IRS Scandal Implicates Democrats

Using government power to limit political speech


"Special interests are planning and running millions of dollars" in ads, warns President Barack Obama. But despite their "benign-sounding names," adds Democratic operative David Axelrod, some of them are "front groups for foreign-controlled companies." Together, they are trying to sway the outcome of elections all across America.
Want examples? No problem.

In 2012 alone, Toyota spent $2 billion in the hope that Americans would elect to buy Toyotas rather than Fords, Chevrolets, or Hondas. Samsung, a South Korean multinational conglomerate, spent $881 million. Walmart spent huge sums to sell you on buying goods made in China.

Hoping more Americans will elect to use renewable energy, environmental groups have been cranking out sunny brochures and op/ed columns pitching its merits. Among those who stand to benefit the most: Chinese solar-cell makers and German wind-turbine manufacturers.

Obviously, these aren't the interests Obama and Axelrod had in mind when they made those comments four years ago, after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. They meant groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, and other "outside groups." In that, they spoke for many liberal Democrats—and even some Republicans, like Sen. John McCain—who don't like such groups speaking out on politics.

Little wonder, then, that since the IRS scandal broke Republicans and their conservative supporters have been looking for the smoking gun that would prove Obama ordered the agency to seek and destroy conservative social-welfare groups. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of presidents trying to sic the IRS on their political foes; that was even one of the charges of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

In this case, however, the GOP's Obama Derangement Syndrome might be pointing it in the wrong direction. Granted, the administration did laughably appoint an Obama campaign donor to investigate whether Obama critics had been treated fairly. But much of the impetus for the IRS' abuse of conservative groups seems to have come from Congress.

That becomes apparent from a complaint filed this month with the Senate's ethics committee by the Center for Competitive Politics. The complaint asks the committee to investigate Sens. Carl Levin, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken, and several others for improperly trying to sway IRS deliberations and obtain confidential taxpayer information.

Admittedly, asking the Democrat-controlled committee to investigate Democrats for targeting Republican-leaning groups is a Quixotic pursuit. But Quixotic is not the same as meritless. And the complaint contains mountains of merit.

The complaint details several letters Levin wrote to the IRS in which he insisted that "a message needs to be sent" to social-welfare groups "on an urgent basis," and that the message should make it "crystal clear" they needed to restrict their political activities. Just so the IRS would not misunderstand, he drew attention to two TV advertisements—one by Crossroads GPS and another by Patriot Majority USA.

Unsatisfied by the IRS response, Levin continued to press the agency to give such groups—which are organized under Section 501(c)4) of the tax code—"a choice: either lose their exempt status (and pay taxes) or eliminate the partisan political activity." He followed that up with a demand to see confidential information about Crossroads GOP, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA. Informed that "the IRS cannot legally disclose" what he wanted, he tried again—and again. As the ethics complaint notes, "IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller acknowledged in an interview that Senator Levin's effort did, in fact, have an effect on the IRS' internal proceedings."

Durbin not only demanded that the IRS investigate groups he didn't care for—he boasted about it in news releases that drew the attention of the media. No wonder: Durbin made the demand a month before the fall congressional elections. Subtle!

Schumer, Franken, and Co. also wrote to the IRS, wondering—purely out of idle curiosity, you understand—whether the agency "is investigating or intends to investigate" whether certain groups might be engaging in—gasp!—"campaign activity." Which groups? Oh, "Elections operations such as Mr. (Karl) Rove's." They followed that up a month later with a request that the IRS change the rules governing social-welfare nonprofits.

This past January, Schumer gave a speech denouncing "the great advantage the tea party has," namely "the huge holes in our campaign-finance system" that allowed 501(c)(4) groups to spend "millions in undisclosed dollars" on "ads that distort the truth and attack government." To whom did he give this speech? The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a 501(c)4) organization. Now that's chutzpah.

But sometimes chutzpah pays off. As everyone now knows, the IRS did launch a pogrom against conservative groups—not just the big ones, like Rove's, but many much smaller ones as well. For months it harassed them with intrusive questionnaires demanding everything from Facebook posts to the contents of prayers said at meetings.

And remember what terrible offense those groups were committing: They were supporting or opposing candidates for public office, often by buying TV ad time. But a political advertisement cannot make you vote for or against a political candidate any more than a commercial advertisement can make you buy a Toyota instead of a Ford. What Levin, Durbin, Schumer, et al. find outrageous is the fact that some Americans have been speaking about political candidates without those candidates' authorization.

Indeed, some Democratic congressmen find that so outrageous they would like to amend the Constitution. News stories have referred to the amendment as the "Democrats' answer to the Koch Brothers." But the amendment would not apply only to the Kochs. It would allow politicians to ration political speech by everyone. That would be like letting Ford decide which companies get to advertise cars on TV. How many ads for Toyotas would you see in that case? Take a wild guess.

NEXT: Alaska Funding Free Pregnancy Tests for Bar Bathrooms

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  1. As a VP-level IT manager with decades of hands-on and management experience, I can tell you the IRS is lying. Their assertion about the email loss is technically impossible – without willful doctoring of data or a widespread disaster that would wipe out all their servers and client computers – across the region.

    If they use Microsoft exchange, there’s a server cache (an OST file), a local cache (a PST file), and a backup of both. (certainly a server backup, most likely a local backup as well).

    If Lerner’s computer crashed, the server has a copy of her email cache. (The OST file). That’s THE main advantage of MS Outlook Exchange Server.

    Even if the server cache and local cache both got clobbered, the backups (at least daily) would be available, & it wouldn’t be for more than a day. (1 minimum backup cycle), but certainly not 2 years of lost data.

    If we further wildly assume that the server, local, & backup(s) all croaked, you could still reconstruct the corpus of emails in reverse. Reverse reconstruction is done by looking at potential receiving accounts for emails from Lerner’s account. This can be done within the IRS, and also for any government systems outside the IRS (for example, congressional, executive, DOJ, FEC, etc.) with simple cooperation of the separate system administrators.

    Unless someone WITH admin access – across all those departments – intentionally scrubbed the server, local, & backups for both the sender & recipient(s) – those emails are still there.

    1. They are obviously lying, and they know that everyone knows they are lying. They just don’t care because there will be no real accountability.

      1. ^^^ This.

        I.e., “FYTW”

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      2. They are obviously lying, and they know that everyone knows they are lying.

        That’s why they’re “the most transparent administration in history”.

      3. Hinkle wrote that “the administration did laughably appoint[ed] an Obama campaign donor to investigate”.

        I don’t think it’s laughable. I think the administration is openly insulting the intelligence and integrity of all Americans.

        This “dog ate my e-mail” is more of the same. It is a blatant mockery by the administration that demonstrates its utter contempt for both rule of law and the people that it governs.

        Either that, or the administration is so stupid that they think that “the dog ate my e-mail” is a really, really good excuse. It’s hard to imagine that people could be that stupid, but with this administration, who knows?

        1. I’m not totally convinced that it is contempt that move these people to act so. Following the precept “never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity”, I think it possible that this is what happens to to a political movement when it has a compliant media and a large following of “True Believers”; they get mentally lazy. They seldom have close contact with people they actually need to convince of anything, so the ability to do so atrophies.

    2. I’m going to bet that they’ve been willfully deleted. They would look incredibly stupid if they say “they’re gone!” and then some tech goes and says “nope, we have a backup right here”. The reason they’re saying they’re gone is because they are.

      1. They are incredibly stupid and corrupt. That’s the special combination that gives our government institutions that special Third World feel.

      2. My guess is that they’ve been gone since late 2011. They knew what they were doing.

      3. That would be my guess except that it takes some skill to properly delete them from all the right places. None of the hacks have that skill. And I don’t think anyone who does have the skill is going to volunteer to be the criminal scapegoat to do it for them.

        Let me ask you, would you delete those emails? As your lawyer I would tell you don’t even think about it. Those people would happily pin the entire thing on you and never leave any proof that you didn’t act alone. So I really wonder if they were able to really delete them.

    3. In a move superior to all of PB’s accomplishments put together; Steve Stockman trolls both the IRS and the NSA with one request;

      All the metadata please!

      In PB’s defense, most people do more by 8 a.m. than he’s done his whole life.

    4. “When You’re Slapped, You’ll Take It & Like It”

      Why? Because Fuck You, that’s why.

      Our proud American Pravda dutifully reports this crap as if it weren’t obviously complete bullshit. The administration is above the law, they know it, and now they’re just rubbing our noses in it.

      “Ha ha, yeah, my dog ate my homework too. What you gonna do about it?”

      1. It’s not like this is new.

        “The Cupboard is Bare”, “Not even a smidgen of corruption”, …

        They’ve determined that they can spit in our faces daily, and they’re right.

  2. Republicans and their conservative supporters have been looking for the smoking gun that would prove Obama ordered the agency to seek and destroy conservative social-welfare groups.

    Find that smoking gun and then you can call it a scandal.


