New defenses and distractions in the IRS scandal are going to come rolling out from the administration and its defenders like water off a duck's back.
One ploy is evident in this sympathetic story from Friday's Washington Post seeking to portray the IRS Determinations Unit as a just a group of nice, non-partisan number-crunchers:
The [determinations] staff member [in Cincinnati], who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said that the determinations unit is competent and without bias, that it grouped together conservative applications “for consistency’s sake” — so one application did not sail through while a similar one was held up in review. This consistency is paramount in the review of all applications, according to Ronald Ran, an estate-tax lawyer who worked for 37 years in the IRS’s Cincinnati office.
“You’re not going to have a bunch of flaming liberals in the exempt-organizations department looking for conservative applications,” he said.
But look what the anonymous staff member also said:
"We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . .That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.” (emphasis added)
Huh. Something doesn't quite "add up." Why? Because on page 7 of the IG report, it states that in June of 2011, the Director of Exempt Organizations learned of the "inappropriate criterion" and directed that they be changed to "focus on the 'political, lobbying or [general] advocacy' activities of the organization." But then, the IG report, page 7, goes on to read that the team of specialists changed them back:
"However, the team of specialists subsequently changed the criteria in January 2012 without executive approval because they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad. The January 2012 criteria again focused on the policy position of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury regulations." (emphasis added)
So we are supposed to believe that a team of determinations specialists "went rogue" to change criteria laid out at the direction of the Director of Exempt Organizations, despite the assertion that "everything comes from the top" and there's no "authority to make decisions without someone signing off on them"? Interesting.
(Incidentally, sometimes it seems that the press generally doesn't have much respect for the intellect or memory of Americans; is anyone at "This Week" aware of the irony of having Charles Rangel on as a panelist to opine on abuse of the tax system?)
In an interview with Al Hunt, Jack Lew -- now Treasury Secretary and President Obama's Chief of Staff from January 2012 until this spring -- indicated that he knew about the IRS investigation last autumn (i.e., before the election).
JACK LEW: Al, I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge. Before that, in mid March, I had had a conversation, just a getting-to-know-you conversation, with the inspector general right after I started, and he went through a number of items that were matters they were working on. And the topic of a project on the 501c3 issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.
I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday. When I learned about it — from the moment I learned about it, I was outraged. The Secretary of the Treasury, as a citizen, it is a matter of the highest priority that the IRS be beyond suspicion in terms of its (inaudible).
AL HUNT: Did Tim Geithner or Neal Wolin or the general counsel know about it before him?
JACK LEW: I think that there was — the heads-up that I got was something that was a matter of public knowledge. It was posted on the IG’s website in the Fall of 2012. I believe that other is typically the practice that an inspector general notify the agencies when matters are opened. I was not aware of any details. My deputy was not aware of any details until it became a matter of public knowledge.
The questions ask themselves:
(1) What was the "public knowledge" that was allegedly posted on the website in 2012 -- how did Lew see it but so many members of the MSM (and the public) didn't?
(2) Exactly what did Neal Wolin tell him -- and when?
(3) When he received this "heads up" about the possibility of partisan abuse at the IRS, did he inform the President?
(4) If so, what was the President's reaction? If not, why not? Was it deemed insufficiently important?
(5) If so, what was the President's response?
Remember, Lew was President Obama's chief of staff. Are we really to believe that he heard this news and never communicated it either to the President or to his campaign -- even knowing the political cataclysm it would cause if this explosive information became public before the election?
It's sad to say, but no honest answers will be forthcoming unless Jack Lew is put under oath.
Dan Pfeiffer, a White House Senior advisor, attempted to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the IRS scandal on today’s Face the Nation. Pfeiffer claimed it wasn’t a ‘real’ scandal and said, “What would be an actual real scandal in Washington would be if the president had been involved or had interfered in an IRS investigation”.
He explained that the White House followed a cardinal rule of operations by not interfering with a private investigation.
