By now you know the IRS has been targeting conservative groups, but one group in particular has been put through hell by the Department of Justice. I've written about True the Vote's efforts to promote fair and clean elections free of voter fraud for more than a year now. The group is based in Houston, Texas and headed by President and Founder Catherine Engelbrecht. True the Vote strongly supports voter identifications laws, which have been proven not only to produce higher voter turn out, but also preserve the intergrity of our elections.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who of course heads the Justice Department, has done everything in his power to prevent voter identification laws from being implemented. As a result, True the Vote has been a top target for Holder and his goons. Holder's DOJ has been tormenting Engelbrecht and her organization since the beginning. Not only has she been bullied by the IRS, but the FBI and ATF too. More from Breitbart:
True the Vote, a Houston-based nonprofit which focuses on election integrity issues, was formed by Catherine Engelbrecht and her King Street Patriots Tea Party group. True the Vote applied to the IRS for their 501(c3) non-profit status in July 2010, and almost immediately their problems began.
Within two years, multiple federal agencies, along with an EPA-affiliated Texas state agency, began auditing True the Vote and its founders, visiting their group, their businesses, and asking questions of people who knew them. The IRS was not the only governmental agency involved.
True the Vote’s experiences with the IRS’s abuse of power were recently discussed by Catherine Engelbrecht in a previous interview with Breitbart News. She said:
We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010. Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They’ve requested to see each and every tweet I’ve ever tweeted or Facebook post I’ve ever posted. They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future.
Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family's firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership--which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”
The Democratic Party of Texas filed a lawsuit against her, as did an ACORN affiliated group. Both the FBI and the BATF continued to poke around her life, the lives of people in her Tea Party group, and her businesses.
And did Engelbrecht do anything wrong? Nope.
Ultimately, the IRS determined that it actually owed a refund to Engelbrecht; the BATF found nothing wrong in any of its repeated visits and audits; OSHA’s fine-toothed comb found reason to demand $25,000 from Engelbrecht’s family business; and TCEQ demanded the Engelbrechts spend $42,000 on additional storage sheds.
“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like," Engelbrecht said. "My family and I have lived with great concern that we would be subject to even greater government abuses if we were vocal about what they were doing to us because of our political views and our efforts to increase governmental accountability.
Over the weekend, Engelbrecht spoke extensively on Fox News about her experiences.
As many have already said, Obama has created a culture of intimidation and it isn't just within the IRS. We're just getting started.
Amazingly, the Obama administration is seeking to punish the practice of investigative journalism. To the excellent post by Katie below, I'd add this quote from the WaPo story:
[In court documents, FBI agent Reginald] Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target.
In other words, the administration is alleging that Rosen somehow broke the law simply by soliciting information for publication. What this means is that every investigative journalist could be in legal peril every time s/he sought information that turned out, in an administration's view, to threaten national security. Imagine the creative and selective enforcement an administration could employ to deter investigation of tis doings. This is what the First Amendment was designed to guard against, a point even the Post article concedes:
[I]t remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.
There is a good reason these sorts of accusations and prosecutions aren't thrown around often. A free press (and the Second Amendment) are a free people's only defenses against government tyranny. What's more, it isn't illegal to publish classified information (a protection for which the ObamaPhiles at The New York Times had reason to be grateful during the Bush administration -- but note that the Bush administration never went so far as to try to criminalize journalistic activity).
Oh, and keep in mind that this spying on and prosecution of Rosen was happening in 2009, at the same time that the White House was waging war on Fox News. Coincidence? You decide.
It turns out President Obama's Department of Justice wasn't just targeting Associated Press reporters. The Washington Post has revealed DOJ specifically targeted Fox News' Reporter James Rosen, who covers the State Department. DOJ not only monitored Rosen's phone calls, but his movements.
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.
At a time when President Obama’s administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe.
Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.
“Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public,” said First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin, who has represented the Associated Press, but not in the current case. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”
Last week during testimony on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Eric Holder denied any involvement in the secret monitoring of AP reporters and said he recused himself from the case. Holder said his Deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on the subpoenas allowing for the secret monitoring of personal and work phones of AP editors and reporters. So, who exactly signed off on the creepy monitoring of Rosen? Was it Holder? Or did he "recuse" himself from that case too? The law requires the Attorney General to sign off on intrusive monitoring of the press.
The big question after the revelations of the AP being monitored came out nearly two weeks ago was, "How far does this go? What other media outlets were monitored?" It turns out, this wasn't just an overreach into the Associated Press, but an overreach into the press in general. You can bet this isn't the end of this thing.
