Another day, another revelation. This one is a biggie, too. Remember, the story the White House is sticking with is that any potential targeting of conservative groups was either purely coincidental or the result of a couple of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. However, that’s now been proven an outright lie. Here is one such example:
A tranche of new Internal Revenue Service e-mails refute the White House’s longtime defense of the agency’s actions in the IRS targeting scandal. The e-mails, uncovered by a Judicial Watch FOIA request, reveal there was direction coming from the Washington headquarters of the IRS and that the targeting of Tea Party groups was indeed political.
The Washington Examiner‘s Mark Tapscott excerpts:
In a July 2012 email, Holly Paz, who was then director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements division, asked IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.”
Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati, and Sharon Camarillo was a senior manager in its Los Angeles office.
The email conflicts with claims by Obama administration officials that the targeting effort was done exclusively by the government workers in the Cincinnati IRS office.
Grodnitzky worked in the IRS headquarters’ Exempt Organizations Technical Unit. In his response to Paz, he said his colleagues were “working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in D.C. and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases.”
There are other emails that only solidify the proof. But there’s even more:
They also include some lovely back-and-forth between Sen. Carl Levin and the IRS about how best to use the IRS’ power to target conservative groups. Because democracy.
As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, Levin sent a series of letters to the IRS intensifying his campaign against predominantly conservative nonprofit groups:
September 27, 2012: Levin asks for copies of the answers to IRS exemption application question 15 – a question about planned political expenditures – from four specific groups: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA.
October 17, 2012: Miller informs Levin, “As discussed in our previous responses dated June 4, 2012, and August 24, 2012, the IRS cannot legally disclose whether the organizations on your list have applied for tax exemptions unless and until such application is approved.” Miller, however, then informs Levin that Americans for Prosperity and Patriot Majority have been approved, but the IRS has no records for Crossroads and Priorities USA.
October 23, 2012: Levin writes to again express his dissatisfaction with the IRS handling of “social welfare” (501(c)(4) organizations insisting that IRS guidance “misinterprets the law” by allowing any political activity. He again demands an answer as to whether the four organizations he listed in his previous letter were primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare. He also seeks copies of tax exempt revocation letters sent due to c4 political activities, as well as statistics on how many c4s have been notified that they may be in violation due to political activities.
In perhaps the most revealing letter from the IRS to Levin, Miller on June 4, 2012, takes 16 pages to explain to the senator what IRS regulations and policies may and may not be used to evaluate political groups and assures him that the agency has considerable leeway in picking and choosing which groups would be subject to additional scrutiny:
There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization … Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .
It’s hard to get much clearer than that, though with the spinal makeup of the Republican party right now it still seems unlikely that any real consequences will be leveled at Lerner, Levin, or Obama. But, once again, there’s more (emphasis mine):
But perhaps the worst news is that the Obama administration has been working behind the scenes to change the rules for political activism – permanently.
In a new paper, [Hans] von Spakovsky details how the administration has proposed rules for the IRS that “appear to be an attempt to implement the ‘inappropriate criteria’ used by the IRS to target tea party and other conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status.”
Turning the IRS’s targeting of these organizations into actual rules, he explains, would:
- ignore Supreme Court precedents and the Internal Revenue Code;
- fail to provide clear guidance to citizens and organizations attempting to comply with the Code and accompanying regulations; and
- threaten to restrict or violate the First Amendment rights of Americans.
The IRS scandal has become a bipartisan concern, as evidenced by a number of Democrats voting to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress and voting to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal.
But the administration’s effort to rewrite the rules for political activity is an even more serious threat that must be stopped.
Yes, it must. The House oversight committee formed to investigate the issue is led by Rep. Trey Goudy. From what I’ve read about him, it seems he’s likely to get to the bottom of every bit of it. Whether or not there will be a political will to demand punishment for what he uncovers is another matter entirely. Will the act of using the IRS to target political enemies — and the willing collusion of the White House and Department of Justice — cause enough anger to demand justice? I hope so, but I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that the more Obama succeeds in his promised transformation of America, the worse off we all are.
There’s my two cents.