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Forum Post: "There You Go Again" ~ GOP Witch Hunt 2013: BenIRSAPghazi

Posted 11 years ago on May 15, 2013, 9:21 a.m. EST by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR
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On Today's Show

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It turns out the IRS was investigating conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. Duh! And the TSA has been looking at people seeking to get on airplanes. None of the conservative organizations that the IRS was “targeting” were denied tax-exempt status. If this was a conspiracy, it’s even more difficult to figure out than President Obama’s so-called “cover up” of Benghazi. No wonder Republicans spend so much time looking at these so-called scandals—they’re so hard to see. Their scandal envy!

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is angry that the Justice Department secretly seized phone records for several AP reporters and editors. The 1%-owned AP is more upset about the Justice Department under Obama getting a subpoena to look at their phone records than they were about the Justice Department under Bush looking at everybody’s phone records without a subpoena.

President Obama called the obsession over Benghazi a “sideshow.” He said “We don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington.” Maybe you don’t have time, Mr. President, but the Republicans in Congress certainly do—these kinds of political games are all that they do. The President also said “Suddenly, three days ago this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story. There’s no ‘there’ there.” There’s no there anywhere—Republicans have been looking for it everywhere.

There are currently five separate committees investigating Benghazi. They’re putting more energy into investigating Benghazi than is put into researching cancer. If Republicans allocated as many resources into investigating extra-terrestrial life as they do into investigating Benghazi, we would already be communicating with space aliens. In all, one-third of House committees are engaged in investigating some aspect of the Obama administration! This is no longer a legislative body—it’s become a grand jury!

Oversight is a legitimate function of Congress—but this has gone way past oversight and straight into overkill. The legislative branch it trying to destroy the executive branch! This is like one of those diseases where the body’s immune system starts to attack the body itself. The Founding Fathers set up separate branches of government to so that they could check and balance each other, not so they could kill and eat each other. This is the same Whitewater and Lewinsky approach they used to derail the Clinton administration—just keep slinging mud. At the very least, Obama will have to spend a lot of his time dodging mud instead of advancing his agenda.

Read more: http://www.randirhodes.com/main.html#ixzz2TMr7SL00




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[-] -1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

Feinstein Won’t Condemn Seizure of AP Phone Records

[Real and effective intelligence recklessly jeopardized!]

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 2:35 p.m. on May 15, 2013

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is not yet alarmed by recent news that the Department of Justice acquired the phone records of Associated Press reporters.

As we reported in this space yesterday, Feinstein was one of many lawmakers in both parties who last summer called on the Obama administration to more aggressively pursue leakers who divulged classified national security information to The New York Times. Republicans especially who were most vocal in pushing for tougher investigations last summer have done a 180 and are now siding with the aggrieved journalists in their complaint against the government.

“I’m not one of them that has said the Department of Justice has exceeded their boundaries. I think it’s important that we find out exactly what was done. As I understand it, it was a very short period of time and the only thing collected was what we call metadata — which is not content of a call, it’s numbers,” Feinstein told CQ Roll Call in a brief interview Wednesday. “I would assume because prosecutions are so difficult to make in this era that being able to trace where the leak came from to the person that receives the leak is important.”

But Feinstein also expressed reservations about those members who seem to have suddenly changed their position on the issue less than a year later out of what appears on the surface to be political expediency.

“I think to some extent what we’re into is an unusual effort to really find fault, and I very much regret it. But it’s going to impact the credibility of the people who are doing this, long term, I think,” Feinstein said.

For example, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, engaged in a fractious exchange last June with Deputy Attorney General James Cole over the national security leaks at the time, questioning whether the leaks themselves constituted a federal crime and demanding to know what the DOJ was doing about it. On Wednesday, he sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., prodding him on his involvement in the AP affair.

“The regulations — important guarantees of press freedom — should result in modest use of such subpoenas, which makes your statement yesterday that you were not sure how many you had authorized troubling,” Cornyn wrote. “The leaks that led to [the] investigation reportedly emanated from the highest levels of the Administration. The response to that ought to have been aggressive inquiry into those in the Administration with access to the information allegedly leaked. What we are seeing now is an aggressive investigation into the journalists who reported the leaked information.”

It’s unclear whether some members complaining now are aware of the history of these probes. After all, in the case of Valerie Plame, one journalist was jailed for refusing to divulge who had revealed that Plame worked for the CIA.


[-] -1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

Context and hypocrisy and BS!

Before AP Flap, Lawmakers Pushed in 2012 for Aggressive Leak Probes

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 7:24 p.m. on May 14, 2013

Lawmakers were up in arms Tuesday over the Department of Justice’s decision to [subpoena] Associated Press reporters’ telephone records for the stated purpose of investigating leaks on a foiled terrorist attempt.

But it wasn’t so long ago that politicians in both parties didn’t think the administration was doing enough to investigate unauthorized disclosures of classified national security material.

