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Old 05-13-2013, 02:27 PM   #1
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IRS Targeted Conservative Groups

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President Obama said today he has "no patience" for reports that the Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny, promising accountability if allegations of political motivations at the agency turn out to be true.
"So we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are," Obama said at a news conference. "But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we'll make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this."
But trouble appears to be brewing for the Obama administration as allegations emerge that the IRS engaged in wide-spread targeting of conservative groups for several years, in many cases delaying the groups' applications for tax-exempt status.
"People have to be confident that they are ... applying the laws in a nonpartisan way," Obama said today.
Since as early as 2010, IRS officials have selected organizations whose names or mission statements suggested an affiliation with conservative or tea party causes, singling them out for additional scrutiny, according to excerpts of a forthcoming Inspector General report on the practice.
The new allegations suggest that problems at the IRS might have gone on far longer than the organization first admitted Friday. And the practice appears to have been more widespread than was initially admitted.
The IRS official responsible for the unit that scrutinizes applications for tax-exempt status, Lois Lerner, apologized Friday for inappropriately targeting groups with "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names.
"They didn't do it because of any political bias," Lerner said Friday. "It was an error in judgment and it wasn't appropriate but that's what they did."
Now, with reports showing the targeting may not have been limited to groups associated with those two phrases, conservative groups responded with fury.
"This ominous stifling of free speech can never happen again in America, and there needs to be a full accounting of who knew what, when did they know it, and who is responsible," said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe in a statement on Monday. "The IRS used its power to discourage and intimidate Americans from speaking out against bad policies, stifling the First Amendment right of every citizen to hold government accountable. This is the stuff of Third World Juntas, not the greatest Constitutional Republic in human history."
The IRS said the practice was not politically motivated, but was rather an effort by "front line" officials to deal with an influx of new applications for tax-exempt status that needed additional attention in order to comply with the law.
Several lawmakers are now calling for investigations into the practice.
And others, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have called for officials to resign for their role in the scandal.
"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," Manchin said in a statement.
"The president must immediately condemn this attack on our values, find those individuals in his administration who are responsible and fire them."
The top Democrat in the Senate on tax issues, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., warned the IRS that it should be prepared for a full investigation from the committee.
"We need to get to the bottom of what happened here. I want to see all the facts. We need to know who knew what, and exactly what mistakes were made," Baucus said in a statement. "I want to review the Inspector General's report first, but the IRS should be prepared for a full investigation into this matter by the Senate Finance Committee. The IRS will now be the ones put under additional scrutiny."
Baucus says the actions by the IRS were an "intolerable" and "outrageous abuse of power and a breach of the public's trust."
Several tea party and conservative groups had complained for years that the IRS had requested onerous amounts of documentation, including donors lists, from organizations during the process of applying for tax-exempt status.
But watchdog groups who had called on the IRS to scrutinize further tax-exempt groups say the news came as a surprise.
"It had seemed if anything, that the IRS was very inactive in this arena," Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said today. "We raised alarm bells around that in the past."
Gilbert added that blowback from missteps by low-level employees should not prevent the IRS from cracking down on illegal political activity by these tax-exempt "social welfare" organizations.
More here: Obama Has 'No Patience' for IRS' Targeting Conservatives - ABC News

This is really bad. I certainly hope Obama had nothing to do with this. But even so, it shows how tense the bipartisan politics in this country has become. Just when you thought it couldn't get uglier...
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Old 05-13-2013, 02:53 PM   #2
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The IRS would have a beef with organizations that are essentially anti-tax?
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Old 05-13-2013, 03:06 PM   #3
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That still doesn't give them a reason to target them. I may never support the Tea Party but what the IRS did wasn't right in anyway.
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Old 05-13-2013, 03:13 PM   #4
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Oh, I know. I wasn't trying to make any kind of justification, but I don't think it comes as a shock to anyone that departments like the IRS, FCC, etc have been known to "target" certain groups or individuals.
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:55 PM   #5
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Indeed. But I love how the right-wing crowd makes this problem sound like Obama is solidifying his dictatorship step by step.
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:43 PM   #6
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This is outrageous, that any government agencies would target people based upon their political beliefs/political speech. The IRS should never be used for any kind of political purpose. Also very dangerous to look at this in any kind of partisan way. If you held Bush responsible for stuff like this, you'd better hold Obama responsible too. The buck is supposed to stop with him.

