Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Actual governmental scandalous behavior

Though some believe that the Benghazi business will eventually grow some legs, it's not a big deal now and not ever likely to become one. The matter of the IRS targeting tea party organizations is much worse... but to the chagrin of conservatives and their sycophants in the media, still not something that risks much political injury to Obama (or Hillary Clinton in 2016). There is in fact a bigger deal you're not hearing much about yet, and the main reason is that conservatives aren't bitching about it.

First, what's developing with the IRS.

Congress was not told tea party groups were being inappropriately targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, even after acting agency Chief Steven Miller had been briefed on the matter.

Miller was first informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny, the IRS said Monday.

At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without disclosing that tea party groups had been targeted. On July 25, 2012, Miller testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, but again did not mention the additional scrutiny — despite being asked about it.

I really like what the 'toonists are doing with this.

Snark at the Tea Pees aside, it's an abuse of power for the Tax Men and Women to have done this, and worse that they tried to cover it up by not telling Congressmen the whole truth about what they were doing.

At the hearing, Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, told Miller that some politically active tax-exempt groups in his district had complained about being harassed. Marchant did not explicitly ask if tea party groups were being targeted. But he did ask how applications were handled. 

Miller responded, "We did group those organizations together to ensure consistency, to ensure quality. We continue to work those cases," according to a transcript on the committee's website.

Earlier, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., had raised concerns with the IRS about complaints that tea party groups were being harassed. Boustany specifically mentioned tea party groups in his inquiry. 

But in a June 15, 2012, letter to Boustany, Miller said that when the IRS saw an increase in applications from groups that were involved in political activity, the agency "took steps to coordinate the handling of the case to ensure consistency."

He added that agents worked with tax law experts "to develop approaches and materials that could be helpful to the agents working the cases."

Miller did not mention that in 2011, those materials included a list of words to watch for, such as "tea party" and "patriot." He also didn't disclose that in January 2012, the criteria for additional screening was updated to include references to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.


When members of Congress repeatedly raised concerns with the IRS about complaints that tea party groups were being harassed last year, a deputy IRS commissioner took the lead in assuring lawmakers that the additional scrutiny was a legitimate part of the screening process.

That deputy commissioner was Miller, who is now the acting head of the agency. 

There's more at the link above.

The IRS simply can never be a political tool to punish one's opponents. It cannot even take that appearance. Some bureaucrats are going to lose their jobs over it, and they should.

Update: And then there's this -- When the IRS (under Bush) targeted liberal groups.

This news arrives alongside a matter even more disturbing (and less widely mentioned) (that all changed this morning): the disclosure of the overreach by a Justice Department investigation of the Associated Press in reporting the CIA's involvement in foiling another underwear bomber.

AP learned of the plot a week before publishing, but “agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately” due to national security concerns. But, by reporting the CIA’s involvement in foiling the plot, they put AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Asian Peninsula) on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities. The AP’s reporting also led to other stories involving an operative in place within AQAP, and details of the operations he was involved in. That operative, it was feared, would be exposed and targeted by AQAP as retribution for siding with the United States.

John Brennan, who is now the head of the CIA, said at his confirmation hearing that the release of information to AP was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.” That the Department of Justice would be pursuing information on these leaks is also not new, given Attorney General Eric Holder’s appointment of federal prosecutors to look into the disclosures last year. What is surprising is the large amount of information the Justice Department seems to have acquired in its pursuit:

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

The Associated Press released its letter to Holder denouncing the invasion of their records without their consent, calling it an “unprecedented step” and “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.” 

I haven't been a huge fan of Attorney General Holder. Except for his full-court defense of the VRA -- he spoke in Houston at the NAACP convention about it last July -- he's mostly avoided picking the right battles to fight and been a lightning rod for controversy.

I would have rather seen him go the way of several other Cabinet members after the re-election, but it looks like we're stuck with him for another 3 1/2 years. He needs to work harder to avoid embarrassing the administration with his department's overzealousness going forward. And that goes double for whoever inherits the reins at IRS.

Update: More here. And also...

Is This the End for Eric Holder?

The attorney general has been in the middle of controversies over whether to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison and whether to try suspected terrorists in U.S. courts. He has defended the U.S. right to wage drone strikes, to stage the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and to use lethal force against a leader of al-Qaida who was also a U.S. citizen.


It is unclear how Holder fits into the latest firestorm, but he's a battered survivor of many controversies and this could be the one that finally convinces him or Obama that it's time to go.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

Maybe Hitler, I mean Holder (I couldn't resist Photoshopping that mustache in my story about the AP snooping) is still there because Dear Leader wants him there, and his general tactics are no accident.