Weekly Update: IRS Scandal Escalates
March 14, 2014
The Hillary Riddle Begins to Unravel
Winston Churchill once said that Russia “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” So is anything even remotely having to do with Bill and Hillary Clinton. And just as with the Russians, that is intentionally so. The Clintons go to great lengths to cover-up their cover-ups. And that’s why Judicial Watch goes to equally great lengths to expose the truth. It is fair to say that we have been battling Clinton corruption for all of our two decades. The recent partial release of their Clinton Presidential Library records provides a revealing case in point.
On February 28, after years of critical news stories and Judicial Watch lawsuits (and the threat of Judicial Watch lawsuits), the Clintons finally released their latest batch of documents from the Clinton Library. About 4,000 to 5,000 pages were handed out, but as Politico reported at the time:
About 33,000 pages of records withheld as confidential advice to President Bill Clinton or information about candidates for appointments to federal office, were still unavailable to the public even though the legal basis to withhold them under the Presidential Records Act ran out in January 2013—12 years after Clinton left office. Some of the records come from then first lady Hillary Clinton’s office and include advice given to her by aides.
On February 26, just two days before the Clintons finally relinquished the 4,000 to 5,000 pages documents, Judicial Watch had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the entire 33,000 pages. And now we know the Obama administration slow-rolled these documents out. The Presidential Records Act is supposed to be about transparency, but this latest game shows the Clinton gang and the Obama administration have turned this transparency law into a secrecy law. But this is a bipartisan problem, as I recently told Newsweek magazine:
You have the club of presidents who are uninterested in making the documents available – every delay that happens in the Obama administration, they kind of expect the same from the next administration. So they take care of each other. We got stalled through the entire Bush administration on Clinton records and I suspect the Bush administration would be happy for a similar stall when it comes up for their time.
As Weekly Update readers well know, we’ve been battling for some of this material for years. You may recall that we filed our first FOIA request with the Clinton Library in 2006. And it was not until October 2013, after seven years of litigation, that we finally obtained more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents. They revealed formerly undisclosed information about the National Taskforce on Health Care Reform, a “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by Hillary Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency. Earlier, in January 2008, we released a smaller batch of internal Clinton Library records revealing that even Clinton cronies considered the Hillary’s Health Care Task Force a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks'” engaged in “choking off information” from the public.
That may help explain why the Clinton cover-ups never seem to end. The simple truth is that the Clinton administration was rife with secrecy and corruption, so any new bit of information about what really went on behind closed doors may be important. And now, with Hillary Clinton taking aim at the White House, it may be all the more important for her to keep the public from ever seeing what is actually in the remaining 33,000 pages of internal records. Here is how I summed it all up in my interview with Newsweek:
“Those are the really juicy records, those are the records people are going to have a great interest in,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, the right-leaning group that has turned to the courts to seek the release of multiple batches of documents related to the Clintons. “In my view, the public information about the lawlessness of the Clinton Administration is already pretty harmful…certainly details of that aren’t going to be helpful.”
As I said, Judicial Watch sent the FOIA request to the Clinton Library on Wednesday, February 26, and we have the option to file suit in court soon. If we don’t receive all the material signed, sealed, and delivered by that date, you can be assured that is an option we will exercise.
In the meantime, thanks in no small measure to Judicial Watch, we have more of the truth about the Clinton administration. (You can view the documents here on the Clinton Library site.)
Judicial Watch Battles Ohio Attempts to Restrict First Amendment
One way to tell if a law is genuinely needed to protect the public – as opposed to just an underhanded maneuver by the politicians to protect themselves from the public – is to see who it applies to. If the politicians exempt themselves, as they have done with Obamacare, it is very likely bad law. That’s what the politicians in Ohio recently did when they restricted ballot initiative signature gathering. And that’s why Judicial Watch has entered the fray to protect individual liberty.
On March 10, Judicial Watch joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amicus curiae brief in support of a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against an Ohio law preventing state initiative sponsors from recruiting out-of-state volunteers from gathering ballot initiative petition signatures. In November 2013, a federal court in Ohio granted a preliminary injunction to Citizens in Charge and other groups seeking the right to petition. The case is before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division.
In our brief, we agreed with a prior court finding suggesting that the Ohio law violates the First Amendment. And then, we took it an important step further, arguing that the law also violates the Fourteenth Amendment “Privilege and Immunities” clause. “Even if the law did not violate the First Amendment rights of plaintiffs,” our brief states, “… it violates a fundamental right of citizens of the several states to fully participate in policy advocacy anywhere in their country such debates take place.”
Specifically, the Judicial Watch and AEF brief argues the following:
I. The Privileges and Immunities Clause Protects all Americans’ Right to Circulate an Initiative Petition in Order to Protect Unpopular Viewpoints
Ohio’s law will limit participation in matters of public policy on precisely those issues which most need the help of out-of-state advocates. By their very nature, initiatives and referendums often advocate for positions that are unpopular with state government officials, as they frequently involve measures which elected representatives are unwilling to adopt themselves. Ohio’s citizens may support these initiatives, but may hesitate to become involved for fear of retribution by a government that opposed them.
II. The Right to Participate in Initiatives as Circulators in the Several States is a Fundamental Right of All Citizens Which Bears Upon the Entire Nation
By discriminating against out-of-state citizens, Ohio’s law weakens direct democracy in the state, an issue “which bears upon the vitality of the nation as a single entity.” The right to direct democracy is essential to the preservation of vibrant democracies in the many states. The ability of states to function as “laboratories of democracy” is paramount to the health and vitality of the nation and its federal system.