There were also AP phone record searches being done by the justice department. This isn't related to the IRS situation, but hmmm..what is going on there?
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:14 PM   #7
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Editor's note: Michael Macleod-Ball is chief of staff at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. Gabe Rottman is a legislative counsel/policy adviser in the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.

(CNN) -- The extraordinary revelation this week that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for more aggressive enforcement highlights exactly why caution is needed in any response to the much-vilified Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

It also shows how all Americans, from the most liberal to the most conservative, should closely guard their First Amendment rights, and why giving the government too much power to limit political speech will inevitably result in selective enforcement against unpopular groups.

To the agency's credit, Lois Lerner, a senior official at the IRS, apologized on Friday for these unconstitutional practices, which are as unseemly as the Bush administration's targeting of the NAACP and the House of Representatives' defunding of Planned Parenthood on purely political grounds.

Lerner said that career IRS staff who were reviewing applicants for tax-exempt status took a harder look at applications with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names. She stressed that the added scrutiny was done as a "shortcut," not out of "political bias." But her admission calls into question earlier claims by the agency that IRS scrutiny wasn't politically motivated, and it comes in the face of repeated complaints by right-wing groups that they have been treated unfairly.

Collins says IRS revelations will fuel distrust in government

Before addressing the obvious constitutional concerns with the selective use of the tax code against political opponents, here's some background.

Certain public interest groups, like charities and nonprofit athletic organizations, do not have to pay federal income tax on their donations or dues. These tax-exempt groups include 501(c)(4) organizations (named for the relevant section of the code). To qualify, a group must be "operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare." The definition of "social welfare" is broad, and applies to all points of view. The ACLU's lobbying arm, for which we work, is a 501(c)(4). So is the National Right to Life Committee.


These social welfare groups are forbidden from engaging in too much partisan political activity. How much is too much, however, is controversial and remains uncertain. An organization that crosses over the fuzzy line will be denied tax-exempt status.

Crucially, 501(c)(4) organizations, in most cases, need not publicly disclose their donors. That policy is driven by the same concerns that prompted the Supreme Court in a civil rights-era case, NAACP v. Alabama, to prohibit that state from forcing the NAACP to out its members as a condition of operating. The court reasoned, rightly, that such disclosure could lead to violence against existing members and would dissuade potential members from joining at all.

Now, during the past couple of elections there has been a surge in applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. Some argue that these new groups are being created specifically to help elect or defeat candidates, which would otherwise prompt full donor disclosure to the Federal Election Commission.

Opponents claim these groups are abusively claiming tax-exempt status to keep their donor lists secret. Some further claim that these groups then allow wealthy individuals, corporations, and unions to anonymously funnel large amounts of money into ads supporting or attacking political candidates.

As a consequence, the IRS has been under enormous pressure to speed up and aggressively investigate applications for tax-exempt status -- both reasonable demands, if carried out impartially. But much of this outside pressure has come from the left and has been directed at conservative groups, who have an advantage in this "dark" political money.

It sounds as though the events surrounding the IRS announcement can be partly attributed to this growth in applications and the pressure to uncover "sham" 501(c)(4) groups.

Although the IRS claims this was an honest mistake, these revelations are troubling on many levels. For instance, there are several proposals circulating in Washington right now that would make it much easier for the IRS and other regulators to force political groups to disclose their donors. These disclosure requirements would apply even when the group is advocating purely on an issue of public interest, from clean air to abortion, and would apply to groups of all political persuasions and not just to groups supporting or opposing candidates for office.

The ACLU has expressed concern with these disclosure requirements precisely because they open the door to selective enforcement. Such concerns are often dismissed as speculative and overly pessimistic, but the IRS apology shows that concerns over selective enforcement are prescient. Those in power will always be tempted to use political speech restrictions against opposing candidates or causes.

The IRS announcement demonstrates that we should carefully consider any new policy that allows the government to restrict or chill political speech, including broader donor disclosure requirements. Congress and the administration should also act immediately to create ironclad checks on the IRS to prevent this from ever happening again.

It shouldn't need to be said: Even the tea party deserves First Amendment protection.
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:36 PM   #8
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this is the environment that Citizens United has created. i'm not sure why these political groups are seeking tax exempt status, and they should be under greater scrutiny.

however, singling out a group because of their politics is wrong and heads should roll at the IRS.
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsSpringsteen View Post
To the agency's credit, Lois Lerner, a senior official at the IRS, apologized on Friday for these unconstitutional practices,
What a load, the IRS got wind of the (not too kind) Inspector General's report that will drop later this week. Not to mention that the acting chief of the IRS, Steven Miller, has known about the abuses for over a year.
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which are as unseemly as the Bush administration's targeting of the NAACP and the House of Representatives' defunding of Planned Parenthood on purely political grounds.
Oh brother

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It shouldn't need to be said: Even the tea party deserves First Amendment protection.
Said through gritted teeth no doubt.

The I.R.S will have your health records beginning next year. What could go wrong?
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:07 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by INDY500 View Post

Said through gritted teeth no doubt.

Why always ascribe the worst possible motives to people who are agreeing with you?
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:07 AM   #11
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Cause them libruls can't possibly be capable of non partisan rational thought? Does not compute?
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:23 AM   #12
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Not about the IRS, but another Obama-linked scandal: the DOJ wiretapping AP journalists.

Maybe we should rename this thread Obama Related Scandals?

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Spoiler alert: That day was May 7, 2012... but first a quick history lesson.
Okay, I'm one of those folks who obsesses about the late 1960s and early 1970s, but this time it's really important. Because today that is the rallying cry for any presidential scandal, that this one is "worse than Watergate." But the Watergate break-in happened 41 years ago, which means that more than half of all Americans weren't even born yet, so you can't blame a lot of voters if they don't know much about what Watergate and the related scandals of Richard Milhous Nixon were all about.
One of the biggest drivers of Watergate was the seemingly unending war in Vietnam. As opposition increased to a foreign war that ultimately killed 58,000 Americans, for goals that were murky at best, so did government paranoia. At the core of Watergate was a team of shady operatives that were nicknamed "the White House Plumbers" -- because they went after news leaks... get it? In May 1969, after news reports about U.S. bombing activities in Cambodia, Nixon and his then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger enlisted J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to wiretap journalists and national security aides.
Later, one of the worst governmental abuses occurred after whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked the massive Pentagon Papers that exposed governmental lies about the conduct of the war in Vietnam. Nixon's "Plumbers" broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist to dig up dirt to discredit him. Here is what one of Nixon's former aides, Egil Krogh, wrote about it in 2007:
The premise of our action was the strongly held view within certain precincts of the White House that the president and those functioning on his behalf could carry out illegal acts with impunity if they were convinced that the nation's security demanded it. As President Nixon himself said to David Frost during an interview six years later, "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." To this day the implications of this statement are staggering.
No doubt. Luckily for America, not everyone agreed. Over the next couple of years, criminal charges against Ellsberg were tossed because of the government's misconduct, and Nixon resigned facing certain impeachment over the activities of his Plumbers and the ensuing, elaborate cover-up. The nation mostly rejoiced. The system worked... for a while.
Flash forward to 2012. America had at that point been in an undefined "war on terror" for 11 years -- the same amount of time from the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that greatly expanded the Vietnam War to the 1975 fall of Saigon. Just as during the 1960s and early 1970s, this terror war had provided government with an excuse to greatly expand its domestic spying on American citizens -- some of that through a law called the Patriot Act and some of it even more dubious, constitutionally.
Then, on May 7, 2012, the Associated Press published an article about the Obama administration's conduct of its war in a country that we'd never declared war on (it was Cambodia in 1969, but Yemen in 2012) and Obama's Justice Department -- for reasons not yet fully known -- went crazy over the leak. This, then, is a reminder of why history matters so much.
Because if we're not careful... it repeats:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
The AP's CEO said last night that "[t]here can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters" -- and I could not agree with him more. This revelation is deeply troubling -- and has the makings of a major scandal. Sure, you could try to mitigate it by noting, fairly, that accessing these phone records isn't as bad as wiretapping. But that is small solace, indeed. There's every reason to believe that Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on this unwarranted assault on the First Amendment, and if so, he ought to be canned (hasn't he overstayed his welcome, anyway?). Also, you might try to excuse this as a one-off, an ill-advised but isolated incident.
Except that it's not.
Since the day he took office, the Obama administration has undertaken an assault on government whistleblowers -- people informing citizens of what their government doesn't want them to know -- that surpasses anything that Nixon or any other president has done. Since 2009, the Obama administration has brought espionage charges against six whistleblowers. And most of these whistleblowers have been criticizing that way that America conducts its neverending war of the 21st century. One, Thomas Drake, blew the whistle on the illegal warrantless wiretapping that began under George W. Bush. John Kiriakou dropped the dime on illegal U.S. torture -- and was sent away to prison, even as the perpetrators of torture from Dick Cheney to John Yoo continue to walk freely among us.
Nixon had Daniel Ellsberg, and Obama has Bradley Manning of Wikileaks. Okay, so they didn't break into the office of Manning's psychiatrist, but they have detained Manning in a solitary confinement that a UN torture expert called "cruel, inhuman and degrading." Do you feel better about that? Because I don't. The war on whistleblowers, the treatment of Manning, and now this investigation of journalists are all hallmarks of a White House that promised transparency but has been one of the most secretive -- all to the detriment of the public's right to know.
Let's be clear -- this is about Obama... and it is about much, much more than Obama. It is yet another example of how the national security state that has dominated our political life since World War II has corrupted the American soul. It is exactly what Philadelphia's own Benjamin Franklin tried to warn us about -- trading liberty for security, and geting neither. To the conservatives reading this, who warn so much about big government running amok...here it is. To the liberals reading this, who thought that one man named Barack Obama could change the system, he couldn't. Only we, the citizens, can truly change things.
Let's work together. Let's start by repealing the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Force, declare victory in what was formerly known as the war on terror, and resolve that never again will this nation enter into a perpetual and constitutionally dubious war. Let's repeal the most egregious aspects of the USA Patriot Act, hold public hearings on the true extent that the U.S. government has spied on citizens without warrants -- and then bring those practices to an end. And as today's events made crystal clear, let's make America a nation where journalists and other truth-tellers can write stories or reveal information that the government might not like...without fear of intrusion or reprisal. Ironically, many of those type of changes were supposed to happen after Nixon, after Vietnam But they either didn't last, or they didn't come at all.
If greater liberty comes from the latest revelations, Obama's sins -- however bad or not bad they may turn out to be -- will not make things worse than Watergate. This time, it -- the aftermath, anyway -- will be better than Watergate.
Will Bunch: The Day the Obama Administration Went All Nixon On Us

