Weekly Update: A Scandal For the Ages
MAY 17, 2013
Obama IRS Scandal Will Go Down in Infamy
In my experience, the term “BOLO” is a law enforcement term short for “be on the lookout” for criminals and suspects on the run. But for the Obama IRS, BOLO meant, literally, “be on the lookout” for citizen groups who might be opposed to the Obama agenda.
Here are the facts as we know them today.
First, we know that the “independent” IRS purposely stonewalled the approval of non-profit applications from “Tea Party” and other conservative groups that were seeking tax exempt status. As reported by CNN:
Among the criteria used by IRS officials to flag applications was a “Be On the Look Out” list, or a BOLO, which was discontinued in 2012, according to the report. The criteria on the BOLO included:
- Whether “Tea Party,” “Patriots” or “9/12 Project” was referenced in the case file.
- Whether the issues outlined in the application included government spending, government debt or taxes.
- Whether there was advocating or lobbying to “make America a better place to live.”
- Whether a statement in the case file criticized how the country is being run.
- Whether it advocated education about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
And how bad was the stonewalling? Epic. Over the course of 27 months, not a single Tea Party type organization received tax exempt status. This was no political witch hunt, says the IRS. So why is it that liberal groups had their applications approved in as little as nine months?
And it was not simply a matter of lengthy bureaucratic delays. Conservative groups were subjected to an unprecedented amount of scrutiny, draining both time and resources. Politico explains:
The Internal Revenue Service asked tea party groups to see donor rolls.
It asked for printouts of Facebook posts.
And it asked what books people were reading.
A POLITICO review of documents from 11 tea party and conservative groups that the IRS scrutinized in 2012 shows the agency wanted to know everything — in some cases, it even seemed curious what members were thinking. The review included interviews with groups or their representatives from Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.
They were asking for a “U-Haul truck’s worth of information,” one conservative organization the Waco Tea Party told Politico.
We also know that the IRS targeted conservative donors with painful audits. For example, consider the case of Frank VanderSloot, who made a sizable donation to a Romney-connected organization. Shortly thereafter, after an opposition research firm dug through Mr. VanderSloot’s divorce records, the IRS subjected the conservative donor to three audits in four months. Mr. VanderSloot had never been audited previously and now faces $80,000 in legal fees.
The IRS also reportedly “leaked” confidential tax information on conservative benefactors, such as Charles and David Koch, of Koch Industries, who are important donors to a number of constitutional government groups. And they did the same to conservative organizations as well. For example, as reported by Breitbart.com, one of Obama’s campaign co-chairmen leaked the tax records of our pro-traditional marriage friends at the National Organization of Marriage to a homosexual activist who also happened to be an Obama campaign supporter. There were also illegal leaks of taxpayer information (of conservatives) to the leftist publication Pro Publica.
And what was the purpose of this all-out assault? Was this simply a case of retribution against enemies? No, this was much bigger than political payback. This was a systemic, and concerted effort to squash the Tea Party movement, the most organic and powerful political movement in recent memory, during election season. This was about campaign politics.
This is a scandal for the ages. Reports are that nearly 500 groups were targeted. The Obama IRS jihad against conservatives had the effect of suppressing the First Amendment-protected activity of virtually the entire Tea Party movement as Obama was seeking reelection. If you want to know how an election is stolen in plain sight, this is how.
Of course, per usual, the finger pointing has begun. But there is no question in my mind that all fingers should be pointing to the top of the White House food chain. As the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel points out: “Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.”
The president took to the airwaves this week to feign angry indignation about the IRS targeting his enemies, while denying any knowledge whatsoever of what his administration had been up to. I am not surprised that Obama is pretending, in careful language, not to know about the worst abuse of power by a presidential administration in a generation. Let’s call it Obama’s Nixonian “I’m not a crook” moment.
Why do I believe that Obama knew exactly what his Internal Revenue Service was up to (besides it being in the news for the last two years)? Because of the record of Steven T. Miller – the man Obama first hired and has now pretended to fire as acting commissioner of the IRS.
Make no mistake about it. When Obama appointed Miller head of the IRS, the president should have known what he was getting. Before becoming acting commissioner, he had been the commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS, where, according to the IRS faux folksy website, “Steve oversaw the administration of tax law relating to employee plans, tax-exempt organizations and various government entities.”
Perhaps the description should more accurately have read “oversaw and undermined the administration of tax law relating to … tax exempt organizations.” At Judicial Watch we know this well because, very early on, we were one of the many conservative organizations and Clinton critics that Miller’s tax exempt branch subjected to politically-inspired audits.
