As we all know, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under fire for its targeting of Tea Party groups. This scandal, while outrageous and demanding of answers and accountability, isn’t exactly a new thing for the United States’ most disliked bureaucratic entity.
The Cato Institute has a released a new video highlighting the past administrations’ — from FDR to LBJ to Nixon — uses of the IRS to target political and ideological opponents. The video features comments from David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics; Michael MacLeod-Ball, Chief Legislative Council at the ACLU; John Samples, Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government; and Gene Healy, Vice President of the Cato Institute.
Samples and Keating noted that there are efforts in and outside of Congress to give the IRS more power to monitor groups that have tax-exempt status, which they explain is an ironic notion, given this most recent scandal. Healy also points to recent comments by President Obama, who decried voices warning of tyranny in a recent commencement address.
“I think if you’re one of these Tea Party groups that spent, in some cases, two years, under an IRS inquisition, you might start to think that these voices are onto something,” said Healy, just before a clip of President Obama joking about auditing university officials who had refused him an honorary degree.
If Senate Democrats are so bothered by the outrageous developments with the Internal Revenue Service, which targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny, than why are they blocking a resolution for an independent investigation into the matter?
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered a resolution (PDF) that would have condemned the IRS for singling out Tea Party and other conservative groups and launched independent investigation into these discriminatory tactics. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have apparently blocked the resolution for reasons that haven’t been made clear.
“This resolution is not about Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal. It is about arrogant and unrestrained government vs. the rule of law,” said Paul in a statement from his office. “The First Amendment cannot and should not be renegotiated depending on which party holds power.”
“Each senator took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, yet Senate Democrats chose to block my resolution and thus refused to condemn the IRS for trampling on our First Amendment rights,” he added. “I am incredibly disappointed in Washington’s party politics and I am determined to hold the IRS accountable for these unjust acts.”
Perhaps they blocked the resolution because Senate Democrats don’t necessarily have a problem with what the IRS has done. Several Democrats, including Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), have expressed concern about the scandal. But Baucus, for example, previously asked the IRS to investigate conservative groups who had tax-exempt status, as Brian Walsh notes at US News:
While it may be just temporary, Chris Matthews, a talking head who has fawned over President Barack Obama like some dewy-eyed school girl, ripped the White House yesterday during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
The cantankerous pundit still made the case for a big government during the nearly 22-minute segment on the show, but he didn’t hide his contempt for President Obama’s very serious leadership failures.
“This President’s responsible for the federal government. He’s responsible even if he didn’t do anything wrong,” said Matthews on the Morning Joe. “He keeps acting like the only problem he’s got — the only real problem he has, viscerally — is the talking points in Benghazi because that gets to Susan Rice, people close to him, and Michelle.”
Matthews said that President Obama needs someone to handle the day-to-day affairs of the White House to deal handle problems like the administration has seen over the last several days. He cited the lack of this leadership as a “real problem.”
In the wake of a very serious scandal that involved his agency singling out Tea Party groups, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked for and received the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.
President Barack Obama announced this development during a short statement to this press this afternoon. He took no questions, but added that the recommendations made by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General will be implemented.
Quoting a congressional source earlier today, CNN noted that two Cincinnati-based staffers were largely responsible for the discrimination toward Tea Party groups. They have, according to the story, “already been disciplined,” though specifics weren’t provided.
While it’s good that there has been some accountability, much more needs to be done to prevent this from ever happening again. Moreover, President Obama’s response, to this point, had been woefully inadequate. Just Tuesday, the White House still didn’t want to own up that a mistake had been made, despite an admission and apology from the IRS.
The IRS is the problem. It’s very nature is to harass Americans into complying with the United States’ completely incoherent tax code. Couple that with the intimidating nature of this White House, and it’s a recipe for what happened to these Tea Party groups.
A day after criticizing the IRS over the targeting of Tea Party groups, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, slammed President Barack Obama and the White House for not knowing about the scandals that have recently plagued the administration.
He showed that President Obama’s said that he’d heard about the IRS scandal through news reports, rather than hearing about it from officials in the agency. That, by the way, is odd since President Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that White House lawyers knew about the investigation into the allegations in April.
