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Dems May Not Be So Willing to Back White House in IRS Scandal

Some early indications from Capitol Hill even before news broke of the Justice Department actions that have mortified free-press advocates.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

May 13, 2013 - 7:12 pm

As the IRS scandal piled on to the Obama administration’s already mounting oversight problems, wary Democrats gave early indications that they may not stand in lockstep with the White House on its latest looming investigations.

And this even before news broke that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of Associated Press phone records, mortifying free-press advocates.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on Friday called for a probe into IRS criteria used for nonprofit organizations. Today, as the storm grew over the IRS targeting of the Tea Party and other conservative groups, Levin and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, joined together to say that they are adding an investigation to oversight work already being conducted on their panel.

“The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has been for several months examining on a bipartisan basis whether the IRS has adequately enforced rules regarding the extent to which tax exempt nonprofit 501(c)4  groups engage in partisan politics,” Levin and McCain said. “We had tentatively planned a hearing on that issue for June. After Friday’s announcement that the IRS, to the extent it has been enforcing the law, may have done so in ways that singled out some groups for special scrutiny, we have determined that the subcommittee should investigate that additional issue as well.”

“As a result, we have decided to delay our hearing in order to examine this issue carefully. We will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure the integrity of our political process and of enforcement efforts.”

The more conservative Democrats in the Senate predictably positioned themselves in the center of the aisle after the confession and apology from the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s completely inappropriate for the IRS or any other federal agency to single out certain organizations based upon their politics,” said Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). “The public expects the government to encourage the free expression of all sorts of ideas—not to target certain groups based upon their political affiliation. I already put the IRS on notice about snooping in private citizens’ emails and now this? Simply unacceptable.”

“The actions of the IRS are unacceptable and un-American. Government agencies using their bureaucratic muscle to target Americans for their political beliefs cannot be tolerated,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said today. “The president must immediately condemn this attack on our values, find those individuals in his administration who are responsible and fire them.”

But even Democrats on the more liberal side of the scale were sending signs that they won’t be so willing to carry the water on this scandal.

“Reports of politically biased targeting within the Internal Revenue Service are deeply disturbing and should be treated seriously and decisively,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “These accusations are outrageous and cannot be tolerated. Ideological discrimination is absolutely unacceptable and those responsible for it — including those who were aware of it and allowed it to happen — should be held accountable.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) used the same type of adjectives on the IRS that he usually reserves for colleagues’ votes against gun-control legislation.

“There should be an investigation as promptly and effectively as possible. These allegations, if true, are clearly repugnant and reprehensible,” Blumenthal said. “Such misconduct would violate the vital principle of IRS neutrality, and betray the trust and credibility of the agency.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called the inquiry “legitimate” but not the fact that right-wing groups were targeted for ideology.

“These 501(c)4s, and in order to be tax-exempt, in order for people to give them money and also not be disclosed who they are, the 501(c)4 has to spend at least 50 percent plus $1 on actual social welfare,” Franken said on CNN today. “So, some of these organizations have been — you know, it looks like they’ve been spending more on just pure politics. So, it’s a legitimate inquiry by the IRS. What is in no way legitimate is that this be biased in any way. And the people responsible for this should be held accountable.”

“Somebody made the decision that they would give extra scrutiny to this particular group. And I think we have to understand why,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I don’t understand why.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), on the floor of the upper chamber today, carefully tread the administration strategy of distancing the scandal from Washington when he said “the alleged actions of IRS employees in the Cincinnati field office are a terrible breach of the public’s trust.”

“Targeting any group based on its political stance is completely inappropriate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened here,” Reid said. “In the meantime, no one should jump to conclusions. But rest assured, as soon as we have the Inspector General’s report, the Senate will quickly take appropriate action.”

Gaggling with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to a string of New York fundraisers today, White House press secretary Jay Carney said “the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22nd of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati.”

Appearing at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron this morning, President Obama said he “first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this, I think it was on Friday.”

“So we’ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But, I’ve got not patience with it. I will not tolerate it, and we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this,” the president said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) vowed to hold hearings into the IRS actions, and Reid said he has “full confidence in the abilities of Senator Baucus and the Finance Committee to get to the bottom of this matter and recommend appropriate action.”

But the House Ways and Means Committee beat other committees to the punch, with a Friday morning hearing scheduled on “the Internal Revenue Service’s practice of discriminating against applicants for tax-exempt status based on the political leanings of the applicants.” Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller is on the witness list.

Obama hasn’t filled the post since his first-term IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, left three days after his re-election.

J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration who led the report against the IRS due out this week, will also appear before Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) panel.

Camp jointly announced the hearing with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.).

“The American people must have the fullest confidence that organizations requesting tax exemption receive completely unbiased treatment from the Internal Revenue Service and are never singled out by name or political views,” Rep. Levin said. “The nation deserves a complete understanding of this matter, and as Chairman Camp and I discussed this morning, it is essential that there be a thorough and bipartisan investigation and effective remedial action.”

Other Democrats on the House side joined in the condemnation, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) telling MSNBC that “heads need to roll” if the IRS was singling certain political groups.

“If was targeting conservative groups for selective enforcement, that ought to be concerning to all Democrats and Republicans alike,” Schiff said, though adding that Republicans ignored his call for a similar probe after a liberal church in his district was audited “in what looked like a very selective way.”