"You do nothing to interfere with an independent investigation and you do nothing to offer the appearance of interfering with investigations," Pfeiffer said. Once informed, the White House officials responded after they had the facts, he said.”
As we all remember from last week, the White House and President Obama claimed they knew nothing of the investigation into the IRS targeting tea party groups until recently.
Pfeiffer once again claimed that the White House was waiting for all the facts. “It's important to get out there fast, but it's important to get out there right.”
Pfeiffer said the White House is remaining focused and will not going to let Republicans "drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped up hearings and false allegations."
The problem that Mr. Pfeiffer and the rest of the White House staff seems to forget is that this is not solely a partisan issue. Yes the groups that were targeted were supporting the opposition party, but this is something that could happen to anyone that doesn’t agree with the President and his politics. The fact that a national government organization could have this much influence to try and quiet opposition, is scary for anyone.
And once again, we see White House spokespeople out in front of the reporters trying to cover the President’s tracks. It seems that they are trying to pretend this is not a major problem. The President may not have known what was going on at the time, but there is a time and place when a boss needs to take blame for what their employees did. It’s time Mr. President.
At an event on Friday the Mayor of New York City put his foot in his mouth…again. Michael Bloomberg attempted to give mediocre high school students some advice: skip college and become plumbers. He said students who were not above average should learn how to be plumbers instead of reaching for a career that would involve going to a prestigious college and obtaining a degree.
The people who are going to have the biggest problem are college graduates who aren’t rocket scientists, if you will, not at the top of their class. Compare a plumber to going to Harvard College — being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal. You don’t spend ... four years spending $40,000, $50,000 in tuition without earning income.
Not only does Bloomberg think that skipping college is a good plan, but he also went on to give some advice about finding jobs that won’t be outsourced. “It’s hard to farm that out ... and it’s hard to automate that,” he said. He went on to say that a number of studies indicate that people who learn plumbing skills have less debt and make more money than those who get college degrees.
An advisor who helps students with college financial planning who was also at the event was not completely supportive of Bloomberg’s comments. He said, “College is a good investment,” and continued, “The only schools that cost $40,000 or $50,000 like the mayor said are elite schools”.
So maybe it is time for Michael Bloomberg to lower his elitist standards. College degrees are a good investment and should be sought after. Not everyone has the ability to afford these elite schools, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options for them to be able to attend college.
The IRS scandal has shocked decent Americans, of every political stripe, to their core. Did the President know about this specific wrongdoing? Hopefully, we'll soon find out. But Kimberly Strassel is right when she says that the IRS officials -- now disgraced before their fellow citizens -- were actually only following the orders that came, publicly, from the top.
Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do.
Indeed. Anyone remember his speech to Latino voters in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections? It contained this telling excerpt:
If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder . . ."
And there it is, clear as day -- the President's governing philosophy in a nutshell: Punish our enemies and reward our friends. That appeal -- that definition of government -- describes so much of what has happened since this President has taken office, including
Distribution of stimulus funds: - (from USA Today)
Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year's presidential election.
This, of course, is a violation of one of the basic principles of bankruptcy law, which is that secured creditors — those who loaned money only on the contractual promise that if the debt was unpaid they'd get specific property back — get paid off in full before unsecured creditors get anything. Perella Weinberg withdrew its objection to the settlement, but other bondholders did not, which triggered the bankruptcy filing.
After that came a denunciation of the objecting bondholders as "speculators" by Barack Obama in his press conference last Thursday. And then death threats to bondholders from parties unknown.
The White House denied that it strong-armed Perella Weinberg. The firm issued a statement saying it decided to accept the settlement, but it pointedly did not deny that it had been threatened by the White House. Which is to say, the threat worked.
Kathleen Sebelius threatens president of American Health Insurance Plans - (from Michael Barone)
Or as [Karen] Ignagni [President of American Health Insurance Plans], the recipient of the letter [from Sebelius], says, "It's a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."