In the summer of 2012, Republicans especially were calling for further scrutiny of national security leaks they believed came from the administration to prop up President Barack Obama’s re-election bid. [Now they are outraged, outraged!]

Of course, until the size and scope of the DOJ’s recent acquisition of AP reporters’ records can be determined, it’s difficult to tell how out-of-bounds the administration might have been in requesting them.

But for now, the Obama administration is on the defense [because vital points in this story are being ignored], and members of Congress appear upset about how Justice sought to root out the leakers lawmakers were previously peeved about. Last year, Republicans called for an independent counsel because they believed at the time the administration would not go far enough in pursuing the potential leakers.

Here’s a sample of quotes from top lawmakers, from various news outlets, as previously reported by CQ Roll Call:


[-] -2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

Q & A: Your one-stop guide to the IRS tea-party 'scandal' [video chat]

By Michael Hiltzik

May 15, 2013, 3:13 p.m.

It can be hard to figure out any Washington "scandal" without a scorecard, and harder when it involves an opaque agency such as the IRS.

That's the case with one of the scandals du jour, which revolves around the IRS' scrutiny of political organizations seeking a tax exemption. So here -- as a companion piece to my column on the subject, and with the help of a just-released report from the agency's inspector general -- we're providing a quick guide to what's wrong and maybe not-so-wrong with what the IRS was up to.

Why was the IRS scrutinizing applicants for tax exemptions? Certain nonprofit “social welfare” organizations are entitled to tax exemptions under section 501(c)4 of the tax code -- they’re known as C4s. But they’re not permitted to do significant electioneering. The IRS was trying to winnow out applicants that might have been campaign organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups.

Why would a political group want to be a C4? Mostly because C4s don’t have to disclose the names of their donors. For some donors, especially corporations and rich persons, anonymity is as good as gold. Starting in 2010, suspicions ran high that campaign groups were seeking C4 designations they didn’t deserve.

What did the IRS do wrong? The inspector general concluded that staff at the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” to identify C4 applicants that might be crossing the line into politics. Starting in early 2010, they screened applicants for names with “political sounding” terms such as “tea party,” “patriots,” or “9/12.”

Did IRS higher-ups OK this? No. The inspector general found that supervisors ordered the criteria changed when they learned about them in mid-2011. Eventually -- in January 2012 -- the criteria were changed to “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement.”

Did President Obama or any other administration figures know? The IG report says no. It says IRS officials all state that the screening was not influenced “by any individual or organization outside the IRS.”

Were conservative groups the only ones given special scrutiny? No. Of 298 applications given special attention, only 96 had those three terms in their names. The IG doesn’t characterize the other 202.

Were most of these applicants innocent? Not necessarily. The IG also says that nearly 70% of the applications selected for special scrutiny actually did show indications of “significant” political activity that might have invalidated their C4 status.

Why were IRS staff looking for a shortcut? Because their workload had mushroomed. Applications for C4 status rose from 1,735 in 2010 to 3,357 last year. Meanwhile, budget cuts had reduced the staffing of the Cincinnati office processing the applications.

Shouldn’t this be a routine process? Yes, but it isn’t, because the standards for permissible political activity are vague. The C4 law says an organization must be “exclusively” devoted to social welfare -- it’s designed to cover community groups like volunteer fire departments, homeowner associations and cultural organizations. The IRS has interpreted this to mean that a group can be a C4 if no more than 49% of its activity is electioneering. But it’s unclear how to define this political activity or calculate the percentage. The poor souls on the IRS front lines have to figure that out. The IG says they tried to do so without any help from management.

Did the staff do anything else wrong? The IG says a questionnaire sent to 170 of the 298 applicants was too intrusive. Among the “unnecessary” questions, the IG says, were the names of donors, the plans of officers or directors to run for office, and the applicant groups’ positions on various public issues.

Did the IRS reject tea party groups’ applications? No. None of those with “tea party,” “patriots,” or “9/12” in their names were rejected. Indeed, the IG says that several groups that should have been rejected actually were approved.

Join us for a live video chat at 2 p.m. Pacific with business columnist Michael Hiltzik and Chris Ashby, a conservative election lawyer who has represented Tea Party groups that have been targeted by the IRS. The chat will be moderated by deputy business editor Joe Bel Bruno.


[-] -2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

The real IRS scandal

Allowing so many 'social welfare' groups [as if anything to do with the Tea Baggers and GOP could ever be considered "Social Welfare"] to enjoy tax-exempt status while participating in politics must stop. The IRS is obligated to scrutinize applicants, 'tea party' or no.

May 14, 2013 | Michael Hiltzik

C4s are allowed to engage in lobbying, but not (“primarily”) in campaign activity. Their donors don’t get a tax deduction, but the organizations are tax-exempt. Above, the IRS building in Washington.

It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations.