Actually, we know who was primarily responsible for scrubbing the talking points (the State Department) and why (to mitigate political embarrassment for their lethal failures). And assigning responsibility for misleading the public isn't "irrelevant," Dan. While we're at it, no, Rice's rendition of events wasn't based on the "best information" the intelligence community produced. Their best assessment included a clear link to terrorist groups, and entailed previous security warnings, both of which disappeared from the final draft. The head of America's top intelligence agency called the end result "useless." Passing the buck to Congress is pathetic, too. Yes, we should do what we must to protect our people in the future, but that doesn't address what led to four American deaths in Libya. The lack of sufficient security at our compound in Benghazi had nothing to do with Congress or funding. It had everything to do with a series of denied and ignored requests from State higher-ups, the rationale for which remains murky (and for which no one has been held accountable). Fox News' Chris Wallace asked a question I've been wondering about for some time. Where was the Commander-in-Chief as the terrorist attack unfolded? Surprise -- Pfeiffer thinks the answer to that inquiry is "largely irrelevant," too:
After the eight-hour raid began, Obama had one single contact with the Secretary of State that day, and zero with the Defense Secretary or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So where was he and what was he doing? All Pfeiffer can offer is that his boss "was kept up to date" by someone. Why the president was not actively engaged during the crisis is totally inexplicable. It's the president's job to make the tough calls during emergencies; instead, Obama seemingly told staffers to keep him posted as he focused on something else. What that might have been is anyone's guess at this stage. Still. Eight months later. Finally, ABC News' George Stephanopolous asked Pfeiffer if the president views the IRS' targeting scheme as an illegal activity. The acting IRS commissioner testified that his agency's actions were "absolutely not" illegal on Friday (before changing his tune and saying that he wasn't sure). What does our law professor president have to say on the matter. Get ready for the most comical use of the "I-word" yet:
"The law is irrelevant." Perfect. (Pfeiffer has hilariously "clarified" that of course the law matters on Twitter). I'll leave you with this quote from a piece in yesterday's Washington Post, which described the shock of IRS employees that they're being accused of partisanship (which Carol also mentioned yesterday):
We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “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.”
Phil Kerpen notes that this rather interesting comment was buried in...the Post's Style Section.
Over the weekend, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer was deemed with trying to rescue the Obama administration amid growing scandals. The IRS scandal has been at the top of the news cycle for the past week, but questions about Benghazi still remain unanswered. Appearing on five Sunday shows, Pfeiffer called on Republicans to apologize to UN Ambassador Susan Rice for their criticisms of her after she falsely blamed a YouTube video for the attack on the U.S. consulate which left four Americans dead. Pfeiffer cited emails to back up his request for apology and said Rice was simply restating what the CIA had told her. The problem? There was no mention of a YouTube video anywhere in the emails.
“I think that many of the Republicans who had been talking about this, now that they’ve seen the emails, owe Ambassador Rice an apology for the things they’ve said about her in the wake of the attack,” said Pfeiffer on ABC’s “This Week.”
Meanwhile on CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked Pfeiffer why he was there instead of someone more important like the White House Chief of Staff or the Secretary of State. More from MRC:
As NewsBusters reported two weeks ago, CBS’s Bob Schieffer is fed up with the White House’s talking points concerning what happened at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September.
His impatience continued on Sunday's Face the Nation when Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer gave stock answers to questions about the three crises facing the President leading Schieffer to first accuse his guest of taking "exactly the approach that the Nixon administration took" and finally scolding him by asking, "Why are you here today? Why isn't the White House Chief of Staff here to tell us what happened?" (video follows with transcript and commentary)
But what I'm saying to you is that was just PR. That was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn't know anything about what had happened. Why did you do that? Why didn't the Secretary of State come and tell us what they knew and if he knew nothing say, “We don't know yet?” Why didn't the White House Chief of Staff come out? I mean I would, and I mean this as no disrespect to you, why are you here today? Why isn't the White House Chief of Staff here to tell us what happened?
Tea Party groups from across the country are planning to protest IRS offices Tuesday as details of inapropriate targeting by the agency continue to emerge.
On behalf of Tea Party, Patriot groups, 9/12, liberty activists, and the American people, we are calling for anyone and everyone to protest the IRS’ complete abuse of power on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at noon local time.
The IRS scandal keeps getting closer and closer to the top of the White House food chain as Obama officials desperately try to spin their way out of mounting evidence and foul play. The Wall Street Journal is reporting President Obama's top attorney knew about the IRS targeting weeks ago before news broke, but of course, Obama still didn't know about it until he learned about it "from the news."
The White House's chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.
That disclosure has prompted a debate over whether the president should have been notified at that time.
In the week of April 22, the Office of the White House Counsel and its head, Kathryn Ruemmler, were told by Treasury Department attorneys that an inspector general's report was nearing completion, the White House official said. In that conversation, Ms. Ruemmler learned that "a small number of line IRS employees had improperly scrutinized certain…organizations by using words like 'tea party' and 'patriot,' " the official said.
President Barack Obama said last week he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public, on May 10, when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers.
The main question since this whole thing broke on May 10th is whether President Obama ordered the targeting, knew of targeting, or encouraged the targeting through his statements. Did this thing come from the top? Kim Strassel says of course it did.
Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. 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. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
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.