But Sebelius has "zero tolerance" for that kind of thing. She promises to issue regulations to require "state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases" (which would presumably mean all rate increases).
And there's a threat. "We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014."
DOJ Raids Gibson Guitar (from PowerLine)
It has come out that Juszkiewicz is a Republican donor, while the CEO of one of his principal competitors, C.F. Martin & Company, is a Democratic donor. Martin reportedly uses the same wood, but DOJ hasn’t raided them, leading to speculation that the Obama administration is sending a warning to Republican businessmen that they had better not oppose his re-election, lest they face criminal investigations. Normally such speculation would not be credible, but Eric Holder has politicized the Department of Justice to a point where such questions must be taken seriously.
Administration Officials Routinely Threaten the Press (from The New York Post)
Finally, this week, reporters are pushing back. Even Jonathan Alter — who frequently appears on the Obama-friendly MSNBC — came forward to say he, too, had been treated horribly by the administration for writing something they didn’t like.
“There is a kind of threatening tone that, from time to time — not all the time — comes out of these guys,” Alter said this week. During the 2008 campaign swing through Berlin, Alter said that future White House press secretary Robert Gibbs disinvited him from a dinner between Obama and the press corps over it.
“I was told ‘Don’t come,’ in a fairly abusive e-mail,” he said. “[It] made what Gene Sperling wrote [to Woodward] look like patty-cake.”
“I had a young reporter asking tough, important questions of an Obama Cabinet secretary,” says one DC veteran. “She was doing her job, and they were trying to bully her. In an e-mail, they called her the vilest names — bitch, c--t, a--hole.” He complained and was told the matter would be investigated: “They were hemming and hawing, saying, ‘We’ll look into it.’ Nothing happened.”
Benghazi Whistleblowers Threatened (from Investors Business Daily)
The president knew full well what was being asked. But it's never good to reveal knowledge of what his underlings are doing to make him happy.
As Fox News reported Monday, "At least four career officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have retained lawyers or are in the process of doing so, as they prepare to provide sensitive information about the Benghazi attacks to Congress."
One unnamed State Department official has even felt the need to tap aggressive former Senate Intelligence Committee Republican counsel Victoria Toensing.
She revealed Monday that threats have been made by administration officials against the whistle-blowers "specifically about Benghazi ... and not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA."
NLRB Drops Complaint Against Boeing after Union-Friendly Deal (from The Wall Street Journal)
On Wednesday, the International Association of Machinists approved a new contract with Boeing in which the company agreed to make its 737 Max jet with union labor in Washington state. Yesterday, after getting the machinist all-clear, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dropped its lawsuit against Boeing's investment in South Carolina.
Has there ever been a more blatant case of a supposedly independent agency siding with a union over management in collective bargaining? . . .
As for the NLRB, its decision to drop the case so quickly after the machinists cut their deal exposes how politically motivated the Boeing suit was. The NLRB is supposed to be a fair-minded referee in labor disputes, making sure neither side breaks the law. But the board put its fist squarely on the union side to make Boeing pay a price for moving one of its 787 assembly lines to a right-to-work state, to make sure Boeing never did that again, and to demonstrate to any other unionized company that its investment is at risk if it makes the same decision.
DOJ Official Threatens AL about immigration law (All Alabama)
Thomas Perez, the man nominated as Labor Secretary by President Barack Obama, threatened to revoke federal funding for Alabama police and sheriffs if they enforced provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law. . .
“We certainly perceived that as a threat,” said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran. “He was basically putting us on notice that he would cut off our grants if he didn’t like the way we enforced the law.” . . .
Cochran said the meeting was disturbing because the Alabama Sheriff’s Association was already on record opposing the law, and that some sheriffs had even filed affidavits supporting legal challenges to the law in federal court.
“He was lashing out at us about these tactics, but yet he had no evidence that it ever happened,” Cochran said. “It really put us in a dilemma as far as how to respond.”