The organizations at issue are known as 501(c)4 groups (call them C4s for short) after the section of the tax code that applies to them. They're nonprofit "social welfare" organizations that by law must be devoted primarily to programs broadly serving their communities, not private groups. IRS forms reveal what the agency considers to be mainstream C4s: religious groups; cultural, educational and veterans organizations, homeowners associations, volunteer fire departments. In recent years, however, overtly political groups have been claiming C4 status, which allows them to keep their donor lists secret and to avoid paying taxes on certain income.

Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly.

C4s were there for the exploitation, and the result has been a wholesale decline of donor disclosure on the national level: As recently as 1998, nearly 100% of all donors to federal campaigns were publicly identified, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. By the 2012 presidential election, that was down to 40%.

The beneficiaries of the C4 tax break, understandably, will employ any subterfuge to keep it. That's what's behind the current firestorm over disclosures that in 2010 and 2011, IRS personnel screened requests for C4 status by applicant organizations with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names.

Those weren't the only groups whose applications were selected for extra scrutiny on the reasoning that they might be devoted to more than "social welfare." According to an IRS Inspector General report made public this week, they represented only about a third of the 298 applications selected. That was certainly too coarse a screen, and by January 2012 the IRS had scrapped those definitions. It had substituted a screen designed to capture "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, [and] social economic reform/movement."

Conservatives contend that this is still an anti-conservative screen. It sounds perfectly neutral to me, unless someone knows of a conservative organization devoted to "expanding government," or unless right-wing groups are supposed to have a monopoly on "social economic reform." In any case, the inspector general found that most of the 298 selected applications indeed showed indications of "significant" political activity that might have made them ineligible for the tax exemption.

It's about time the IRS subjected all of these outfits to scrutiny. The agency's inaction has served the purposes of donors and political organizations on both sides of the aisle, and contributed to the explosive infection of the electoral process by big money from individuals and corporations.

Nor is Congress innocent. The lawmakers have dodged their responsibility to make the rules crystal clear. On the rare occasions when the IRS has tried gingerly to impose regulatory order, members of Congress have forced the agency to back off. There should be a rule in Washington that if you give regulators deliberately vague guidelines, you're not allowed to protest when they try to figure out where the lines are.

Thanks to ambiguity about what it means to be "primarily" concerned with "social welfare," political activists have reaped a bonanza for years while the IRS ignored their chicanery. And once again, now that the agency has tried to regulate, the regulated parties have blown its efforts up into a "scandal." It's amusing to reflect that some politicians making hay over this are the same people who contend that we don't need more regulations, we just need to enforce the ones we have. (Examples: gun control and banking regulation.) Here's a case where the IRS is trying to enforce regulations that Congress enacted, and it's still somehow doing the wrong thing.


[-] -2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Much ado about NOTHING - Yep - NOTHING - if you compare the IRS looking for the fire that the smoke indicates ( their job BTW - Investigation of suspects ) to the non action taken against wallstreet and it's wealthy criminals.

There was Boner today calling for someone to get locked up over this. BONER WHERE THE FUCK WAS YOUR CALL FOR CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR THE WALLSTREET FUCK-UP CRIMINALS??? U 2 Bitch Mc whining on the floor today.



[-] -2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

Meet the group the IRS actually denied: Democrats!

Although Tea Party applicants got unfair IRS scrutiny, only one known group had status revoked. They’re Democrats

By Joan Walsh

Everyone agrees that the IRS shouldn’t have targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names for special scrutiny in awarding tax-exempt status [No, they should have been prosecuted for fraud and tax evasion]. NBC News reports two agents have been disciplined for doing so, and the Justice Department announced a criminal probe. But so far no one has identified a single conservative group that was denied status in the controversial review, though some faced bureaucratic hurdles and had their tax-exempt status delayed.

In fact, the only known 501(c)(4) applicant to have its status denied happens to be a progressive group: the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. Although the group did no electoral work, and didn’t participate in independent expenditure campaign activity either, its partisan status apparently disqualified it from being categorized as working for the “common good.”

Ironically, the national organization and its earlier chapters had gotten tax-exempt status by the IRS during the Bush administration in 2006. But it appears as though the Maine group’s rejection triggered a review of the entire organization, and Emerge America and all of its chapters had their tax-exempt status revoked. Emerge reincorporated with 527 status, which requires it to report its donors. You can read the IRS letters explaining its decisions at the bottom of this post.

Here’s what director Karen Middleton has to say:


This is the GOP Clinton Witch-Hunt on steroids! While they sabotage Congress, run-out the clock on Obama, hold the country hostage, and pin a big "Kick me, I'm a CU-Con Too!" on Dem backs ~ surreptitiously under the cloak of 1%-owned MSM and 24/365/every city RW radio bigotry and silence ~ inciting a fog of hysterics, disgust and apathy, while real problems and issues go unaddressed; hurtling us into an uber-gerrymandered GOP-CPR election. Watch out people, cornered rats can be very vicious!