As the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reported in his “Washington Secrets” column, “Steven T. Miller, the acting IRS commissioner who managed the division that has admitted targeting anti-Obama Tea Party groups, was one of several agents who investigated anti-Clinton organizations including Judicial Watch during that Democrat’s administration, according to court documents and interviews.”
As I relate in my book, The Corruption Chronicles, when Judicial Watch complained about the audit and its political nature, an IRS official told us, “What do you expect when you sue the President?”
Miller was one of the IRS officials who oversaw the invasive audit of Judicial Watch even while conceding that the audit “had created at least the appearance of a problem.” It seemed every time we complained about the audit, Miller’s bureaucrats expanded its scope until it covered seven years’ worth of records!
So, now we find that Miller, despite this record of being a top official partly responsible for the last wave of IRS abuse during the Clinton years, was rewarded by Barack Obama with the top position at the IRS. Given our well-publicized experience with him, it is no surprise to me that Miller was content to allow this illegal IRS harassment of Obama’s hit list – and the subsequent cover-up.
As I say, Obama pretended to “fire” Miller this week, an empty gesture considering the fact that Miller had already planned to leave – and, in fact, will be running the IRS for several more weeks. It was an attempt by the president to show command of a situation that continues to spiral out of control.
In fact, Thursday night we learn courtesy of ABC News that the woman in charge of the IRS office during the Tea Party attacks is now running the Obamacare IRS office!
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
These IRS abuses are one more example of how the Obama administration is off the rails and out of control. Judicial Watch is your watchdog in Washington and is mobilizing its investigative and legal resources to protect the American people from the crisis caused by Obama’s corrupted IRS.
Stay tuned as news is breaking by the moment. As Democratic Senator Max Baucus said during an interview with Bloomberg’s Capital Gain, “I have a hunch that a lot more is going to come out.”
This is true – especially if we have anything to do with it.
Big Media Gets Pass from Criminal Accountability?
If there is one lesson I have learned over my decade and a half at Judicial Watch, it is this: you must never overestimate the hypocrisy of the Left – especially in covering for their own. Lest you have even the slightest doubt, cast an eye to the outrageous behavior of District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan when he allowed NBC-TV’s David Gregory to walk away scot free for a firearm offense, even while openly acknowledging “the clarity of the violation of the law.”
We don’t know for certain what prompted Nathan to decline to prosecute Gregory. We do know that, according to the Washington Post, until the Republican sweep in 2010, he had been the House Democrats’ top lawyer. We also know that he was appointed attorney general by D.C. Democrat Mayor Vincent Gray. And we know that some legal experts have questioned why Nathan did not recuse himself from the case when it was discovered that he had a personal relationship with David Gregory’s wife. Clearly more information was required.
On January 14, 2013, William A. Jacobson, founder and author of the outstanding blog website, Legal Insurrection, submitted a District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Office of the Attorney General (OAG) seeking access to the following records:
1. The January 9, 2013 letter from Lee Levine on behalf of David Gregory,referenced in the letter dated January 11, 2013 from Attorney General Irvin B.Nathan to Mr. Levine which was publicly disclosed on that date.
2. All communications between the District of Columbia Office of Attorney General and/or Metropolitan Police Department, on the one hand, and legal counsel for David Gregory and/or NBC News, on the other hand, with regard to the incident involving the display on television by Mr. Gregory of an alleged high-capacity ammunition clip (the “Gregory incident”).
3. All documents in the possession of the MPD and OAG regarding the Gregory Incident, to the extent not exempted from disclosure under applicable law, including but not limited to witness statements, evidence review and possession records, interview notes, and forensic testing.
On February 20, 2013, OAG informed Jacobson that it was withholding certain requested records, including the January 9, 2013, letter from NBC attorney Lee Levine, as well as responsive emails between OAG and MPD. (We just learned the letter from Levine was made available to the media, but is being withheld from us!)
The OAG also withheld in their entirety an affidavit and a warrant responsive to the Jacobson FOIA request. On April 17, 2013, MPD informed Jacobson that it was withholding responsive records as well. This past week, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on Jacobson’s behalf asking that the Court to declare OAG and MDP in violation of the law and to order them to produce the records without further delay.
The known facts in the Gregory case are simple. On Sunday December 23, 2012, the “Meet the Press” host interviewed the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre concerning firearms policy in the United States. During the course of the interview, Gregory exhibited a high-capacity ammunition clip. The possession of such an ammunition clip is in violation of the law of the District of Columbia.
Gregory displayed the ammunition clip despite the fact that, according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, “NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice from any other federal official.”
Some argued that, in accordance with D.C. law, Gregory should have been charged with a weapons violation and taken into custody, as other alleged offenders have been. The MPD failed to do so, however, and in early January announced that it had completed its two-week investigation and presented the case to the OAG “for a determination of the prosecutorial merit of the case.”
On January 11, 2013, after just two days of deliberation, Attorney General Nathan sent a letter to NBC saying that his office would not prosecute Gregory, “despite the clarity of the violation of this important law.” The Attorney General added, “There is no doubt of the gravity of the illegal conduct in this matter…”
Yet, in what surely must be one of the most glaring non sequiturs I’ve seen, Nathan then refused to prosecute Gregory. And the Washington Times’ outstanding editorialist Emily Miller well summed up the absurdity of the situation when Gregory first committed his violation:
The District came up with its overly restrictive laws in response to the Supreme Court overturning the capital city’s 30-year gun ban. The statutes shouldn’t apply just to regular people but to the rich and powerful as well. The District should either repeal its over-the-top restrictions or send a squad car to take David Gregory into custody.
The way Gregory’s prosecution decision was handled undermines confidence in the fair administration of justice. If Gregory shouldn’t be prosecuted then no one should be – and the law should be rescinded. Our client Prof. Jacobsen also is seeking justice in the public interest:
“The documents being withheld will help shed light on the details of this highly publicized non-prosecution, which raised issues as to whether well-connected and famous D.C. insiders were treated as any other citizen in a similar situation. I appreciate Judicial Watch assisting in this search for the truth.”
Let’s hope the courts put an end to this cover-up.
Judicial Watch Sues U.S. Secret Service for Obama’s Hawaiian Vacation Documents
With approximately one-third of congressional committees preoccupied with investigating Obama corruption – from Benghazi-gate, to the IRS scandal, to Obamacare propaganda – the First Family might be tempted to escape to some far away location for vacation.
As Judicial Watch knows all too well, this is something the Obamas have done with some frequency since taking office in 2009, and largely on the taxpayers’ dime. JW has been the leading investigative force on the Obama’s taxpayer-funded luxury trips, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get ahold of records about the costs of this abuse of the perks of the presidency.
Our feeling is that, especially considering the massive budget crisis in Washington, the president must be completely transparent to the American people regarding the cost of these vacations. Instead, however, all we’ve received is more stonewalling. The pattern, by now, should be familiar to you. We file a FOIA. The Obama administration ignores it. We sue to get the records. And often we are successful.
JW was back at it again on May 6, when we were forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Secret Service in order to obtain records concerning use of U.S. Government funds to provide “security and/or any other services to President Obama and any companions on their January 1 and 2, 2013, trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.”
On January 2, 2013, Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request about taxpayer funds used to pay for President Obama and his entourage to travel to Hawaii, seeking access to: All records concerning use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to President Obama and any companions on their January 1 and 2, 2013 trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Per usual, we are getting the runaround. By a letter dated January 31, 2013, the Secret Service acknowledged that they received the request. By law the agency was required to determine whether to comply with the FOIA request within 20 days and provide Judicial Watch with the requisite notifications by February 11, 2013 at the latest. But as of May 6, the Secret Service had yet to produce a single record.
So now onto step three: file a lawsuit.
Veteran White House reporter Keith Koffler provided the public with important information about these Hawaiian trips when he wrote on January 4, 2013, that the “total cost to taxpayers of Obama’s vacations to Hawaii since becoming president is likely in excess of $20 million, and possibly much, much more.” Evidently, this is based on estimates for the trips taken by the Obama family during the Christmas holiday season in four consecutive years.
“According to a detailed breakdown by the Hawaii Reporter, the annual excursions in 2009, 2010, and 2011 cost about $4 million, much of it attributable to the expense of taking Air Force One, at an hour rate of about $180,000, on an eighteen-hour roundtrip journey to Honolulu and back,” Koffler writes.
These trips to Hawaii are just one example of the Obamas jet-setting lifestyle. According to records obtained by Judicial Watch, First Family vacations since Obama took office have come at great costs to taxpayers. Those costs have included:
- In August 2010, when Michelle Obama traveled to Spain with multiple friends and one of her daughters, the total cost to taxpayers was at least $467,555.
- From June 21 – 27, 2011, when Michelle Obama along with her daughters and staff traveled to South Africa and Botswana, charges to the taxpayers for the aircraft and crew alone were $424,142.
- During President’s Day weekend of February 2012, when Michelle Obama and her two daughters vacationed in Aspen, Colorado, charges to the taxpayers were $83,182.99.
As I say, the Obamas’ opulent vacation lifestyle is particularly objectionable during a time when government debt is out of control. President Obama is not king and his administration should stop ignoring the FOIA open records law and account to the American people for the spending on his luxury vacations.
These vacations may seem but a drop in the bucket when compared to other examples of Obama’s spending-gone-wild, but waste is waste. And these trips are adding up.
Until next week…