POLITICAL WAR AGAINST DOMESTIC DISSENT?
Obama IRS Unleashed on Tea Party, Conservatives
By Harold Hutchison
The Internal Revenue Service harassed Tea Party and other conservative and libertarian groups going back as early as June 2009. The harassment campaign lead as many as 63% of the groups who had applied for 501(c)4 status to pull their applications, hampering the Tea Party’s ability to mobilize conservative voters in the 2012 election, which Barack Obama won narrowly.
The harassment had been under investigation for at least a year – although the investigation was hushed up until 10 May, when the IRS revealed the investigation and issued an apology via a planted question during a conference call. The revelation created a political and media firestorm, and rightly so.
The IRS has over 115,000 employees, and it can ruin a person’s life, even if the tax agency finds no wrongdoing. One target of IRS action in the wake of donations to Mitt Romney, Frank VanderSmoot, paid over $80,000 in legal fees stemming from having to defend against multiple audits by the IRS and Labor Department.
What do we know for sure? The IRS harassment started as early as 2009, with pro-life groups reporting very intrusive questioning by the IRS, including the content of the prayers of that group’s members. In another case, a pro-life group was told as a condition of getting non-profit status was that they could not protest at Planned Parenthood clinics. So much for free speech!
The harassment picked up to include Tea Party and other conservative groups later on. The founder of one Tea Party group, American Patriots Against Government Excess, was asked what books she and her colleagues read. They sent copies of the Five Thousand Year Leap and a copy of the Constitution. That group got approved for non-profit status after a two-year wait.
Other Tea Party groups faced questions like:
* Minutes of all board of directors meetings since the group’s creation.
* Copies of Web Pages
* Back-end Access to web sites
* Blog and social media postings
* Names of donors
* Transcripts of radio shows where political candidates were mentioned by a leader of a Tea Party group.
Republican members of Congress were getting complaints about the treatment from local Tea Party groups. In one case, Representative Bill Flores (R-TX), had raised questions about the treatment of a Waco Tea Party group. “They did more than sidestep the issue," Flores told USA Today. "They flipped me the finger."
Flores would later find himself targeted by the IRS, heightening the arrogance of the government agency. “Was it just an independent review of my return or was it because I was asking them questions about their activities for tax-exempt organizations?” he asked when talking to National Review online about the scandal.
Another conservative group, True the Vote, which sought to combat voter fraud by training volunteer election monitors, also faced substantial harassment from the IRS, FBI, ATF, OSHA, and the Texas Department of Environmental Quality. OHSA imposed a $17,500 fine, while the Texas DEQ added a license requirement that cost $2,000.
Meanwhile, liberal groups saw their applications go through. USA Today reported that three such groups, Progress Florida, Bus for Progress, and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, got their applications approved far more quickly. Barack Obama’s half-brother, Malik, not only saw a foundation get approved within six weeks, but he also got retroactive tax-exempt status.
Through all of this, two IRS executives were given over $145,000 in bonuses in the 2009-2012 timeframe. Sarah Hall Ingram received $103,390. The first $7,000 came in 2009, the rest in the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Her bonuses those years required review by the director of the Office of Personnel Management and approval by the President of the United States. Lois Lerner received $42,000 in bonuses in the 2010-2012 timeframe. The American Spectator also reported that Obama met with the head of the National Treasury Employees Union who had been a vehement opponent of the Tea Party the day before Tea Party groups’ applications began getting the third degree from the IRS.
The Treasury Inspector General began an investigation that senior Treasury Department officials were aware of in June, 2012. But even as the investigation was ongoing, the Treasury Department and IRS hid the investigation and admission for eleven months, even when directly asked by Congress as soon as two days before the planted Q&A. The news of the cover-up lead NBC’s Lisa Meyers, no wild-eyed conservative, to ask, “Imagine if we -- if you can -- what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different.”
This is perhaps the real devastating notion of the IRS scandal. Between the chilling of the free speech rights of Tea Party groups, and the cover-up of those actions, it is quite possible that this government misconduct affected the 2012 election’s results.