruz, and Lee were able to turn a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressing their opposition to new gun control measures into something that gained the support of a majorty of the Republican caucus. The new gun control measures, which Cruz said were all but a done deal at one point, were eventually defeated.
Carney also notes that outside groups have been a key to their success in stopping bad legislation or raising awareness to their causes:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been frequently mentioned at United Liberty since he came out of nowhere last year to defeat David Dewhurst in a heated primary campaign. Since taking office in January, Cruz has wasted no time in challenging the political establishment in Washington and further endearing himself to the conservative movement.
Alongside Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), Cruz has made up a core of principled fiscal conservatives who have a genuine concern that the Constitution is being ignored, not just by the Obama Administration, but also his fellow Republicans. He, like Paul and Lee, has been a strong voice against gun control, taken a strong stand for civil liberties, driven the Republican establishment crazy, and perplexed the mainstream media. Perhaps his only real misstep along the way was his questioning of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, who would go on to win confirmation by the Senate.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took a shot at the Tea Party movement while discussing the sequester and the Simpson-Bowles fiscal reform plan with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
Coburn, who is serving his last term in the Senate, objected to S. 788, which would suspend the sequester for the current fiscal year. The sequester — a plan that merely cuts the rate of spending increases, is being blamed for flight delays due to FAA furloughs of air traffic controllers — a move with political motivations behind it.
“What is happening in the Senate is phenomenal, and I want the American people to see this, Coburn explained. “The Federal Government is 89 percent bigger than it was 10 years ago. We just heard the majority leader say flexibility can’t work because we are already dealing with the same amount of money — 89 percent more than we were 10 years ago.”
“I didn’t vote for the Budget Control Act. I think sequester is a stupid way to cut spending. But I want us to understand exactly what is going on,” Coburn continued. “This is a contrived situation because no effort — zero effort — by the FAA or the Department of Transportation has been made to have any flexibility in terms of how they spend their money. They have made no request for a reprogramming of funds within the FAA. They have over $500 million unobligated sitting in balances that aren’t obligated, so none of this had to happen. This has been a created situation.”
Reid responded with revisionist history, bogus numbers, and a slam against both Coburn and the Tea Party movement.
Yesterday, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, and former Rep. Steve LaTourette, President and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, joined Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday to discuss the direction of the Republican Party.
Kibbe and FreedomWorks have focused on supporting fiscal conservatives in primaries across the country, including backing primary challenges to more moderate members of Congress. FreedomWorks was essential to electing Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz — all of which went up against establishment candidates or incumbents with questionable records. LaTourette and the Republican Main Street Partnership have tried to steer the Republican Party in a more centrist direction.
With the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held near Washington, DC this past weekend and other events — including the sequester and Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster — dominating the new cycle recently, there was plenty to discuss. Additionally, Kibbe and LaTourette represent two different views on how the Republican Party should fuction.
Kibbe and FreedomWorks have supported fiscally conservative primary challengers — including Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Justin Amash — in open primaries or against more moderate Republicans and they’ve sponsored grassroots training for thousands of freedom movement activists. The Republican Main Street Partnership has been pushing for a more centrist party.
Tune in at 2pm (EST). This should a fun one to watch, folks.
“[T]he powers of government must be restrained. They’ve got to be restrained in terms of what they do in administering government programs, they need to be restrained as far as how much money they take from the American people, and they need to be restrained in terms of how much they interfere with the liberty of individual Americans.” — Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Back in 2010, conservatives trained their focus on Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), who had positioned himself over the years as a big government Republican. Bennett had backed billions in corporate welfare for private companies, including the TARP bailout, and supported a healthcare proposal that was considered by some to be worse than ObamaCare.
Bennett was unable to gain enough support during the 2010 Utah GOP convention to win the nomination, setting the stage for a primary between Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee.
Lee would go on to edge out his primary opponent thanks to his strong constitutional and fiscally conservative message and support from grassroots organizations, and he easily defeated his Democratic opponent in the historic 2010 mid-term election.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Amy Kremer, a friend and chair of the Tea Party Express, and myself yesterday to ask if the Obama Administration finally responding to Sen. Rand Paul on the issue of drone strikes against American citizens on American soil after his 13-hour filibuster was a win for the Tea Party movement:
Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor has rallied the fledgling Tea Party movement from a months-long slump and highlighted the schism between those brassy conservative newcomers and their Republican Party elders.
“What a night,” Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said after Paul’s filibuster, which began Wednesday about noon and ended about 1 a.m. Thursday. “He has definitely energized the base in a way that it hasn’t been energized in a long time.”
Until Paul’s appearance, the Tea Party’s popularity appeared to be waning. Republican leaders pushed Tea Party lawmakers to the sidelines during budget negotiations with President Obama. After a very successful 2010 election, the Tea Party took a beating in the 2012 contests. And pollsters found that fewer and fewer people were affiliating themselves with the movement.
But Paul’s filibuster attracted huge support on social media sites, from conservatives and liberals, and some believe it could mark a comeback for the movement.
“This is a big deal,” said Jason Pye, editor-in-chief of UnitedLiberty.org, a libertarian blog that follows the Tea Party.
With relative success in the 2012 Presidential elections – considering Ron Paul in the Republican primary and Gary Johnson as the Libertarian candidate in the general – libertarians maintain our strongest position in modern history. With opportunity in front of us, hopes abound to create a “broader freedom movement” – a term which rankles top libertarians.
With this opportunity comes risk – specifically, the risk of being co-opted again, a la Tea Party 2010 – therein diluting an otherwise powerful message. With CPAC 2013 in the near term, the 2014 midterm elections in the – ahem – mid-term, and the 2016 Presidential election in the far-term, we should expect more posturing from establishmentarians, mostly on the Right, for their votes.
It might be tempting to reject all policy ideas that don’t immediately get us to the Promised Land, or to support policy ideas when we disagree with their proposed end states. I don’t think we have to do either/or. I believe we can work incrementally within the existing framework to build bridges and, as the minority, work our ideas upward within a broader movement, strengthening both the broader movement and ourselves.
When presented with new opportunities, the typical impulse for political movements on the Left and Right is to look for new policy positions to woo more voters. But libertarians don’t have a policy problem; we have a messaging problem.
Now that Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014, Georgia is becoming a battleground for fight between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. Over at Georgia Tipsheet, James Richardson recently noted that Tea Party Patriots is considering involvement in the primary, which has led some Republicans to worry that the race “will descend into a conservative pissing match.”
To this point, however, only one candidate, Rep. Paul Broun, has announced. It’s is expected that Rep. Jack Kingston, a life-long appropriator and serial earmarker, will soon announce his campaign. And Rep. Tom Price, a generally solid fiscal conservative, is talking like a candidate and trying to contrast himself as a better communicator for conservative ideals.
Even though Republicans won’t head to the polls in the primary for than a year, there are new numbers out of the Peach State that show a close race. According to the survey conducted by Harper Polling, the race is a dead-heat among a handful of House members from Georgia: