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Tags: IRS

Pelosi: ‘They Need a New Technology System at the IRS’



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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) regards the loss of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails only demonstrates that the agency needs to upgrade its technology, rather than a cause to suspect a cover-up related to the targeting of Tea Party groups.

“What it convinces me [of] is that they need a new technology system at the IRS,” Pelosi told reporters. “They need to upgrade their technology, get it right, so that there’s no suspicion about what agenda anyone may have on that.”

The IRS says that two years’ of Lerner’s emails were lost due to a hard drive crash. “Who could possibly believe that they have lost two critical years worth of emails for the central figure in this investigation?” House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) countered during his press briefing.

“If the IRS truly got rid of evidence in a way that violated the Federal Records Act and ensured the FBI never got a crack at recovering files from an official claiming a Fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, this is proof their whole line about ‘losing’ e-mails in the targeting scandal was just one more attempted deception,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) said in response. ”Old and useless binders of information are still stored and maintained on federal agency shelves; official records, like the e-mails of a prominent official, don’t just disappear without a trace unless that was the intention.”

An IRS official told National Review Online’s Eliana Johnson that two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails have been lost and can’t be retrieved because a hard drive crashed. “You’re not supposed to keep them around,” the source told Eliana when explaining why the damaged hard drive would be destroyed. “You destroy the data.”

Tags: IRS , Tea Party

Warning: Obamacare Implementation Now Hitting Dangerous Levels of Irony



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Another bit of cheery news from today’s Morning Jolt . . . 

Guess Which Federal Agency Is Running Low on Funds Because of Obamacare?

Guess which beloved branch of the federal bureaucracy is realizing that it can’t afford to implement Obamacare without sacrificing other priorities? (WARNING: Do not drink coffee while reading the next sentence.)

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service may need to spend money on its Obamacare implementation at the expense of other agency programs due to budget constraints, its new commissioner said on Monday.

John Koskinen, sworn in on December 23 to lead the tax agency, did not elaborate on what programs might suffer to ensure full funding for the IRS’s numerous jobs in putting into effect President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.

Okay, Commissioner. Here’s the offer: you guys move ahead with implementing Obamacare, and you save money by saying “Eh, looks close enough” on everybody’s tax return for 2014. Do we have a deal?

Of course, right now some “low-level rogue employee in the Cincinnati office” — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — is asking “hey, can’t we shake down some Tea Party group for the money?”

Tags: Obamacare , IRS

Public Evenly Split on Belief in White House Direction of IRS Scandal



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There’s probably a danger when polling organizations ask about something that hasn’t been proven quite yet; a majority telling a pollster “I believe X happened” does not necessarily mean X actually happened. But this shift does indicate something . . . 

Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.

Coupled with Obama’s overall slipping numbers, credited to the NSA revelations . . . well, if you think the NSA has behaved in a shady manner inconsistent with the Constitution, under the president’s direction, it’s probably easier to believe that the IRS did the same.

Tags: IRS , Barack Obama

All of Obama’s Scandals Are Ultimately About Information Control



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There’s really no reason for the press to suggest that the recent slew of scandals involving the Obama administration — Benghazi, the AP phone-record seizure, the snooping in James Rosen’s e-mail, the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, and so on — are a confusing jumble. There is a very clear thread running through all of the administration’s actions:

* The U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, says that he was told not to speak to a member of Congress about Benghazi without a State Department lawyer present, that he received a phone call from Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff disapproving of his discussion with Representative Jason Chaffetz, and that he was “effectively demoted” afterwards.

* The controversy over the editing of the “talking points” revolves around the steady deletion of factual information from the explanation to the American people, leading to the emphasis of a protest that the U.S. personnel on the ground did not report.

* In an effort to ferret out leaks, the Department of Justice secretly reviewed the phone records of at least 20 phone lines of Associated Press reporters — their work, home, and cell-phone lines. The move is unprecedented and has journalists up in arms because it means that a journalist can no longer guarantee the confidentiality of any phone conversation with a source that wishes to not be publicly identified.

* The Department of Justice went before a judge and alleged that Fox News reporter James Rosen was a criminal “co-conspirator” in leaking classified information, in order to access his personal e-mail accounts. No reporter has ever been prosecuted as a co-conspirator under the Espionage Act; in all previous cases, it has been used to prosecute the leaker of classified information, not the recipient. The classified information in question was an analyst’s assessment that North Korea would respond to new U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test.

* In another bit of punishment for whistleblowers, the Department of Justice Inspector General determined that former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke leaked a document smearing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Dodson, an Operation Fast and Furious whistle-blower. The IG concluded that “his explanations for why he did not believe his actions were improper were not credible.”

* Despite all these ruthless efforts to stop leaks elsewhere in government, the Cincinnati office of the IRS leaked unapproved applications for nine conservative groups to the media web site ProPublica. The IRS separately released confidential information about the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS asserted, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration concluded, the releases were “inadvertent.” The problem with the “inadvertent” explanation is that the Human Rights Campaign said they were sent the private IRS filing from NOM via a “whistleblower.”

* The Environmental Protection Agency waived their fees for Freedom of Information Act requests from “green” or environmental groups while keeping them in place for conservative groups.

All of these actions involve an effort to control information.

Some parts of this administration focus on preventing information that is contrary to the administration’s agenda from getting out, or hindering its distribution, and making sure that the only information that goes out supports the perspective of the administration. Other parts leak confidential information designed to attack the reputations of those holding perspectives the administration opposes (NOM, the nine conservative groups) or other whistleblowers (ATF agent Dodson).

This administration prefers to keep the inconvenient parts of the story obscured in darkness.

Tags: Barack Obama , IRS , Benghazi , Department of Justice

Lew: IRS Investigation Was on Inspector General Web Site in Fall 2012



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Well.

AL HUNT, HOST, BLOOMBERG NEWS: We’re going to get to larger economic questions in a little bit, but first the IRS, which reports to Treasury. When were you first notified that IRS agents were targeting conservative groups like the Tea Party?

JACK LEW, TREASURY SECRETARY, U.S. GOVERNMENT: Al, I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge. Before that, in mid March, I had had a conversation, just a getting-to-know-you conversation, with the inspector general right after I started, and he went through a number of items that were matters they were working on. And the topic of a project on the 501c3 issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.

I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday. When I learned about it — from the moment I learned about it, I was outraged. The Secretary of the Treasury, as a citizen, it is a matter of the highest priority that the IRS be beyond suspicion in terms of its (inaudible).

HUNT: Did Tim Geithner or Neal Wolin or the general counsel know about it before him?

LEW: I think that there was — the heads-up that I got was something that was a matter of public knowledge. It was posted on the IG’s website in the Fall of 2012. I believe that other is typically the practice that an inspector general notify the agencies when matters are opened. I was not aware of any details. My deputy was not aware of any details until it became a matter of public knowledge.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, today told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his audit on June 4, and deputy Treasury secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.”

While the inspector general’s report was still ongoing, anyone at the highest level of the Treasury Department could see that the IG had been investigating the topic for several months. And yet no one in the entire Treasury Department felt the president should be notified?

Tags: IRS , Jack Lew

Why Every American Can Understand the IRS Scandal



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On a podcast with Andrew Malcolm of Investor’s Business Daily and Melissa Clouthier, they asked which scandal will prove most damaging to the Obama administration. I think it will be the IRS, even though it probably ought to be Benghazi, considering how lives were lost in that event.

Almost every American deals with the IRS. Even those who pay no net federal income taxes still have to fill out all of their forms in April. Almost everyone has heard some story about getting audited, and what a nightmarish process that is. I suspect most taxpayers feel like they filled out their tax forms right, but they’re not entirely sure, considering how ludicrously complicated the U.S. tax code is. I suspect everyone fears that someday there will be a knock at your door, and some guy who looks like Agent Smith from The Matrix will be there, demanding your financial records for the past ten years, and if anything is out of order, you’ll go to jail for the rest of your life.

So unlike Benghazi or the Department of Justice looking through the phone records of Associated Press reporters, everybody feels in their guts what the IRS scandal is about: a person with enormous power over you having an unjustified, arbitrary grudge against you, and abusing that authority.

The Internal Revenue Service has been a cultural villain for quite some time. Just ask Rockwell, back in the 1980s.

Tags: IRS , Barack Obama

The Mask Is Ripped Off of ‘Hope and Change’



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Today’s Morning Jolt is jam-packed, as it is a special ALL-SCANDAL edition!

SCANDAL ONE: Dear Media: Obama’s Indignant Benghazi Response Revealed a Lot Yesterday!

Dear friends in the media.

Come on.

I mean, come on.

You and I know what’s going with the Benghazi thing. Let me share something that I first put into play during the “was Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account hacked” debate, but that comes from watching the Lewinsky scandal, the where-did –Mark-Sanford-go scandal, the why-is-David-Wu-dressed-in-a-tiger-suit scandal, and a wide variety of wrongdoing committed by politicians:

When there is evidence of scandalous or bizarre behavior on the part of a political figure, and no reasonable explanation is revealed within 24 to 48 hours, then the truth is probably as bad as everyone suspects.

