Perhaps by design, the IG report released yesterday cloaks some pretty shocking revelations in mind-numbing bureaucratese. Interestingly, it seeks to blame a pattern of obvious partisan abuse on "ineffective management" and "ineffective oversight by management." Although admissions of government incompetence generally have some truth behind them, here, it seems that the IG deliberately chose the most innocuous version of events to put forward as the truth, and demonstrates a willingness to suspend disbelief about some pretty startling admissions of ignorance and targeting. Notwithstanding the timelines provided in the report, there are significant holes especially regarding who knew what about the targeting, and when.
There's nothing in there about the targeting of individuals, as I noted last night.
There's nothing in there about who leaked documents to the media (which I wrote about here).
There's nothing in there about how an Obama relection campaign chairman came to possess confidential information he used to attack Mitt Romney.
What the report reveals -- more than anything else -- is that it's a starting point for some sharp inquiry by Congress, raising more questions than it answers. Some of the issues that might profitably be addressed are as follows:
1. The report's highlight page states that the wrongful IRS activity at issue was a result of "ineffective management." Has there ever been an example of similar activity in the past by low-level employees that "managers" needed to stop? What was it? By whom? How was it stopped? By whom?
2. On page 3, the report notes that "During the 2012 election cycle, some members of Congress raised concerns about selective enforcement." What were these members told? What investigation had been done internally -- and by whom -- before members like Orrin Hatch were assured that their concerns were baseless? This goes to whether members of Congress were deliberately lied to -- and by whom -- and whether their concerns were even taken seriously in the first place.
3. Also on page 3, the report states that some members of Congress asked the IRS to investigate whether existing 501(c)(4)'s were engaged in improper campaign activity. In other words, some members were urging greater scrutiny of 501(c)(4)'s. What members were these? Whom did they contact at the IRS? What were they told, and by whom? It would be interesting to know whether any former staffers of these members participated in the wrongdoing. What's more, if top officials were responsive to these requests, it might suggest where direction for the targeting came from.
4. On page 5, the report states that "The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names." Who headed the Determinations Unit? Who was part of the Unit? Did any members of the Unit raise contemperaneous objections to the improper criteria? If so, how were those objections addressed and by whom?
[# More #]
5. Footnote 13 on page 5 notes that "until July 2011, the Rulings and Agreements office [NB: located in Washington, DC!] referred to these cases as Tea Party cases. Afterwards, the EO function [Exempt Organizations function] referred to these cases as advocacy cases." Who headed the Rulings and Agreements office? Was any impropriety detected in the fact that cases reflecting a particular viewpoint (Tea Party) received a designation reflecting that viewpoint? How did the designation come to be changed and by whom? For how long was the Rulings and Agreements office aware that there was a "Tea Party" category of cases? When did the EO become aware of the designation, and was any other action or investigation undertaken when the terminology was changed?
6. Page 5 of the report notes that the IG "identified some organizations' applications with evidence of significant political campaign intervention that were not forwarded to the team of specialists for processing but should have been. We also identified applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists but did not have indications of significant political campaign intervention. All applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists experienced substantial delays in processing." What were the applications that were not forwarded for futher review but should have been? (Were these all left-leaning groups?) What were the applications that were incorrectly forwarded and therefore delayed? Were these all right-leaning groups? Goes to issue of whether incompetence and "managerial ineffectiveness" or deliberate malfeasance occurred.
7. On pages 5-6, there is a significant redaction, followed by the sentence "Soon thereafter, according to the IRS, a Determinations Unit Specialist was asked to search for applications with Tea Party, Patriots or 9/12 in the organization's name as well as other 'political-sounding' names." Nice use of the passive construction, but who exactly instructed the Determinations Unit Specialist to make this search and why?
8. On page 6, it states "In June of 2010, the Determinations Unit began training its specialists on issues to be aware of, including Tea Party cases." What other issues was the unit to "be aware of"? Who at the Unit initiated the training? Who else knew about or order the training? Did any member of the unit (or anyone else) flag such training as inappropriate, and if so, whom?
9. On page 6, the report reads "EO function officials stated that Determinations Unit specialists intepreted the general criteria in the BOLO ["Be on the lookout"] listing and developed expanded criteria for identifying potential political cases." The attached footnote states that "during interviews" the IG "could not specifically determine who had been involved in creating the criteria." It was later "clarified" that the "expanded criteria were a compilation of" various unit "specialists' responses on how they were identifying Tea Party cases." Who compiled these criteria? Who were the Determinations Unit specialists? When the EO Director "raised concerns," why was this issue kept secret and under whose directive? Something is amiss here.
10. On page 7, the IG states that "we asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS." All said no , "Instead, the Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management." (emphasis added). Obviously, further inquiry is warranted. If the criteria was developed "in part" due to insufficient oversight, what is the other "part" of how it was developed? With whom (inside and outside the IRS) did they discuss the criteria? Who ARE these people, anyway? Are they career officials or political appointees? What are their partisan backgrounds?
11. On page 7, it states "only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO listing criteria before it was implemented." Fine, but who else KNEW about the references, even if they didn't approve them, and when did they have that knowledge? Apparently, at some point, the Rulings and Agreement Office became aware (see #5 above). When did that happen, and how?
12. There is a significant paragraph at the bottom of page 7. Apparently, the Director of Exempt Organizations demanded that the criteria be changed. But "the team of specialists subsequently changed the criteria in January 2012 without executive approval" (emphasis added). This screams for investigation. How did this happen? Who exactly was this "team of specialists" and what motivated them to freelance this way -- if, indeed, this is what happened?
13. Three months later, the Director, Rulings and Agreements, learned this criteria had been changed by the team of specialists and required all criteria changes to be approved at the executive level before being implemented. (page 7). How did the R and A director find out about the criteria change? Has such an edict ever been necessary before, and in what circumstances?
14.On page 8, the report states that "Accoding to the Director, Rulings and Agreements, the fact that the team of specialists worked applications that did not involve the Tea Party, Patriots or 9/12 groups demonstrated that the IRS was not politically biased in its identification of applications for processing by the team of specialists. But of course it does no such thing -- and only opens the veracity of the director to question. That's because the IG admits on page 8 (footnote 18) that "we could not determine which potential political cases may have been identified based on an organization's policy positions." This admission alone points out the need for further impartial investigation.
15. Page 8 "All cases wtih Tea Party, Patriots or 9/12 in their names were forwarded to the team of specialists." That is, they were flagged for harassment. This indicates that something more than "ineffective oversight" or "ineffective management" was at work.
16. Page 9 - 141 applications were not appropriately identified as political cases. Were these liberal groups?
17. Page 10 - The report notes that 31% of the 296 applications that had complete documentation and were referred to the "team of specialists" (ie for harassment) showed no "indications of significant political campaign intervention" (i.e., there was no reason to forward them). The EO function officials disagree with the IG's findings on this point, and provided explanations about why they should have been flagged-- but "the case files did not include the specific reason(s) the appllications were selected." So why does the EO function believe they should have been selected?
18. On page 11, the IRS essentially rejects the IG recommendation that procedures be developed to "better document the reason(s) applications are chosen for review by the team of specialists." Instead, the IRS "stated it will review its screening procedures to determine whether, and to what extent, additional documentation can be implemented without having an adverse impact on the timeliness of case processing." While the stated concern about timeliness(!) is commendable, could it be possible the real motive is to maintain some degree of subjectivity in flagging applications?!
19. On page 12, the IG asserts that "Potential political cases took significantly longer than average to process due to ineffective management oversight" (emphasis added). Again, how has this conclusion been reached? Is it based only on the assertions of those interviewed at the IRS? And whose management, specifically?
20. Page 12 also notes a signficant delay in processing potentially political cases [once knwon as Tea Party cases] from 10/10 through 11/11 while the team of specialists waited for assistance from the Technical Unit allegedly to ensure consistency in processing. But the report states that the Exempt Organizations management didn't ensure that a formal process was in place for tracking or monitoring assistance requests. This is a procedural critique, not a substantive one -- but what should really be probed is whether and when requests for assistance were made; by whom; by whom they were received; how they were handled; who knew about them.
21. Page 13 says that in April 2010 the Determinations Unit Program Manager requested a contact in the Technical Unit for help with processing the applications, and a technical unit specialist was assigned to work with the team of determinations specialists. Who was this person, and what kind of assistance was needed? Was it given? And why did the team of specialists stop processing potential political applications in October if they already had the help they had requested? Did this helper simply put in place another way to slow-walk the applications (see #20)?
22. On page 13, the report states that the team of determinations specialists stopped processing potential political applications in October 2010 without closing any, but the Determinations Unit Program Manager thought the cases were being processed. Why did s/he think so? On what basis did s/he reach that conclusion? The IG was informed "later" by "the Director, Rullings and Agreements, that there was a miscommunication about processing the cases." What was this miscommunication? Who was involved in these miscommunications -- with whom, and how? Is there any written record of this "miscommunication"?
23. Draft written guidance from Technical finally came in November 2011 (13 months after Determinations Unit stopped processing the potential political cases) -- but as of the end of February 2013, the guidance had not been finalized because the EO function decided to provide training instead. Who made this decision? It appears that the whole need assistance / need consistency in processing guidelines / provide training instead conveniently allowed the whole process to be pushed past the 2012 elections. Was this in fact the intent?
24. On page 14, the IG states that there "appeared to be some confusion by Determinations Unit specialists and applications on what activities are allowed by IRC 501(c)(4) organizations." The IG attributes this "confusion" to a "lack of specific guidance on how to determine the 'primary activity'" of such an organization. Has there been similar "confusion" in the past? Why was this "confusion" evident only now? 501(c)(4) organizations have been around for some time.
25. The team of specialists were trained about 501(c)(4) organizations in May 2012. Before this, only 2% of 298 applications were approved. Which six were they? After this training, an additional 102 applications were approved by December 2012 (28% involved Tea Party, Patriot or 9/12 organizations). When exactly were these approvals granted? Who were the other approvals? Were the bulk of them after the election, or so close to it that the organization's function was irretrievably compromised?
26. On pages 16-17, the IG again recommends development of publicly available guidance on tax-exempt status involving potentially significant political campaign intervention. And again, the IRS is resisting objective, public standards for making such determinations (see #18 above). Why? Who is in charge of the responses to these recommendations and is resisting transparency and objectivity?
27. On page 18, the report notes that the "Determinations Unit requested donor information from 27 organizations [13 of which had Tea Party, Patriot or 9/12 in their names] that it would be required to make public if the application was approved, even though this information could not be disclosed by the IRS when provided by organizations whose tax-exempt status had been approved." Who in the unit requested this information? Was it given to any other outside groups, like Pro Publica? Which groups were targeted with such requests?
For the second night in a row last night, Jon Stewart hammered the Obama administration about mounting scandals. Last night specifically, Stewart called out the administration's bogus claim that they find out about all of their scandals, IRS, Fast and Furious, DOJ tapping phones of reporters, etc. through "news reports."
The director of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire for singling out conservative groups sent a 2012 letter under her name to one such group, POLITICO has learned. The March 2012 letter was sent to the Ohio-based American Patriots Against Government Excess (American PAGE) under the name of Lois Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division...at the time of the letter, the group was in the midst of the application process for tax-exempt nonprofit status — a process that would stretch for nearly three years and involve queries for detailed information on its social media activity, its organizational set-up, bylaws, membership and interactions with political officials. The letter threatened to close American PAGE’s case file unless additional information was received within 60 days.
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn't be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows. As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive," the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
Lerner also reportedly fast-tracked an approval for a foundation operated by President Obama's half brother, taking the extraordinary step of granting it retroactive tax-free status.
"Seventy-five organizations effected" - That number almost immediately swelled to 300. Now it's closer to 500:
The IRS targeting of conservative groups is far broader than first reported, with nearly 500 organizations singled out for additional scrutiny, according to two lawmakers briefed by the agency. IRS officials claimed on Friday that roughly 300 groups received additional scrutiny. Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that the number has actually risen to 471. Further, they said it is "unclear" whether Tea Party and other conservative groups are being targeted to this day.
from #IRS briefing to Hill: no employees involved in inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups disciplined, one was promoted.— John King (@JohnKingCNN) May 14, 2013
An "unhealthy love" for Obama is a diagnosis that applies to some people well beyond the White House walls. Think, for instance, of the famously tingly man who hosts the show on which Alter appeared. The good news in all of this is that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid see these allegations of Statist bullying as a prime opportunity to...turn back the clock on stifling political speech and pass pet legislation that would hamper conservative organizations while shielding Democrats' union cronies. Good luck with that, guys. Conservatives have far better messaging opportunities here: If the IRS is at best grossly incompetent, and at worst maliciously politicized, how can they be trusted to enforce Obamacare starting next year? And don't citizens have more cause than ever to be leery of ideas like national gun registries? Parting quotation: "What we are witnessing is nothing less than a dramatic reversal of the nation’s political narrative."
Yesterday during a press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed he had recused himself from the Associated Press leak investigation case "early on," didn't have facts on the issue and that responsibility for the case lies with his Deputy Attorney General James Cole. During an interview with NPR, Holder said he "isn't sure" how many times the Department of Justice has secretly monitored information belonging to journalists in the past four years, all during which he has been the country's chief law enforcement officer.
