Monday, March 3, 2014

‘What Is The There That’s There’?

In a much anticipated second appearance before the House Oversight Reform Committee today, Lois Lerner again invoked her 5th Amendment rights and chose to not answer the committee’s queries.  Ms. Lerner’s silence begs the question ‘what is the there that’s there’? Essentially what and why is Ms. Lerner (questions needing answers) refusing to illuminate with her non-testimony?  And why is Elijah Cummings so insistent on closing the Darrell Issa committee investigation into the IRS.

To date a compelling and growing body of evidence exists that members of Obama’s administration and government agencies have and are targeting his opponents, critics and detractors.  Targets have included AP reporters and editors, James Rosen of Fox News, Fox News, the Koch Brothers, Standard and Poor, Dinesh D’Souza and most notably IRS targeting of conservative 501(c) 4 groups (see definitional chart).  Almost without exception, as evidence of targeting surfaced the president (or his surrogate, Jay Carney) has pled innocence…no knowledge, involvement or any intention to damage those targeted – thus critical thinkers and skeptics should suspend logic and reason and believe such claims.  The president when closely questioned by Bill O’Reilly about the IRS targeting scandal famously stated, “not even mass corruption, not even a smidgeon of corruption, I would say.” 
So how did we get here?  Some background coupled a little speculation bears discussion.  To wit, President Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated a penchant for compulsively describing his opponents’ views as extreme and not worthy of serious consideration.  For example, Obama has consistently charged groups and individuals that oppose abortion as not only waging ‘a war on women’ but holding views that border on illegitimate or even indecent.  This opprobrium is voiced in the face of polls indicating that a large and growing majority of Americans are pro-life.  Further, those that are pro-gun, pro-DOMA, and pro deficit reduction…to name a few…have also been painted with similar rhetoric.  

So why the scathing characterizations and do they matter?  President Obama has learned that many in his party -- particularly leaders like Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi and Richard Schumer, and many others -- take up and repeat his pronouncements sometimes word for word.  Obama also knows that the mainstream media (MSM) has a tendency to report his statements without critical evaluation, thus assuring his message will reach millions of Americans in a largely unfiltered/uncontested way.  And too, his remarks have become a method of communicating his concerns, likes, dislikes, goals and priorities to members of his administration…and as a signal and possible call for action.

The IRS’s targeting of conservative 501 (c) 4 (and 501 (c) 3) groups is prima fascia evidence of Obama’s targeting and bears further scrutiny.  Much has already been said but the steady drip, drip, drip of new information necessitates a look at recent disclosures and Democrat actions after Lois Lerner’s dramatic testimony when Ms. Lerner invoked her 5th amendment rights last May.

First: Subsequent to President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address when he decried the Supreme Courts’ ‘Citizens United’ ruling, a group of 7 senior Senators (Bennet-CO, Franken-MN, Merley-OR, Schumer-NY, Shaheen-N.H., Udall-N.M., and Whitehouse-R.I.) wrote a letter to the IRS demanding an investigation of conservative 501 (C) 4 groups.  The same Democrats wrote another letter claiming that conservative 501 (c) 4s abused their tax status…these letters were followed by a torrent of letters from many other endangered Senators recently.  Each letter has carefully insisted that both liberal and conservative organizations be reviewed.  

Second: Information surfaced in late February of 2014 that a Treasury Department official had disclosed to House Oversight investigators that the department began ‘brainstorming’ ways to constrain nonprofit groups over a year before the IRS scandal broke (in May of 2013) due to pressure from a senior Democrat senator.  This fact was referenced in a letter from Darrell Issa to the new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen.

Third: The Federal Bureau of Investigation through unnamed officials indicated that no charges would be forthcoming in the IRS targeting scandal because evidence of ‘enemy hunting’ or political bias that amounted to a criminal act had not been uncovered.  Their probe had only found evidence of a mismanaged bureaucracy in enforcing rules about tax-exemption applications it didn’t understand.  Almost simultaneously the lead investigator assigned to the IRS case, Barbara Bosserman, was shown to have donated appreciable sums to both Obama presidential campaigns.  Outraged conservatives and moderates voicing concerns were met with a bristling rejoinder from the Justice Department.

Fourth: At an explosive hearing in early February Cleta Mitchell, Jay Sekulow and Catherine Engelbrecht offered compelling testimony of IRS targeting.  Ms. Engelbrecht stated unequivocally that her life has been turned upside down due to the “weaponization” of the IRS and government.  Ms. Engelbrecht testified that her organization (True the Vote) was subjected to hundreds of interrogatories, many illegal; e.g. insisting on the identities of donors, an active members’ roster and their responsibilities, dates/subjects of speeches and the list goes on.  But even more horrifying was her identification of government audits that took place post the exemption filing targeting her organization, business and family -- they included a total of 15 audits conducted by the IRS, ATF, FBI, Elijah Cummings’ letters and even OSHA – yet during the previous 20 years she had never been audited.
Fifth: Although the number of right-leaning groups targeted by the IRS varies depending on source, Mr. Sekulow (represents 41 entities) estimated the number at 298 while left-leaning groups equaled 29 – yet some put the number of targeted conservative organizations at over 570.  Mr. Sekulow points out the Department of Justice (DOJ)/FBI has not contacted even one of his groups while insisting they are conducting a thorough investigation.  To date about 45% of conservative organizations after many delays have received approval, and 70% of liberal groups; i.e. 134 and 20 groups respectively.
Sixth: The IRS and Treasury Department have released a set of proposed new rules that will stifle free speech and ban espousing support of political candidates and issues. The new rules will bar direct advocacy of issues or candidates 60 days prior to a general election and 30 days before a primary.  Preparation and distribution of voter guides that refer to a party or candidates, and materials referring to a candidate are also prohibited for the same time periods.
The aforementioned facts illustrate both the depth and growing breath of President Obama’s, government departments’/agencies’ and key Democrats’ efforts to silence conservative speech and obstruct their actions and their financial donors.  These extraordinary ‘political machine’ endeavors are clearly driven by ideology, political survival, ObamaCare, a narrowing fund raising gap  and a fear of significant electoral loses in 2014 and 2016.  Further unions, the largest Democrat sugar daddy, have not been mentioned…yet government statistics show union funding of Democrats exceeded an astonishing $736 million during the 2008 election cycle.
ObamaCare has become a bane to Democrat candidates – thus rhetoric from Charles Schumer, Elijah Cummings, Richard Durbin, James Clyburn, Harry Reid and others has railed against ObamaCare advertising which emphasizes Democrat support for the law and its failings – due to advertising funded in part by conservative 501 (c ) 4 groups.
The political targeting has continued unabated and the proposed rule changes “would make intimidation and harassment of the administration’s political opponents the official policy of the IRS” -- this while the mainstream media has done its usual job of downplaying, dismissing, embargoing or defending President Obama, AG Holder, their surrogates and many others in the administration.  The most prevalent media tactic has been to not report on the scandal.  Any argument that supports “not a smidgeon of corruption’ is risible on its face!  Additionally Goliath vs. David politically driven forays against American individuals or groups is reprehensible.  

But more importantly, these tactics taken together endanger our Constitution and the First Amendment.  And finally if targeting is not stopped it will deny the rationale expressed in The Federalist #51 by James Madison.  Madison wrote on February 6, 1788, “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part”.

Given the importance of this issue your comments, both for and against...critiques of facts or logic would be greatly appreciated.