    2. You know, it’s awesome that you are willing to give Obama and the democrats a pass on all of their lawlessness and abuse of power. But just remember the Iron Law: Today me; tomorrow you. Although I imagine you are too fucking stupid to understand.

      1. He is willing to give them a pass because it’s the democrats and Obama who are in hot water and these are his guys. PB and the rest of the democratic hacks who come here are not principled, but TEAM players.

      2. As long as they can give their team free passes to commit abuses today they couldn’t care less that the opposing team will take advantage of the same new privileges tomorrow.

        1. If anything, abuses of power by the Other Team are a good way to juice the fundraising.

          In a corrupt crypto-one-party system like ours, when you’re in power you make bank and implement your hobby horses. And when you are out of power, you just make bank. All the incentives run the same way. MOAR POWER. LESS ACCOUNTABILITY. FOR EVERYONE (who matters).

    3. Remember this chappelle skit, where Dave talked about what it would take for him to convict a black man?…..uncensored

    4. PB

      Aren’t you at all embarrassed that the IRS is even making this claim that a computer crash destroyed the Louis Learner’s emails. Doesn’t that insult your intelligence? If a Republican had done that?

      1. PB has no intelligence to insult.

    5. This is a smoking gun, fool. For reasons already explained, there’s no way these particular emails simply got lost in the way described. Plus, an IRS official testified before Congress months ago that they had the emails.

      One alternative explanation would be to subpoena any emails from and to Lerner that exist in the computers of Schumer, Cummings, Jarret, etc.

    6. Man, talk about tacking a stupid label on your own back.

  3. Here is the Russki equivelent:
    Former corruption cop is being interrogated and then – suddenly runs and throws himself from the sixth floor balcony.
    Who could have anticipated that?…..01992.html

    1. “Throws himself…yeah, that’s the ticket! That’s exactly who threw him! He did!”

      1. “And that, comrade, is my story, and to it I am sticking. Snitches are, how you say, bitches. Fuck you, that is why.”

    2. In Russia, window opens you

  4. I’m sure that this is some how, some way, all Bush’s fault.

    1. Yeah, I noticed on my way to work today that the price of gas has gone up.
      Fuckin’ Bush!

  5. What I want to know is how come I’m in the USA and Google has displayed a new World Cup of soccer doodle every day for the last 4-5 days, yet I don’t recall them ever using a Super Bowl doodle for even a day. Is Google actively trying to manipulate the American DNA? Or are there just so few Americans left they see no purpose in catering to such an insignificant number?

    1. Google is often explicitly non- or even anti-American in the people and events it chooses to celebrate.

      1. That certainly appears to be the case.


    2. They would get sued for using any NFL imagery or for even using the term Superbowl. Haven’t you noticed that not even newscasters say the “S” word, opting instead for “The Big Game”?

      1. Newscasters use “Super Bowl”; it’s advertisers who aren’t sponsors of the event who don’t.

        I heard an online fantasy sports site ad this morning that referred to “the big international tournament”.

  6. I just read on Politico today that Organzing for America, which was the president’s campaign and now is a 501(c)4) controls the @barackobama twitter account.

    And yet here I am told “Section 501(c)4) of the tax code?”a choice: either lose their exempt status (and pay taxes) or eliminate the partisan political activity.”

    Funny, huh?

    1. It’s different because…Republicans!

      /craiginmass (or Tony) (or shreik)

    2. If you’re capable of shame that’s a drawback for a politician. You might as well get yourself honest work instead.

  7. Democrats have sent trillions of dollars to countries that hate America. Who are the criminals? Corporations and organizations that spend their own money or the federal government that takes our money away to give to countries that hate us.

    1. It couldn’t be government because government is us, we the people. Corporations acquire their money by exploiting the poor. They profit off of poor laborers and they profit when they sell stuff. They exploit workers and customers alike. They are the evil ones. Government is there to protect us from the corporations (except that the corporations control the government that is us, but we can fix that by giving more power to the government so we the people can control the corporations that control it). If not for government we would all live in a polluted wasteland, toiling in factories, while the idle rich get all the spoils.

      1. Wait, I thought we did all live in a polluted wasteland, etc.

        1. Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

          Government loves me, This I know,
          For the Government tells me so,
          Little ones to GAWD belong,
          We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
          Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
          Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
          And gives me all that I might need!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          DEA, CIA, KGB,
          Our protectors, they will be,
          FBI, TSA, and FDA,
          With us, astride us, in every way!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

  8. They should have gone with ‘we redacted the emails and there was nothing left when it was over’.

  9. What the hell! I could’ve swore I had this exonerating data around here somewhere. Ah, here it isn’t. See I’m innocent.

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