Nobody withholds exculpatory information. Nobody who’s been accused of something wrong waits for “just the right moment” to unveil information that proves the charge baseless. Political figures never choose to deliberately let themselves twist in the wind. It’s not the instinctive psychological reaction to being falsely accused, it’s not what any public communications professional would recommend, and to use one of our president’s favorite justifications, it’s just common sense.

So . . .

You and I both know, in our guts, and based upon everything we’ve seen in Washington since we started our careers, that there’s no innocent explanation for the Obama administration’s actions before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks.

If there were good reasons for why the requests for additional security from staff in Libya didn’t generate any serious response in the halls of the State Department, we would have heard it by now. If there were evidence that everyone within the State Department, military, and White House were doing everything they could to rescue our guys on that awful night, we would have heard about it long ago. If there was a good reason for the “talking points” to get edited down from a false premise (a demonstration) but at least serious information (previous CIA warnings about terrorist activity) to false pabulum, we would have heard it by now; the latest lame excuse is that the fourteen edits merely reflect “bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and State.” And if there was a good reason for State Department lawyers to call up Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks and tell him not to allow the RSO, the acting Deputy Chief of Mission, and himself to be interviewed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, we would have heard that by now, too.

Come on, guys. What do we think is going on when Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff calls up the acting ambassador, and harangues him about the lack of a State Department lawyer for his conversation with Congress? Does anybody really believe it’s just her checking up to make sure protocol was followed?

You can see what’s going on here. You may not want to see it, or believe it, but you can see it. The federal government made awful, unforgivable wrong decisions about the security for its people in Benghazi. They compounded the error by failing to put together even the beginning of a rescue mission during the seven-hour assault. Perhaps those responsible for making the call had a fear of  a “Black Hawk Down” scenario, in which the rescuers find themselves needing rescue, but whatever the reasoning, the net effect was the same: our people were under fire, fighting for their lives, and nobody was coming to help. The decisions made that night make a mockery of the unofficial, but widespread motto of our armed forces: “Nobody gets left behind.”

The decisions made up until this point may or may not have involved the president or then-Secretary of State Clinton, but they sure as hell were involved in the decisions that came afterwards.  The morning after the attack, the administration tried to offer the excuse that it was a completely unforeseeable event, randomly triggered by some YouTube video. And they sought to intimidate and punish anyone who would contradict their storyline.

My friends in media, you know what is going on when you see President Obama say this:

The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.  What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.

You know what this is: Stop looking at what I did, and start looking at the people accusing me of wrongdoing. We’ve seen this tactic before: “The vast right-wing conspiracy.”

We know the president’s claim that there was confusion is false, because everyone on the ground was clearly telling their bosses that this was a terror attack from the beginning. No one in Benghazi or Libya was saying this was a protest as a result of a YouTube video. Where did that idea come from? Who within the administration decided to take accurate information and start inserting inaccurate information?

The president continues:

 It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film.  And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days. 

No, the folks on the ground understood what was taking place. They just said so before Congress and a lot of television cameras. Why is the president confused about this?

Obama continues:

And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.  We’ve had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity.  It’s a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks.  They’ve used it for fundraising. 

The motivations and/fundraising of those who disagree with you are irrelevant to whether or not you’re telling the truth, Mr. President.

SCANDAL TWO: Hey, Why Does the IRS Have to Tell the Truth to Congress, Anyway?

NBC News points out that the IRS appears to have directly lied to Congress when asked about the targeting of conservative groups:

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations, learned in June 2011 that agents had targeted groups with names including “Tea Party” and “Patriots,” according to the draft obtained by NBC News.

She “instructed that the criteria immediately be revised,” according to the draft. Ten months later, in March 2012, the IRS commissioner at the time, Douglas Shulman, testified to Congress that the IRS was not targeting tax-exempt groups based on their politics.

The IRS said over the weekend that senior executives were not aware of the targeting, but it remains unclear who knew what and when. [Then IRS Commissioner] Shulman, who left the agency last fall, has not spoken publicly about the scandal and did not answer a request for comment Monday from NBC News.

Members of Congress had sent letters to Shulman as early as June 2011 asking specifically about targeting of conservative groups, according to a House Ways and Means Committee summary obtained by NBC News.

The IRS responded at least six times but made no mention of targeting conservatives, according to the committee’s summary.

“Oh, you mean that effort to conservative groups, we thought you meant a different one.”

Remember the explanation that this was just some runaway low-level employees in one office? Yeah, that was bull: “Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.”