Stewart showed that this is actually a pattern when it comes to stories that reflect badly on President Obama and leadership failures, noting that the same line was given in response to Operation Fast and Furious. “You know,” said Stewart, “I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announcing it on television!”
Check out the segment below:
If you’ve listened to pundits over the last couple years, you’ve no doubt heard them say that the Tea Party, a grassroots movement that was essential to Republicans taking control of the House in the 2010, doesn’t have the influence that it once had. But the IRS scandal that has plagued the White House this week has placed new emphasis on the dangers of big government that were the central focus of the Tea Party and, as Sean Sullivan explained this morning at the Washington Post, it could breathe new life in the movement:
A product of frustration with the government’s direction — specifically the Obama administration’s decisions on spending, taxes and the creation of the federal health-care law — the tea party was angst channeled into activism. Now comes another moment of widespread frustration, if a smaller one, with the potential to incite a new round of advocacy.
Even as the tea party sentiment is not as widespread as it once was, the ideology underlying the movement remains a force in Congress. Look at the House, where an unruly conservative GOP conference has caused headaches for leadership. The House will hold yet another vote on a repeal of Obamacare on Thursday, an effort designed in part to satisfy freshmen lawmakers who want the vote on their record.
If you’ve been following the story, you know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gave extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups, including asking them questions about donors, relationships with candidates and eleced officials, and youth outreach programs.
ABC News notes that American Patriots Against Government Excess, one of the groups singled out by the IRS. was asked for a synopsis of books they read. Instead of sending a synopsis, the group sent a copy of the Constitution:
When Marion Bower decided to start her tea party organization in 2010, she didn’t know that it would take nearly two years for the Internal Revenue Service to approve her request for tax-exempt status.
The Ohio woman also did not expect that providing information about the books her group read would be part of the application process.
“I was trying to be very cordial, but they wanted copies of unbelievable things,” Bower told ABC News today. “They wanted to know what materials we had discussed at any of our book studies.”
She ultimately sent one of the books, “The Five Thousand Year Leap,” promoted frequently by Glenn Beck, to the IRS official handling her tax-exempt request in Cincinnati. She also sent a paperback copy of the Constitution.
“They wanted a synopsis of all the books we read,” Bower said. “I thought, I don’t have time to write a book report. You can read them for yourselves.”
That is awesome.
While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was hesistant to admit that the IRS did anything wrong during his daily press briefing on Tuesday, a report issued by the agency’s watchdog confirms that Tea Party groups were singled out for additional scrutiny and that the more needs to be done to reassure an already distrusting public:
Lax oversight at the Internal Revenue Service allowed for the singling out of some conservative groups, resulting in lengthy delays in the processing of their applications for federal tax-exempt status, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general released Tuesday.
The report found that for more than 18 months beginning in early 2010 the IRS developed and followed a faulty policy to determine whether the applicants were engaged in political activities, which would disqualify the groups from receiving tax-exempt status.
“The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention,” according to the report.
The list of words that IRS officials were using to flag groups for extra scrutiny is about as blatant as it can get. Obviously, “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” and “9/12” were among them, but they also flagged groups that wanted to “make America a better place to live” or educate about the Constitution and Bill of Rights — our nation’s founding documents.
It is an established fact at this point that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) willfully targeted Tea Party groups. That is beyond dispute. They acknowledged it on Friday, called it “inappropriate,” and even apologized for it. What’s more, we now know that the agency’s most senior official knew about it a year ago. However, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to spin it today during his daily press briefing.
“Those from the IRS that have spoken about this obviously have much greater insight into what took place than we do. We have not seen the report. We have not independently collected information about what transpired,” Carney told reporters. “We need the independent Inspector General’s report to be released before we can make judgments. One person’s view of what actions were taken or what that individual did is not enough for us to say something concretely happened that was inappropriate.”
The comments came the day after President Barack Obama, Carney’s boss, talked about the IRS scandal in hypotheticals. In his response to a question about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, Obama said, “If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous.”
While he isn’t exactly a friend of the Tea Party or similar groups, Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, ripped the Obama Administration and Internal Revenue Service last night over legitimizing the criticisms of its opponents.
Stewart laughed at the admission that the agency had targeted conservatives groups and the subsequent mea culpa, saying, “I didn’t realize apologies were sufficent in IRS issues.”
Watch the whole segment below: