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Tags: IRS Abuses

Trust Us, It’s Just ‘Further Scrutiny of Individuals and Organizations,’ Nothing Big.



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Politico: “The data cadged in the Verizon case can be used as a menu — giving agents an idea of which individuals or organizations warrant further scrutiny.”

Because there hasn’t been any controversy over government agents giving individuals or organizations further scrutiny lately, right?

They’re referring to FBI agents, not IRS agents . . . right?

Above: “Agents.”

Tags: IRS Abuses , NSA

IRS: Don’t Take Free Food While Abusing Americans



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What a Jolt today: The National Security Agency collects every Verizon customer’s phone records; a new poll indicates Obamacare has never been less popular; a look at the new ABC Family series, “The Fosters”; and then these developments in the IRS scandal . . . 

IRS: Okay, We’ll Stop Taking Free Food When Asking About the Content of Your Prayers

Turn the Internal Revenue Service into a partisan cudgel, and nobody blinks. But man, if you take free food, you’re toast. And you can’t even accept that toast, apparently.

Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel is placing two officials — including a top staffer implementing the health care law — on administrative leave for violating government ethics rules at a 2010 conference.

“When I came to IRS, part of my job was to hold people accountable,” Werfel said in a statement Wednesday. “There was clearly inappropriate behavior in this situation and immediate action is needed.”

Werfel didn’t specify which staff members he disciplined but congressional sources tell POLITICO one official is Fred Schindler, the director of implementation oversight at the IRS Affordable Care Act office. The other is Donald Toda, a California-based employee.

The staffers received $1,100 in free food and other items at the conference, the sources said.

$1,100 in free food? Just how much did these two guys eat? What, did they order the surf and turf and say, ‘man, this is so good, let’s get a dozen more for the road?’

Well, at least these two guys are . . . wait a minute. “Suspended employees are often paid during suspension while supervisors decide how to proceed.”

You’re going to take this paid vacation indefinitely, buster!

In other IRS news, courtesy our friends at the Franklin Center:

Recent press reports focused on the 157 visits to the White House by former IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, but there has been little scrutiny of the 165 White House visits by the IRS ‘Obamacare’ official Sarah Hall Ingram.

According to White House visitor data, Shulman never attended any of Ingram’s meetings, and Ingram never attended a White House meeting with Shulman.

All of Ingram’s165 meetings were with White House staff, while only 151 of Shulman’s visits were with staff. Shulman attended six meetings with President Barack Obama.

Ingram attended 62 White House meetings in 2011, 90 in 2012 and 13 this year (though February).

But wait, there’s more on the IRS front today!

Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010.

Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati.

Elizabeth Hofacre said her office in Cincinnati sought help from IRS officials in the Washington unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations after she started getting the tea-party cases in April 2010. Ms. Hofacre said Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington, closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.

Trust us.

Tags: IRS Abuses , IRS Scandal

Feds Just Happen to Withold $125 Million in Cuccinelli Settlement



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Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, won a giant $125 million settlement prosecuting Medicaid fraud . . . and yet for some reason, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is mysteriously delaying the transfer of the settlement to the state government.

Why, it’s almost as if a giant, politicized and partisan federal bureaucracy wants to deny the GOP candidate for governor something to brag about.

Eight months after a federal court approved a $1.5 billion Medicaid fraud settlement — the second largest in U.S. history — federal officials have yet to release any of the roughly $125 million owed to Virginia for being the lead investigator.
The Abbott Pharmaceuticals illegal marketing case was investigated for five years by the nationally known Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the office of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Officials have told the office that the Internal Revenue Service has refused to properly fill out post-case paperwork for almost a year, which is holding up the disbursement intended for Virginia law enforcement.
But the delay, which state officials say is unprecedented, has Cuccinelli wondering whether the problem is more about politics than completing paperwork.
“For a long time we thought it was glaring incompetence,” Cuccinelli said in an interview. “But in light of the last month or two, we’re now beginning to wonder whether maybe there are more deliberate motives.”
It was a reference to the recent scandal and congressional testimony stemming from reports of the IRS targeting conservative non-profit groups for investigation.
Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican and Tea Party darling running for governor this year, has been a chief antagonist of the federal government — being the first attorney general to file suit challenging President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and also fighting EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
“I have to openly wonder whether this is an intentional act to deny Virginia its asset forfeiture money,” Cuccinelli said.
The $1.5 billion resolution included a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $700 million — a $500 million fine to the federal government and roughly $200 million in criminal asset-forfeiture penalties. There were also civil settlements with the federal government and the states totaling $800 million.
The $125 million reflects Virginia’s share of roughly $200 million in asset forfeiture funds owed to the state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of Abbott, which settled a case that it illegally marketed the prescription drug Depakote for non-approved uses.
Abbott paid the full amount of its settlement to the U.S. Treasury Department last October, but officials have since refused to release Virginia’s portion of the settlement.

Tags: Ken Cuccinelli , U.S. Treasury Department , IRS Abuses

The IRS Is About to Have Another Tough Week



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The first Morning Jolt of the week features why Eric Holder will stick around for the foreseeable future, despite anonymous quotes to the contrary in the New York Times; why we ought to show some humility when discussing modern marriage, working arrangements, and family life; and then this preview of the week . . . 

The Internal Revenue Service Is About to Have Another Bad, Bad, Bad Week

The IRS is about to have another brutal week. Here’s what Darrell Issa’s got planned:

Committee’s Thursday, June 6 hearing entitled “Collected and Wasted: The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses.” The hearing will focus on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report on excessive IRS conference spending and abuses of taxpayer dollars. Issa sent a letter about excessive spending to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman in April, 2012. Between 2010 and 2012, the IRS held at least 220 conferences, which cost approximately $50 million.

In one example, the IRS spent $4 million dollars on a manager’s conference for 2,600 people in Anaheim, Calif. in August, 2010. Contrary to established government contracting practices, the outside event planners did not negotiate lower room rates and instead focused on “perks” for IRS employees. Several IRS employees stayed in presidential suites, which rate at $1,500–$3,500 per night. Moreover, 15 outside speakers were paid $135,000 — including one speaker who lectured on “leadership through art” for $17,000.

Additionally, multiple videos were produced for the conference. A previously unreleased video, referred to as the “cupid shuffle,” featured employees learning the popular dance as part of preparation for the Anaheim management conference.

Watch IRS Employees “Getting Ready for Anaheim”

But wait, there’s more! Take a look at the excerpts from interviews that Issa’s committee is releasing:

Another more senior IRS Cincinnati employee complained about micromanagement from D.C.:
 

Q: But you specifically recall that the BOLO [Be On Look Out] terms included “Tea Party?”

A: Yes, I do.

Q: And it was your understanding — was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Tea Party groups?

A: That is correct.

Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify conservative groups?

A: Yes, it was.

Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Republican groups?

A: Yes, it was.

 

******

 

Q: Earlier I believe you informed us that the primary reason for applying for another job in July [2010] was because of the micromanagement from [Washington, DC, IRS Attorney], is that correct?

A: Right. It was the whole Tea Party. It was the whole picture. I mean, it was the micromanagement. The fact that the subject area was extremely sensitive and it was something that I didn’t want to be associated with.

Q: Why didn’t you want to be associated with it?

A: For what happened now. I mean, rogue agent? Even though I was taking all my direction from EO Technical [Washington, D.C], I didn’t want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over.

Q: Did you think there was something inappropriate about what was happening in 2010?

A: Yes. The inappropriateness was not processing these applications fairly and timely.

Tags: IRS Abuses , IRS Scandal , Darrell Issa

McClatchy: Boy, a Lot of Conservatives Have IRS Horror Stories, Don’t They?



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If the Internal Revenue Service had an unfair, politically biased, arbitrary and capricious approach to the evaluation of 501(c)(4) status, just how likely is it that the organization was even-handed, neutral, and fair in its other interactions with conservative groups?

McClatchy examines some Americans’ accounts of interacting with the IRS and realizes that there’s some evidence this pattern of abuse goes well beyond one issue or policy:

A group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa had to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldn’t picket in front of Planned Parenthood.

Catherine Engelbrecht’s family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Retired military veteran Mark Drabik of Nebraska became active in and donated to conservative causes, then found the IRS challenging his church donations.

While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.

The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.

A little while, back, I referred to the IRS as “the Democratic National Committee’s Enforcement and Punishment Wing,” prompting scoffing from liberals. That label sounds a little less hyperbolic as these stories appear . . . 

Tags: IRS Abuses

‘The Loop’ Never Extends All the Way to the Oval Office



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The “worst tornado in the history of the world” hit the Oklahoma City suburbs yesterday. You know what to do: American Red Cross. Salvation Army. Recovers.org. Mercury One is organizing two truckloads from the Dallas area.

The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt begins . . . 

Hey, I’m Just the President, Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything Around Here.

Let me get this straight: To hear Jay Carney tell it, the president is pleased that no one in his senior staff told him that the IRS was targeting his political enemies?

Senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, learned last month about a review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general into whether the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but they did not inform President Obama, the White House said Monday.

The acknowledgement is the White House’s latest disclosure in a piecemeal, sometimes confusing release of details concerning the extent to which White House officials knew of the IG’s findings that IRS officials engaged in the “inappropriate” targeting of conservative non-profits for heightened scrutiny. Previously, the White House said counsel Kathryn Ruemmler did not learn about the final results of the investigation until the week of April 22nd, and had not disclosed that McDonough and other aides had also been told about the investigation. On Monday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said a member of Ruemmler’s staff learned of the probe the week of April 16; Ruemmler learned of the investigation on April 24th; and after that point she informed the chief of staff and other aides about the probe’s findings.

The White House has said President Obama did not learn of the IRS’s actions until he saw news reports on the matter earlier this month.

Carney’s spiel included the explanation, “No one in this building intervened in an ongoing independent investigation or did anything that could be seen as intervening.” But a desire to not interfere with the investigation doesn’t quite explain why no one thought that the president ought to be informed about a major scandal of the IRS targeting his political enemies.

Doesn’t it bother Obama to learn about these things from the press? Doesn’t he chew anybody out?

Gabe Malor: “I want to know the names of the folks who get to decide what Obama doesn’t need to know. What are their credentials? Who elected them?”

We’ve seen the “senior administrative staff never mentions major, controversial problem to man in charge of the organization until it blows up on the front pages” playbook before. This is precisely the explanation that we were handed for “Fast and Furious” and how Eric Holder never learned about what was going on until Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry was murdered with a weapon from that program.

Time and again, information and warnings about the operation’s enormous risks flow from Arizona to Washington . . . and suddenly, mysteriously, stop just short of Holder.

The inspector general’s report concludes that they can find no evidence Holder knew about Fast and Furious until well after Terry’s death, but . . . well, the circumstances of Holder being so out of the loop, so in the dark about a major operation certainly appear unusual, perhaps to the point of straining credulity. The report states:

“We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude and that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General. We would usually expect such information to come to the Attorney General through the Office of the Deputy Attorney General . . . [Holder] was not told in December 2010 about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious. Both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”

Not “sufficiently important”? Baffling. Maddening. Some might even say, “implausible” . . . 

The report continues:

“We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude and that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General. We would usually expect such information to come to the Attorney General through the Office of the Deputy Attorney General . . . [Holder] was not told in December 2010 about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious. Both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”

Perhaps “Preserve the boss’s plausible deniability” is stitched on the throw pillows on the Oval Office couches.

Obama didn’t know the IRS was targeting conservatives until he read it in the papers. He didn’t know about “Fast and Furious” until he read it in the papers, too. He has “complete confidence” in Holder, and didn’t know about the decision to collect the phone records of reporters.  He didn’t know about the investigation into CIA director David Petraeus’s affair.  He told Letterman during the election he didn’t know what the national debt was. He didn’t know about the AIG bonuses in the TARP legislation. He said he didn’t know how bad the economic crisis was when he took office.

That “empty chair” metaphor from the Republican Convention was so out of line, huh?

I just picture a phone ringing here, going unanswered…

UPDATE: Sunshine State Sarah Rumpf looks at the rules of the District of Columbia Bar and concludes the White House Counsel’s office likely violated ethics by not promptly informing the president of the IRS abuses.

Tags: Barack Obama , IRS Abuses , Eric Holder , Fast and Furious

Unnamed IRS Employee: ‘There Has to Be a Directive.’



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Sean Higgins notices a quote from a Washington Post article about the IRS office in Cincinnati:

“We’re not political,” said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.

The big guys blaming the underlings is an old, old story in Washington. And everywhere else, come to think of it.

 

Tags: IRS Abuses

IRS: ‘Please Detail the Content of Your Members’ Prayers.’



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Today’s hearing on IRS abuses had a lot of “are you kidding me?” moments, but this one stands out:

“It would surprise me that that question was asked,” acting commissioner Steven Miller tells Representative Aaron Schock, Republican of Illinois.

UPDATE: Chris Moody at Yahoo has the IRS letter and responses that began this line of inquiry: “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3).”

Among the other questions the IRS posed to the Iowa Coalition for Life: “You stated that you sponsored a Forum on Stem Cells, End of Life Decisions and a possible forum on Contraception. Please describe in detail the information provided at each of these forums.”

 

Tags: IRS Abuses , Aaron Schock

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