As his Justice Department faces bipartisan outrage for , Attorney Gen. Eric Holder says he is not sure how many times such information has been seized by government investigators in the four years he's led Justice.
During an interview with NPR's Carrie Johnson on Tuesday, Holder was asked how often his department has obtained such records of journalists' work.
"I'm not sure how many of those cases ... I have actually signed off on," Holder said. "I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few [and] pushed a few back for modifications."
On Morning Edition, Carrie added that Holder declined to say whether there will be a review of the Justice Department's policy on searches of reporters' records.
How is it that the Attorney General of the United States never knows anything important about anything controversial? Just yesterday Holder made it a point to stress that the AP leak was one of the most serious leaks he's ever seen in his career yet, recused himself from the case. You'd think if the leak was one of the most serious in history, the chief law enforcement officer and head of the Justice Department would lead the investigation into the case.
As Ed Morrissey points out, Holder's response indicates that the seizure and monitoring of reporters' communications is a normal thing over at DOJ.
Er … he’s refused to sign “a few” but isn’t sure how many he’s approved? Presumably, the few modifications for which he “pushed” resulted in approval eventually. That seems to strongly imply that this is a rather normal course of action at the Department of Justice — and for Holder. And note that Holder isn’t saying that he’s unclear about the operations within his executive purview, as Carney tried yesterday on Obama’s behalf — he’s unclear on how many times he himself has approved those seizures.
Holder is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Hot questions, timely topics, timeless principles. Welcome to Townhall Magazine’s June 2013 issue! Check out an exclusive sneak peek of a few stories that made our pages, including part of our conversation with Thomas Sowell.
Order Townhall Magazine today for these can't-miss articles:
--*Cover Story*: In an exclusive interview with Townhall Assistant Editor Kate Hicks, Dr. Thomas Sowell breaks down one of the nation's most sensitive topics--race--and his latest new on the issue, titled "Intellectuals and Race." *Scroll down for an exclusive excerpt of the article!*
--“Does Concealed Carry Belong in Churches and Schools?”: A trainer, a schoolteacher and security experts help break down the issue.
--"Watch Out for the Green Team": Obama seems poised to make his green agenda a top priority in this term. How far will his likely Cabinet go to make that happen?
--"Who's Afraid of Adoption?": Why hasn't adoption been elevated in the national pro-life vs. pro-abortion discussion?Townhall investigates the challenges of talking about adoption to women in crisis pregnancies—and how the pro-life community should be handling it.
--"Have You Met ... ”: Meet a representative who traded in a military uniform and FBI undercover work on Wall Street to serve in Congress.
Remember, our print features are generally 100 percent exclusive ... most won't run in full online!
Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's June cover story, "A Mind for All Seasons," by Kate Hicks:
In "Intellectuals and Race," Sowell defines “intellectuals” as “people whose work begins and ends with ideas.”
Yet he’s quick to point out that this is not a compliment: “[Intellectual] is an occupational designation, rather than an honorific title, and it implies nothing about the mental level of those in the occupation.” Indeed, the intellectuals in question throughout the book have propagated harebrained “theories” about race, ranging from eugenics in the 1930s to today’s affirmative action proponents.
“Intellectuals and Race” traces the history of those ideas, revealing the intelligentsia’s sordid affairs with entirely unscientific—yet eminently racist—concepts. Using actual data, Sowell then refutes the claims these intellectuals have made to justify their repugnant worldviews.
Despite the fact that Sowell’s personal experiences were not the driving force behind his exploration of how intellectuals have engaged race, his own story provides some anecdotal evidence to support his argument that multiculturalism has done more harm than good. Indeed, he is a veritable case study of the phenomena he discusses.
On its face, the world-renowned economist and author’s early life belies the incredible difference in circumstances he faced compared to today’s black youth. Born in North Carolina and raised in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s, he tells Townhall the Harlem where he grew up looks very little like the Harlem of today.
“At one time years ago, people said that I was urging other blacks to follow in my footsteps, which was utter nonsense, because the things that were available to me are not available to them. In fact, that’s one of the problems,” he says. “I doubt very seriously whether a kid growing up in Harlem in the same place where I grew up will have half the opportunities to get ahead that I had. Just the pure deterioration of the public school system deprives him of that.”
It is partly due to the education system in place in his time that Sowell was able to succeed in ways unimaginable today, despite the fact that he dropped out of high school at 17. As he chronicles in his autobiography, “A Personal Odyssey,” he joined the Marine Corps, serving as a photographer in the Korean War, and eventually made his way to the hallowed Ivy League, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in 1958. Master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from Columbia University and University of Chicago, respectively, followed.