Walpin-Gate (from The Washington Times)
Without appropriate documentation or good reason, President Obama has fired a federal investigator who was on the case against a political ally of the president’s. Mr. Obama’s move has the stench of scandal.
80% of Energy Dept. "Green Loan" Programs Went to Obama Backers (Peter Schweizer via Doug Ross)
..But an examination of grants and guaranteed loans offered by just one stimulus program run by the Department of Energy, for alternative-energy projects, is stunning. The so-called 1705 Loan Guarantee Program and the 1603 Grant Program channeled billions of dollars to all sorts of energy companies...
...In the 1705 government-backed-loan program [alone], for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.
No doubt there's more, much more -- Hugh Hewitt asks readers if they remember "Regional EPA Administrator Al Armendariz who was forced out after a tape of his argument on the need to "crucify" the regulated community? Or the Sacketts who prevailed 9-0 in their case against the EPA when it got to the Supreme Court, or the little Lutheran school Hosanna-Tabor, persecuted by the EEOC until the Supreme Court put a stop to that by another 9-0 vote?
With all of this happening, too, it's shameful -- but hardly surprising -- that the IRS would get in on the act. After all, the call had come from the top: In this administration, "we're going to punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends."
Well, Harry Reid is resorting to desperate measures in order to try and regain some power in the Senate. Reports say that he is getting ready to use the so-called “nuclear option” to change the senate rules so that 60 votes are no longer needed to block a filibuster.
And it looks like President Obama will support Reid’s efforts if the Republicans try to block upcoming nominations.
“If Senator Reid decides to do something on nominations, the president has said he’ll be there to support him,” a Democratic aide told the Post. "This would take away the right to filibuster on nominations... All executive branch and judicial nominations would be subject to majority votes. He would not do it on legislative items.”
Reid had considered using the nuclear option last year, but the old school Democrats would not allow it. This year, many Democrats have expressed that if Reid attempts to use the nuclear option it will kill any chance at immigration reform.
In the past Harry Reid has said he would consider going to a simple majority in order to block filibusters, and he said he would use it, “if necessary”. So what ever happened to checks and balances? If Harry Reid can use this option, we have no way of knowing what he will resort to next. The Democrats seem like they are willing to do anything in order to try and run over the Republicans.
It appears the Scott Brown victory of 2010 is still haunting the Democrats. Outside groups are spending more money than ever to make sure that the Republican doesn’t pull off a miraculous win again this year. But the Republican and his outside support systems don’t plan on going down, not without a fight, anyways.
After the primary election just a few weeks ago, democrats chose Ed Markey to face off against the republican candidate, Gabriel Gomez. The spending in that election was also unprecedented. Tom Steyer, a California billionaire who spent $630,000 to back Markey in the primary was one of the top outside donors. Unions and other interest groups got involved on Markey’s side as well. Gabriel Gomez now looks to find donors who will do the same for him.
Markey’s team is now banking on the return of top spenders like Tom Steyer, the SEIU, and the League of Conservation Voters. Mr. Steyer’s rep had to this to say about the prospects, “We are in the process of evaluating the race with our local partners, but the more we learn about [Republican nominee Gabriel] Gomez, the more he looks like Mitt Romney without the experience," LeHane said.
The SEIU has already spent $340,000 on the upcoming special election. And the League of Conservation Voters, which endorsed Markey and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his behalf in the primary, expects to do the same for the special election. Their spokesman said, "We made the largest investment by any group in the primary, and we’re going to continue supporting Markey in the general election. This is the biggest race this year for us”.
But with polling numbers close, Republican groups are looking to get in on the action to try and pull off another victory like 2010.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is planning to make a financial investment in Gomez's campaign in the coming weeks, though Republicans won't say what form that investment will take .
And their involvement could open the door to investments from other GOP outside groups.