The law prohibiting the use by in-state organizations of out-of-state petitioners, S.B. 47, was passed by the Ohio legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June 2013. The law prohibits anyone except an Ohio resident from gathering signatures on a petition to place a ballot issue before voters. But, here’s the catch – and it is not just telltale, it is tell-all: The members of the General Assembly exempted themselves, and all other candidates, from the residency restriction. In short, they just want to make the laws. They don’t want to live by them.
This Ohio law unlawfully limits the right of the people to govern themselves through the initiative process. It intrudes on a fundamental right not often emphasized by politicians – the citizens’ right to place additional checks on the power of their elected representatives. Regardless of what chicanery Ohio lawmakers may attempt, the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from restricting the rights of Americans citizens to petition their government.
That’s why Citizens in Charge filed its lawsuit in September 2013. Now Judicial Watch, along with our amicus partner AEF (a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education), is lending support.
IRS Scandal Escalates
In January, Judicial Watch named former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner as one of the “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians for 2013.” Now a new staff report from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) entitled “Lois Lerner’s Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations confirms that not only does Lerner belong on that list – she may belong in jail as well. And that is not an overstatement.
As we have reported to you in the past, when subpoenaed to testify before Congress in May 2013, Lerner scornfully refused to answer inquiries, demanding full immunity concerning her role in the targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. Eventually, the IRS acknowledged that while she was in charge, IRS agents had improperly targeted such groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012. Yet in September 2013, Lerner was allowed to retire from the IRS on September 23 with full benefits, even after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her firing, according to news reports.
You may recall that subsequent to Lerner’s lavish retirement, Judicial Watch, in October 2013, obtained and published email exchanges between her and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicating that she colluded with the FEC in an apparent further attempt to harass and hamstring conservative groups. Under Lerner’s direction, the IRS provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC, seemingly in direct violation of federal law.
Now comes the House Oversight Committee report providing, in the words of Committee Chairman Issa:
Detailed evidence about steps she took to crack down on organizations that exercised their Constitutional rights to free political speech. “She involved herself in efforts to apply unprecedented scrutiny to new applicants, existing organizations, and to write new rules after President Obama and other prominent Democrats expressed outrage at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Finally, the report presents evidence that Ms. Lerner misled Congress about targeting and her own conduct.
Among the findings of the Oversight Committee are the following:
- Lerner and her colleagues, after being under public pressure from President Obama and other Democrats, engaged in an e-mail exchange about how they could showcase their scrutiny of a Tea Party applicant for public disclosure, despite rules protecting the secrecy of unapproved applications.
- In one e-mail exchange that began with a discussion of an article noting, “organizations woven by the fabulously rich and hugely influential Koch brothers,” Lerner told colleagues, “we do need a c4 [non-profit] project next year.”
- Lerner believed the Executive Branch needed to take steps to undermine the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. A senior advisor to Lerner e-mailed her an article about allegations that unknown conservative donors were influencing U.S. Senate races. The article explained how outside money was making it increasingly difficult for Democrats to remain in the majority in the Senate. Lerner replied: “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.”
- Lerner personally directed that Tea Party cases go through a “multi-tier review.” An IRS employee testified that Lerner “sent [him an] e-mail saying that when these cases need to go through multi-tier review and they will eventually have to go to [Judy Kindell, Lerner’s senior technical advisor] and the Chief Counsel’s office.” A D.C. IRS employee said this level of scrutiny had no precedent.
- Head of the IRS Cincinnati office’s testimony refutes Lois Lerner and President Obama’s O’Reilly interview assertion that this was all about a “local office”: “[Y]es, there were mistakes made by folks in Cincinnati as well [as] D.C., but the D.C. office is the one who delayed the processing of the cases.”
These emails help expose the Obama administration’s lies on the scandal, including Obama’s recent whopper that there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption with his IRS’s targeting of his perceived adversaries. Adding to the aura of misconduct, Lerner once again invoked the Fifth Amendment in a circus of a hearing last week. She, once again made the trip to Capitol Hill long enough to repeat the following phrase: “On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question.”
Now we’ve heard that before from Lerner. The last time, she took the opportunity to grandstand, and proclaim her innocence in a statement to Congress, just before refusing to answer any questions, which outraged a number of members of Congress.
This time, Lerner stuck to her simple proclamation. But there was no less outrage.
Per Fox News:
A House hearing on the IRS targeting scandal rapidly broke down into a heated and deeply personal argument between a top Democrat and Republican, moments after former IRS official Lois Lerner once again invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
Lerner, who last year refused to answer questions about her role in singling out Tea Party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, was called back before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Though Republicans argue she waived her Fifth Amendment right by giving a statement during the last hearing, Lerner continued to invoke that right on Wednesday.
“On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question,” she said in response to several questions.
You can watch Lerner “take the Fifth” again here, and the resulting scuffle, courtesy of the Washington Free Beacon. The two members who tangled were Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment privilege already, meaning she can’t legally invoke it to avoid giving testimony. She gave testimony both to the Committee and spoke to Justice Department investigators about the scandal, so she can’t clam up in follow up questions by invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege. (See pp. 13-14 of the House Reform Committee Report.)
It well past time for a serious criminal investigation of the Obama IRS. The stonewalling and lies about IRS abuse helped force the resignation of President Nixon. President Obama and his minions ought to be at least subject to the same level of scrutiny as Nixon. Judicial Watch is committed to this scrutiny, which includes a federal lawsuit. The question is where is the rest of Washington?
For viewing that will make you angry and motivated, you should take a look at a CPAC panel Judicial Watch participated in that was hosted by Tea Party Patriots. This video shows you that the rule of law is indeed being vindicated by a coalition of IRS victims, conservative groups, activists, committed lawyers, and everyday citizens. As George Washington said, “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.”
Until next week….