“But I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern,” Schiff continued. “The IRS absolutely should not be picking winners and losers or picking political ideologies. It ought to neutrally enforce its regulations regardless of the political point of view of an organization.”

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (32)
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“Reports of politically biased targeting within the Internal Revenue Service are deeply disturbing…”

The media are in a tight spot here. They shot their wad keeping the lid on Benghazi to help make the reelection safe, and delivered a solid cover up of the cover up. But to intentionally misreport on the abuse of IRS powers for political reasons could damage the mainstream media’s credibility, empty their magazine, so to speak. Prez Barack Hussein needs to ride out the IRS scandal on his own, with the usual quips about “Chicago thug politics blah blah” and he’ll be fine. Plus, people tend to be sensitive about a politicized IRS. The media simply can’t use up their store of effective political bias to cover up the political bias in the IRS.

Sure, the media are solidly in Barack’s globo-socialist corner, but they can do only so much. They need to keep appearances up to be able to shoot their rounds for the elections next year, which are very important, and then in three years to help make sure that Hillary is safely elected.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, but they will stick together. You are talking about people the have principles, but Democrats do not.

See The Two Minute Conservative via Google or: http://tinyurl.com/7jgh7wv When you speak ladies will swoon and liberal gentlemen will weep.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why would the IRS single out certain groups if not to provide information to the opponents of targeted groups? Obmam's comment denouncing the IRS alleged actions ring hollow. He was the plain beneficiary of IRS dirty tricks. Who does he think he is kidding? Plausible deniability is a defense that has to go away. It strips reponsibility and accountability from the president and the cabinet. It makes the top of the administrative branch a puppet show. The Republic cannot stand for this defense to be used anymore.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Didn't Jay Carney try to tell us that Benghazi was "old news?" Well, this IRS scandal appears to be even older, but it surely came to the forefront at an opportune time. It needs attention, but let's not allow it to overshadow Benghazi investigation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You will have noticed, of course, that the most vocal Democrats on the IRS scandal face an election in 2014.

I'm going to say again - if you believe the Administration had no influence or knowledge of IRS' actions you are so naïve you need to change your diaper. Oh, and I've got a bridge you need to see.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure what Franken's point is. Is not Organizing for Action a non-profit organization, and is it's goal not "to mobilize supporters in favor of Obama's legislative priorities"? So Tea Party nonprofits are also engaging in politics - but that's baaaad? Yer bias is showing, Al.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These Democrats are likely, behind the scenes, even more outraged than their public comments reveal. Surely they (and the silent Dems hoping and praying that the Republicans will lie down, shut up, & function as doormats) recognize that, if this is allowed to become commonplace and a precedent; they place their various radical groups in great peril.

For then, Republicans would be "chomping at the bit" to be back in full power a la the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate. They would "slash and burn" various radical far-left groups with suspect missions & goals--purported to be dedicated to "social justice" et al.

In a bit of an aside, Obama foolishly thinks the American people to be brain-dead when he makes ridiculous statements in ridiculous venues (from USA Today article):

At a fundraiser in New York for Democratic Congressional candidates, Obama lamented that some Republicans are "fearful of their base and they're concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them. "

"My intentions over the next 3 ½ years are to govern," Obama said. "If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that."

Has not his WHOLE political life been dedicated to the singular, overriding, paramount goal of winning elections--with governing a mere hobby. Come to think of it, governing is # 3 on the list of priorities: 1. Winning elections 2. Winning adoration of the American people as the Celebrity of All Celebrities. 3. Hobby-governing (this phrasing, in itself is drawn from the practice that I have observed while living in various parts of the country--a lot of fellows have their primary vocation, which is supplemented with some income from "Hobby-farming").
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These Democrats are likely, behind the scenes, even more outraged than their public comments reveal. Surely they (and the silent Dems hoping and praying that the Republicans will lie down, shut up, & function as doormats) recognize that, if this is allowed to become commonplace and a precedent; they place their various radical groups in great peril.

For then, Republicans would be "chomping at the bit" to be back in full power a la the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate. They would "slash and burn" various radical far-left groups with suspect missions & goals--purported to be dedicated to "social justice" et al.

In a bit of an aside, Obama foolishly thinks the American people to be brain-dead when he makes ridiculous statements in ridiculous venues (from USA Today article):

At a fundraiser in New York for Democratic Congressional candidates, Obama lamented that some Republicans are "fearful of their base and they're concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them. "

"My intentions over the next 3 ½ years are to govern," Obama said. "If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that."

Has not his WHOLE political life been dedicated to the singular, overriding, paramount goal of winning elections--with governing a mere hobby. Come to think of it, governing is # 3 on the list of priorities: 1. Winning elections 2. Winning adoration of the American people as the Celebrity of All Celebrities. 3. Hobby-governing (this phrasing, in itself is drawn from the practice that I have observed while living in various parts of the country--a lot of fellows have their primary vocation, which is supplemented with some income from "Hobby-farming").
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wow, this must be really tough on the President.
He should take the wife and kids to Hawaii for a few weeks until his administration can figure out a way to pin this on Bush.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps the stench is so great the Democrats With Bylines can't ignore it, but they are a long way from targeting His Holiness. A Junior Woodchuck functionary will be identified and publicly vilified and then -- it will be back to business as usual.

Cynical? Who, me?

Just give yourself a few more years... .
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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