Asked Monday whether American Crossroads or its affiliated nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, is
likely to get involved in Massachusetts, spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the groups are “carefully weighing all the options for engagement there.”
With this election just a month away, the race is too close to call. But what we can tell for sure is that outside groups are going to play a large role in Massachusetts, and could even change the outcome.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Service’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year. At the first Congressional hearing into the I.R.S. scandal, J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his audit on June 4, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.” It remained unclear how much the disclosure would affect the broader debate over the I.R.S.'s problems. Complaints from Tea Party groups that the I.R.S. was singling them out became public in 2012, through media accounts.
This sentence from the Times story is precious:
Mr. George told Treasury officials about the allegation as part of a routine briefing about ongoing audits he would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said. Still, the inspector general’s testimony will most likely fuel efforts by Congressional Republicans to show that Obama administration officials knew of efforts to single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny, but did not reveal that knowledge during President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Yes, New York Times, the sworn testimony of the Inspector General and your reporting may "fuel efforts by Congressional Republicans" to, um, point out what happened. For his part, Treasury says Wolin didn't discuss the revelation with anyone outside of his own department. First of all, the IRS is overseen by Treasury, which is run by the executive branch. Targeting conservative was a systemic, well-known practice for years inside the IRS. Even if Wolin is telling the truth, we now know that at least some administration officials at Treasury were made aware of the investigation six months before the election. Are we to believe that Wolin didn't bring this explosive information to his boss, Sec. Tim Geithner? Is there any chance this didn't make its way up the food chain in June of last year, if it hadn't already? NBC News' Lisa Myers raised similar questions about the IRS this morning. She noted that IRS brass failed to disclose this extraordinary information last September in a letter to Congress:
"Imagine, if you can, what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012 in the middle of the presidential election. The terrain would have looked very different."
We now have confirmation that it wasn't just the IRS that knew about all of this and failed to disclose it in the closing weeks of a bitterly-fought election. (Allahpundit asks some good questions about that here). Treasury was in the loop, too. The "guess who knew?" game keeps creeping closer to the White House door, and the "official" story seems to be changing almost hourly. For instance, we also now know that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has known about this for months. Acting IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller served up quite a few eye-opening remarks during today's testimony. Among them was the explanation that a huge uptick in applications for tax-free status that coincided with the rise of the Tea Party is what precipitated the "efficiency/triage" targeting program. One small problem: There was no deluge of applicants during that time frame. Oh well, time to dream up another excuse. I'll leave you with this piece from Politico cataloging what we still don't know about the IRS story. So far. Honestly, they barely scratch the surface.
To its credit, The Atlantic points out yet another lie Lois Lerner profferd at her press conference last week. She blamed the political targeting beginning in 2010 on the supposed new deluge of 501(c)(3) applications. Only problem: Such a deluge never occurred.
Why does Lois Lerner still have a job? And why would anyone believe anything that comes out of the mouths of IRS officials unless they're under oath and subject to perjury charges?
So there it is -- a hitherto-missing link in the chain of information that every Obamaphile was dreading.
Senior Obama administration officials knew that the Inspector General was auditing the IRS for political targeting of conservatives in June of 2012. The Treasury's general counsel -- that's right, William J. Wilkins -- was told on June 4, 2012 by the IG; Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin was informed shortly thereafter.
Neal Wolin was Tim Geithner's Deputy. That's the second-in-command at the Department of the Treasury. And Wolin had been around the block; he had held high government posts in the Clinton administration before the Obama one.
It is inconceivable that someone like Wolin would have learned of such politically explosive information during an election year and failed to inform anyone at The White House or on the President's campaign. The Obama administration kept this information hidden from the American people until it had to be revealed because of the pending IG report.
Would it have changed any minds had it been reported before the election? We'll never know, but it doesn't do anything to enhance the credibility of the President's reelection victory.
Surely, surely no one in the MSM had wind of this and sat on the story lest it hurt the Obama campaign.