Yet while Sowell pursued higher degrees and launched his storied career, multiculturalism was taking hold in his old neighborhood and black neighborhoods nationwide. Sowell points out that the trend did away with ability groupings in school and did more to foster a sense of anger toward any disadvantages kids may have, rather than cultivate the desire to overcome them. As Sowell himself studied for his doctorate, race riots were erupting in the streets. Sowell recounted to Townhall how his brother was present for an episode in Detroit.
“My older brother happened to be out there in those riots in, I think it was, 1968, … I heard he was out there asking the rioters, ‘Where are you going to shop after you burn down this man’s store?’ There’s no sense of what is politick in our family. It must be genetic,” he says.
Last week, President Obama gave a commencement address to The Ohio State University. In his remarks, he urged graduates to reject voices warning about government tyranny.
"Unfortunately you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all of our problems. Some of these same voices do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted."
As a reminder of current Obama administration scandals:
-IRS inappropriately targeting conservative groups
-DOJ secretly monitoring multiple personal and work phone line of Associated Press reporters
-Kathleen Sebelius extorting money from companies she regulates to fund ObamaCare
That's right kids, you can totally trust Big Brother. Now move out into the world and ignore that "tyranny" thing.
After days of using the term "if," President Obama finally acknowledged the IRS did in fact inappropriately target conservative groups in a statement released last night. IRS official Lois Lerner admitted last Friday that the IRS had specifically singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog’s report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I’ve directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again. But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong. Public service is a solemn privilege. I expect everyone who serves in the federal government to hold themselves to the highest ethical and moral standards. So do the American people. And as President, I intend to make sure our public servants live up to those standards every day.
If you notice the first sentance in the second paragraph of Obama's statement, he has passed the responsibility of holding these people accountable off to someone else.
UPDATE: White House blaming the Treasury Department for IRS scandal?
Now that the public is fully aware of the IRS’s corrupt practices back in 2012 election cycle, more information is coming to light by the minute. We have now become aware that not only did the IRS scrutinize tea party groups more than others, but they also leaked some of that info to liberal groups. “The progressive-leaning investigative journalism group ProPublica says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office that targeted and harassed conservative tax-exempt groups during the 2012 election cycle gave the progressive group nine confidential applications of conservative groups whose tax-exempt status was pending.”
Although this is a surprising admission, it is a commendable one from one of our liberal counterparts. The group said:
The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year... In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made sixof those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)
The group also says that they did not receive any information on pending applications for liberal groups during the cycle. ProPublica is a well-known liberal group, with many donors following the Democratic Party lines.
The House Ways and Means Committee is set to have a formal hearing on the IRS conservative targeting scandal next week. Top officials from that organization will be making an appearance to testify.
UPDATE: I have just viewed a copy of the report the Inspector General is releasing about the IRS. On page 18, it notes that more than half (58%) of the organizations that received letters from the IRS requesting more information sought information that was unnecessary.
In addition, the report says that specialists in the unit (determining whether tax-exempt status should be granted) lacked knowledge of the activities permitted by 501(c)(3)'s and 501(c)(4)'s.
Also, some organizations received a second letter from the IRS requesting additional information -- requiring the group to gather the information in 2-3 weeks, although the IRS had done nothing with the iformation previously sought and given for more than a year.
Other wrongdoing also was perpetrated; for example, the Department sought donor information from 27 organizations that it would be required to make public if the application was approved, even though this same information could not be made public by the IRS when provided by organizations whose applications had already been approved.
Finally, the cover letter from the Inspector General, dated today, states specifically that "The IRS response . . . states that issues discussed in the report have been resolved. We disagree with this statement as well." It goes on to note that "a substantial number of applications have been under review, some for more than three years and through two election cycles, and remain open."
As the IRS scandal grows worse and worse, what's ugliest and most shocking is that it wasn't only conservative groups -- or Jewish groups -- who came in for abuse at the hands of the IRS. In essence, the IRS has been used (or made itself) a tool of retribution against those who displease the Obama administration.
Remember the famous interview conducted by St. Louis television institution Larry Connors conducted with the President last year?
Franklin Graham is revealing that the IRS came after Billy Graham ministries, as well, after they took positions inimical to those in power at The White House.
So was Romney donor Frank VanderSloot.
This is what's known as a pattern and practice of abuse, intended to silence and intimidate anyone who dared challenge the Obama administration.
Now the question becomes: Are we supposed to believe that this was an operation solely of low-level IRS employees?
What else can they say?