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Oversight Report: Obama’s Use of ‘Bully Pulpit’ Led to IRS Targeting

"Initiated and progressed in the context of a fierce rhetorical campaign by the president to delegitimize Citizens United."

by
Bill Straub

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June 18, 2014 - 10:59 pm
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WASHINGTON – A House committee report maintains that the rhetoric used by President Obama in disparaging the nation’s campaign finance system impelled the Internal Revenue Service to undertake an extensive review of the tax status of conservative groups.

The report compiled by the staff of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, “How Politics Led the IRS to Target Conservative Tax-Exempt Applicants for their Political Beliefs,” claims the president’s use of the “bully pulpit” led the IRS to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, leading to often lengthy delays in the process.

According to the report, Obama’s public blistering of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions, launched the probes of groups, drawing extensive congressional scrutiny.

“For as much as some argue that the IRS’s targeting was not political, it (sic) abundantly clear that the targeting initiated and progressed in the context of a fierce rhetorical campaign by the president to delegitimize Citizens United and nonprofit political speech,” the report said.

Obama and congressional Democrats “have an absolute right to express legitimate policy concerns and advocate for policy changes,” the report acknowledged, but “the causal relationship between this rhetoric and the IRS targeting should not be ignored.”

“Using his bully pulpit, the President spoke,” the committee staff concluded. “He declared repeatedly that these conservative groups ‘posing’ as nonprofits with ‘benign-sounding’ names were ‘a threat to our democracy.’ The IRS listened and, in turn, it subjected these groups to systematic scrutiny and delay.”

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee began investigating allegations that the IRS inappropriately scrutinized certain applicants seeking tax-exempt status in February 2012. Under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, organizations that meet certain criteria and focus on advancing “social welfare” goals are exempted from federal income taxes, although donations to these organizations are not tax deductible.

Organizations popularly referred to as 501(c)(4)s are allowed to participate in campaign-related activities provided that these activities do not comprise a majority of the organizations’ efforts.

On May 12, 2013, the Treasury Department inspector general issued a report that found that the IRS Division of Exempt Organizations inappropriately targeted Tea Party and other conservative applicants for tax-exempt status and subjected them to heightened scrutiny, resulting in extended delays that sidelined some applicants during the 2012 election cycle.

“The committee’s investigation shows that as the president generated attention to the issue of nonprofit political speech in 2010, IRS employees followed his public messaging,” the report said. “With jurisdiction over nonprofits and tax law, IRS employees read and acted upon the news reports. In this way, the IRS targeting is – and always has been – rooted in political machinations.”

“Put simply, as the president’s political rhetoric drove the national dialogue and shaped public opinion, the IRS received and responded to the political stimuli.”

The process, according to the report, had its genesis with Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2010 when he criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, asserting that, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Hey, Troll --
Obama got foreign funding and disabled the credit card mechanism for detecting it -- which is why many of his donations have odd dollars and cents. This comes from foreign currency transactions. How much more dishonest can you get? Well, he’s showing us day by lying day.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it far more likely that it was Obama's direct orders that lead to the fascist use of the IRS and that's why all those emails got 'accidentally lost'.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
This "scandal" gets stupider every day.

The President can't voice his opinion on radical changes in law caused by judicial activism?

Lol!

Of course he "can't"... if the radical judicial activism is the kind y'all approve of. Such as allowing unlimited, anonymous political funding.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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'Operation Valkyrie'
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
A federal judge also found that President Obama's "command influence" regarding sex abuse in the military led to tainted investigations and prosecutions, causing certain cases to be thrown out.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Translation:

Good King Obama let his will be known.
We are such slobbering sycophants we did what we thought he wanted.
By no means is Good King Obama, Our Lord & Savior, The Light-bringer, to blame for this minor misunderstanding.

Yeah, I am buying that. (NOT)

This is of a flavor of the lie about the computer ate those emails.

A bad one.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I wrote at the time:
OBAMA'S TRAIL OF TEARS

After the Supreme Court decided Worcester v. Georgia, Andrew Jackson supposedly said: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!". Later, Jackson got his revenge on the ruling -- and disgraced the country -- with the forced relocation of Indian tribes, which the Court had declared sovereign nations.

Similarly, President Obama hated the Citizens United ruling, which he thought would unduly benefit Republicans by allowing corporations to be involved in funding political campaigns. He went so far as to rebuke the Supreme Court publicly at his first inauguration and has said: "I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest".

However, Obama made sure Citizens United would have no negative effect on his re-election. How? By having the IRS block conservative groups from becoming non-profit corporations and, thus, preventing whatever tax breaks they could get.

The 'tears' that come from obstructing free speech and circumventing the Supreme Court are easy to see -- especially when they are done to win an election. The 'trail' to the President disgracing his office is much harder to prove.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Citizens United case specifically left wide open the option of blocking the political spending of foreign owned U.S.-based corporations, if only Congress were to narrowly tailor a provision to target such foreign ownership. We could also conceivably limit political speech by foreign owned "free press" entities.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it far more likely that it was Obama's direct orders that lead to the fascist use of the IRS and that's why all those emails got 'accidentally lost'.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now the IRS is saying Lerner's hard drive has been "recycled" and the e mails are gone forever.

I know so many tech experts have been saying they're not gone, they're in servers, the cloud, whatever, but think about it. The IRS has had many months to purge the material from wherever else it wound up. Why would they come out now and tell this whopper unless they were certain it couldn't be disproved?