So Obama continued the work of George W Bush, and probably did it worse.

I like the paragraph I bolded. In 2008, I was baffled to see Obama supporters treat him like a sort of Messiah who will save the world through "change". All these gushing supporters were saying things like, "oh he inspires me!", "he's going to unite the two parties and America will be better!" and all that stupid crap. Seriously, he's a politician - since when do they mean what they say and keep their promises? It's all PR and BS.

It also sucks that some of the right wing paranoia has some merit, though ironically they were silent during the Bush years. I guess if McCain or Romney were doing all this, it would've been fine.
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:36 PM   #13
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Sorry for going off topic, but this is some week for Obama

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Both Mr. Holder and Mr. Cole declared their commitment — and that of President Obama — to press freedoms. Mr. Cole said the administration does not “take lightly” such secretive trolling through media records.
We are not convinced. For more than 30 years, the news media and the government have used a well-honed system to balance the government’s need to pursue criminals or national security breaches with the media’s constitutional right to inform the public. This action against The A.P., as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press outlined in a letter to Mr. Holder, “calls into question the very integrity” of the administration’s policy toward the press.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/op...s.html?hp&_r=0
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Old 05-15-2013, 01:23 PM   #14
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Of all these "scandals," by far the least concerning is Benghazi.
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:19 PM   #15
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Unlike the other second term scandals that seem to follow every president since Nixon, none of these yet seemed directly tied to the president (though it's not certain that they won't eventually).

I've personally found Obama's continuance of the Bush-era approach to fighting terrorism to be of greatest concern. The Repubs didn't seem to mind the Patriot Act etc when it was there guy implementing it. I've always found it disturbing regardless of who was sitting in the White House.
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