SCANDAL THREE: Of Course Eric Holder Is Allowed to Secretly Eavesdrop on Journalists!

You know a scandal is bad when I can point you to the Huffington Post’s summary, because it can’t collect any more outrage than I can:

Journalists reacted with shock and outrage at the news that the Justice Department had secretly obtained months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.

The AP broke the news on Monday about what it called an “unprecedented intrusion” into its operation. It said that the DOJ had obtained detailed phone records from over 20 different lines, potentially monitoring hundreds of different journalists without notifying the organization. The wire service’s president, Gary Pruitt, wrote a blistering letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, accusing the DOJ of violating the AP’s constitutional rights.

Reporters and commentators outside the AP professed themselves to be equally angered. “The Nixon comparisons write themselves,” BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith tweeted. Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for the New York Times, called the story “disturbing.” Washington Post editor Martin Baron called it “shocking.” CNN’s John King described it as “very chilling.”

Speaking to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, a lawyer for the AP called the DOJ’s actions “outrageous,” saying they were “a dagger to the heart of AP’s newsgathering activity.”

BuzzFeed’s Kate Nocera was perhaps more pithy, writing simply, “what in the f–k.”

You “Hope and Change” true believers were a bunch of chumps.

As this illustration over at Ace of Spades reveals . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Holder , Benghazi , IRS , Scandals

Scarborough, Todd Wonder Why Democrats Are Shrugging at IRS Scandal



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On MSNBC this morning, Chuck Todd and Joe Scarborough dance around the obvious conclusion:

TODD: Why aren’t there more Democrats jumping on this? This is outrageous no matter what political party you are, that an arm of the government, maybe it’s a set of people just in one office but, mind you, that one office was put in charge of dealing with these 501c4s and things like that.

SCARBOROUGH: Why didn’t the president say something on Friday afternoon?

TODD: I don’t know. Maybe they were distracted by Benghazi. Maybe they made the decision they didn’t want it to be about healthcare. I raised this question — where is the sense of outrage? And the only pushback was, Jay Carney spoke about this at the press briefing and he was pretty strong. I have to say it didn’t sound very strong to me. I don’t know if the White House realizes. I think this story has more legs politically in 2014 than Benghazi.

The obvious conclusion: President Obama, the past and current secretaries of the Treasury, and Democrats on Capitol Hill don’t really care! To them, the use of government resources to harass and impede their political opponents is just how the game is played.

When Obama came to Washington, he brought the Chicago rules with him.

Tags: IRS , Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

May 2013: The End of Unreasonable Paranoia



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The first Morning Jolt of the week features a furious denunciation of the media’s excuses for losing interest in Benghazi, a look at Mika Brzezinski’s new book, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — and My Own, and of course, the fact that a lot of our once-“paranoid” fears have proven true lately . . .

No Kidding: The IRS Has Had a Vendetta against Conservatives Since 2011

Let’s see here. . . . The Benghazi hearings and reporting about the “editing” of the talking points indicate that the Obama administration covered up the truth about what happened. Then we learned one of the Boston bombers sought out jihadists while in Russia in 2011 and listened to Internet sermons of al-Qaeda fan/cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, while collecting public assistance. Then we learned disclosures from the IRS prove that the federal government targeted groups based upon their political views. Hell of a week for the fears we once dismissed as paranoia, huh? This afternoon we get Elvis’s reappearance and Thursday is scheduled to feature the truth about the aliens at Roswell.

Naturally, today Obama will deal with these shocking headlines in his traditional manner: going to a bunch of Democratic fundraisers in New York City.

And yes, the IRS story is basically as bad as the most paranoid would have you believe; sometimes they really are out to get you.

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those that had “tea party” or “patriot” in their names — as the agency admitted Friday — to also include ones that raised concerns over government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted — nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn’t targeting conservative groups.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don’t make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

The inspector general’s office has been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and is expected to release a report this week. The audit follows complaints last year by numerous tea-party and other conservative groups that they had been singled out and subjected to excessive and inappropriate questioning. Many groups say they were asked for lists of their donors and other sensitive information.

One point to keep in mind: Sometimes no organizational boss has to explicitly say that there’s a great incentive to target a particular political foe. Sometimes these sorts of illegal and unjust incentives simply resonate throughout the culture of an organization. If everyone within a particular office culture (i.e., Internal Revenue Service employees) believes that a particular group is particularly bad (conservatives) and another group is good (liberals), there will be enormous psychological incentives to pursue the “bad” groups, both out of personal beliefs and out of reinforcing groupthink.

There’s a simple, direct method for changing the culture, of course: fire anybody involved.

Tags: Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , IRS , Benghazi

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