American Elephants


“Political Posturing, Phony Scandals” and Talking Points. by The Elephant's Child

But over the past couple of years in particular, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  An endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals shift focus from what needs to be done. 
— President Barack Obama, Wednesday July 26, 2013

Oddly enough, the scandals (plural) only became “phony” just days after a retiring  IRS lawyer implicated the IRS chief counsel’s office, headed by an Obama appointee, as well as the head of the IRS’ exempt organizations office.

“In Thursday’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee, 72-year-old retiring IRS lawyer Carter Hull implicated the IRS chief counsel’s office headed by William J. Wilkins, who attended at least nine White House meetings, and Lois Lerner, head of the exempt-organizations office, in the IRS scandal.”

In so doing, he made clear the targeting of Tea Party groups started in Washington and was directed from Washington.reported Investors.

“Former White House senior adviser David Axlerod on Friday called the IRS’ inappropriate targeting of mainly conservative political advocacy groups applying for nonprofit status “stupid and disturbing” but argued that there are far more pressing issues for the country to deal with.

I think the behavior was something that needs to be corrected, but I don’t think that it was the political scandal that was [there], Mr. Axlerod said on MSNBC”s “Morning Joe.

Noting that President Obama has already replaced the top leadership at the tax agency, Mr. Axlerod added, “I think all these hearings searching for the smoking fun of a political scandal where the White House or someone in [a} high place ordered this — I think that is a phony deal. I don’t think that’s the real issue reported,” the Washington Times.

National Review tells the story of “a tea party group targeted by Democrats gets attention from the IRS —and the FBI, OSHA, and the ATF.” Catherine Engelbrecht’s story of her family’s three-year ordeal is both credible and chilling.  You need to read the whole thing. And she is not alone, there are many other cases. Frank VanderSloot, an Idaho businessman and Romney campaign donor, was threatened, slandered, audited, and audited again. No fine, no penalty, but his legal bills ran about $80,000. The stories abound. Dozens and dozens of conservative groups were targeted by IRS audits, endless questions, requests for more information, targeting by other agencies, anything that could delay the 501(c)(4) status that would enable deductible donations. There certainly seemed to be an official effort to neutralize individual donors and groups who were supporting Mitt Romney, in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election.

The National Law Journal asked “Why Should the Internal Revenue Service Be Beyond Reproach?”

The Internal Revenue Service in recent weeks has acknowledged that it targeted applicants for tax-exempt organization status based on their political viewpoint, in violation of basic First Amendment principles. That was, obviously and admittedly, a big mistake….Imagine that some Tea Party groups subjected to special monitoring by the IRS were considering suing the agency for violations of their speech, association and equal protection rights. If the Internal Revenue Code imposed a large fine on anyone who unsuccessfully sued the IRS, we would all recognize that as an impermissible penalty on the right to petition. Yet that’s exactly how the refund penalty provision works. Imposing a penalty will deter people from seeking refunds in close cases, out of fear that if they lose, they could end up owing a hefty fine. By deterring refund claims, the IRS insulates its own decision-making from legal challenges and impairs citizens’ rights to seek relief from their own elected government.

The Supreme Court has guarded this right assiduously. The right covers petitioning the legislature, the executive branch or the courts. It prohibits any sanction — whether a fine, tort liability or even a retaliatory investigation — on the right to petition.

The president, prior to deciding it was a phony scandal, said he wasn’t going to stand for any misbehavior at the IRS and fired Acting Commissioner Steven Miller, but it turned out that Miller was due to retire in a couple of weeks anyway.

The new acting commissioner of the IRS is Daniel Werfel, who has risen through the ranks as a civil servant, primarily at the OMB and as a lawyer in the Justice Department.  He has already announced that “inappropriate screening was used more broadly than disclosed.” There were some inappropriate BOLO lists (Be On The Lookout), but he just hasn’t been able to find any evidence of intentional wrongdoing.  Nothing to see here, just move along. Can you spell c-o-v-e-r-u-p?

Jeffrey Zients, former acting OMB head who met with IRS officials at the White House during the targeting scandal, has been out of the country since April, and has not yet returned.

When the IRS targeting scandal broke in May, both the Obama administration and the mainstream media took it quite seriously. Even MSNBC’s Chis Hayes called the selective screening of conservative groups a “genuine abuse of power” at the time.

The evening and morning shows did 96 stories in the first two weeks according to the Media Research Council. The coverage steadily disappeared, and between June 28 and July 24, the Center recorded “zero stories” on the matter. When a major development broke last week — testimony by a retired IRS worker that an Obama appointee was involved in the screening process, only CBS evening news reported it.

In early June, the Democratic National Committee sent a memo to reporters declaring that the word to describe the GOP’s reaction to the Obama administration’s  scandals was “overreach,”  Salon published an article on the IRS issue asserting that in the end, “the entire scandal narrative was a fiction.”

The White House invited selected reporters to attend an off-the-record briefing with White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, in mid June. The White House had been criticized in the previous week after details of the NSA’s surveillance was leaked. About 24 reporters were already in the meeting when the President arrived to discuss his thoughts on recent events — although they were not able to report on what was said. Some reporters said they would not have attended had they known the President would be attending. Getting answers on the record, New York Times reporter Peter Baker said, after all, is our job.

Obama did not specify just which scandals were “phony” and “political posturing” but the administration has been attacked over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs leaked to the public; the IRS targeting of conservative groups, and the extent to which that influenced the election; the Department of Justice’s seizing of media phone records; last year’s attack on the U.S.mission in Benghazi, Libya and the death of our ambassador and three others, and the attempted coverup; and the government’s Fast and Furious scandal which resulted in the death of Brian Terry and hundreds of Mexican citizens. These are all, we are told, “phony.

The Republican’s “War on Women,” on the other hand, is real?


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