Maybe they're sure they've got it covered, and they're laughing at all of us. First order of business for a Republican president and Congress in 2017 is to disband this rogue agency.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here is a thought, which I know won't bring comfort. Perhaps there was a reason the House committee took such a passive stand and let the IRS stall for so long? They are just taking this opportunity to pose as a "concerned representative" than they are about actually resolving or fixing any issue. If they were serious, they would have already gone after the IRS's budget.

Why should they? Having the IRS target the Tea Party or conservatives means that the GOP might not face primary challengers like with Cantor and Brat.

Hate to say it, but the chances that the current GOP leadership will disband the IRS is very close to zero.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"If they were serious, they would have already gone after the IRS's budget."

That's popular, but (a) counterproductive because the IRS is already not doing enough audits of shaky tax returns and there's billions lying on that table. And (b) very hard to make happen because an appropriation bill also must pass the Senate and be signed by the president.

The current fad to 'abolish the IRS' is ... a fad is the most polite word for it. Someone has to collect the money because -- hello? -- nobody really wants to pay taxes and quite a few people are willing to cheat to pay less. That law must be enforced and the people who do it aren't going to be your best buddies.

I instantly write off any politician who says 'abolish the IRS.' The name doesn't matter and any agency with that amount of power will be both hated by some people and subject to corruption when we have thugs in higher office.

The stench of corruption needs to be Cloroxed out, but that's not going to happen under Obama unless the House committee investigating it hits real paydirt.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cutting to the chase: We have a center-left country being led by a center-left gov't. As I have said before, there is no hope of bringing on changes to our gov't without first changing ourselves.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As Margaret Thatcher didn't say, the trouble with a center-left government is that eventually the center-right people who actually produce something run out of money.

We will change ourselves. Right now we're just negotiating the price. Someone famous didn't say that, either.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
This "scandal" gets stupider every day.

The President can't voice his opinion on radical changes in law caused by judicial activism?

Lol!

Of course he "can't"... if the radical judicial activism is the kind y'all approve of. Such as allowing unlimited, anonymous political funding.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are quite correct, the President must be allowed to express such opinions free from the concern that entrenched bureaucrats, unfireable and unaccountable will, like the knights under Henry, seek to "rid him of his turbulent priests".

The issue is not that he created an environment which was abusive to his fellow citizens, it is that he *could*. The solution is the abolition of all governmental mechanisms whereby unelected bureaucrats can curry favor with potential tyrants in this way.

Abolish the IRS and end the income tax. Cut the bureaucracy 60% to close the debt. Devolve official charity to the states where it belongs and reduce the Federal Government to its core constitutional functions.

This will not only enhance liberty, but will fit our government to the new reality of diversified small business employment instead of pretending that global manufacturing firms and unions are still relevant.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Abolish the IRS and end the income tax. Cut the bureaucracy 60% to close the debt."

I think you haven't looked at the numbers: The annual deficit is far too large to be fixed by practical cuts to discretionary spending -- 'the bureaucracy.'

Nobody likes taxes but anyone proposing to end the income tax and abolish the IRS has the burden of suggesting practical replacements. That's a lot harder than most people think. We could -- SHOULD -- greatly simplify the income tax but we'd gore some very popular oxen doing so. The mortgage interest deduction, the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit -- these eat much federal revenue. Tricky loopholes are there, but the total numbers of dollars are smaller and each is fiercely defended.

No matter what tax you use to bring in the money it will have to be collected by an agency with serious power, meaning (a) the agency will be disliked, and (b) there will be the possibility of it becoming corrupted.

You want to fix the tax code? End the corporate income tax. You'd have companies fighting to move here, hire American workers, pay them (taxable) salaries, and pay increased dividends to U.S. citizens. Wachu think are the odds on getting that passed?

I absolutely agree with dramatic cuts to what the federal government does. The reason to do that IS NOT, however, mostly to save money by paying fewer people, but rather to free the private economy to grow and make it possible for ordinary people to supervise the work of their government. Wipe out the EPA, the ESA, and some of the new finance regulations and you'd see our GDP growth double in a hurry.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Look at convicted felon and former governor George Ryan. They got him dead to rights.

What started with the corruption probe, I do not think he was convicted of a crime and I do not think he said anything explicitly. Some state employees of the DMV were selling commercial driver's licenses. I do not believe that Mr Quinn ordered them to do so.

I think he was just an overbearing a-hole who pressured people until they contributed. Nothing explicitly was stated or planned. Yet it happened. If a Democrat had been Secretary of State there would still have been corruption of some sort. The current secretary seems untainted, but now there are rumors. What is important is how overbearing Ryan was. Employees knew they had to produce or else. there are just so many ways to not promote people for "legitimate"reasons.

The same goes for Obama the bureaucrats either know they have to produce or they are fellow travelers and want to assist.

Obama does not have to do a thing except speak form the bully pulpit.

P.S. I wish George Ryan had been born in Cook county instead of growing up in Kankakee. He is no Republican according to principles. He just put his finger in the air where you grew up and acted accordingly IMHO.
13 weeks ago
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Let me guess. You don't think corporations are people.
13 weeks ago
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Also, as if the Democrats don't have "unlimited, anonymous political funding." You display the typical leftist warped sense of fairness.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
George Soros promised the Left they could have all is money with no strings attached. He pinky sweared it.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now that you've made your obligatory appearance "y'all" may go back under your bridge.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey, Troll --
Obama got foreign funding and disabled the credit card mechanism for detecting it -- which is why many of his donations have odd dollars and cents. This comes from foreign currency transactions. How much more dishonest can you get? Well, he’s showing us day by lying day.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of coure the President can encourage felonies--that's what you're really saying.
Of course we really hate free speech--that's what you're really saying.

And we hear you loud and clear.
We like keeping and bearing arms, do you hear us?
13 weeks ago
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