Once again, citizen watchdogs obtain documents the Most Transparent Administration in History refused to provide investigators, while the “mainstream media” takes a nap.
And it had better be a joint select committee, because Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) is firmly tied to the scandal as an unindicted co-conspirator by the latest batch of documents. In a better, stronger, less corrupt nation, Levin would be removed from the Senate immediately. His comfort level with the abuse of government power to target his political enemies is unacceptable, the stuff of Third World banana republics.
Remember, when this scandal broke, Tax Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner used a staged question at a media event to jump out in front of a Treasury Department internal investigation, and after some obviously insincere mumbling about how outrageous her organization’s actions were by President Obama, the Administration settled on a narrative about “rogue low-level employees in the Cincinnati office” – perhaps as few as two people. Among the people peddling that story was White House spokesman Jay Carney. Another unindicted co-conspirator in the case, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), tried to sideline congressional inquiry and turn hearings into a farce by asking low-level employees from the Cincinnati office if they had ever received a personal phone call from Barack Obama, instructing them to target Tea Party groups. These obfuscations prompted an epic rant from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) last July… and now we have Judicial Watch’s emails to prove that every drop of Chaffetz’ anger was completely justified:
And it’s as phony as Obama’s “video protest” story about Benghazi. In fact, it’s even more fraudulent, because no one in the Administration had the slightest reason to think this was all the work of two cubicle clowns in a Cincinnati basement. The whole thing was orchestrated by Democrat politicians, backed up by George Soros-funded left-wing groups, and managed out of Washington.
Judicial Watch describes a few of the crucial email exchanges it has uncovered, and notes similarities to the way the Administration slow-walked revelations about the Benghazi scandal:
One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.” Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office. Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:
EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.
The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters.
Another email string from February – March 2010 includes a message from a California EO Determinations manager discussing a Tea Party application “currently being held in the Screening group.” The manager urges, “Please let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially embarrassing political case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.” A co-worker responds: “I think sending it up here [DC] is a good idea given the potential for media interest.” As with Ben Rhodes’ Benghazi-related talking points email, Judicial Watch obtained a more complete version of this IRS email chain than was provided to a congressional committee.
Imagine if these emails had come to light during the early days of breaking news about the IRS scandal. No wonder the Obama Administration kept them hidden as long as possible.
If “Chip” Hull, the IRS lawyer referenced in the email above, is Carter Hull – I assume so, but I don’t see anything definitively establishing that “Chip” is his nickname – then he’s the IRS official whose testimony led into the White House. He told congressional investigators in July 2013 that his superiors said chief counsel William Wilkins, one of the only two political appointees at the IRS, would “need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity,” as the Washington Post put it.
Other email exchanges obtained by Judicial Watch illustrate just how carefully these IRS actions were targeted against conservative political groups (with one poor left-leaning group, Priorities USA, tossed into the blender by Senator Levin, presumably because they did something to annoy him. However, as the Wall Street Journal noted last month, in the course of shooting down liberal mythology about progressive groups receiving enhanced scrutiny, Lois Lerner “never touched Priorities, run by former Obama aides.”)
Some of these emails strongly suggest Lerner failed to report some of her activities to Treasury inspectors – lies of omission that support the Justice Department prosecution we know politicized Attorney General Eric Holder will never order, unless these new revelations crank the heat up so high that he’s compelled to take action.
In some of these email exchanges, IRS officials talk about hassling the Tea Party because they had been receiving a lot of media attention. Liberals complain about the Tea Party >>> media runs a bunch of stories about the menace of the Tea Party >>> IRS officials read those stories and decide to abuse government power to crack down on the Tea Party. Neat how that works, huh?
Of course, that wouldn’t explain the intense scrutiny directed at pro-life groups, who weren’t the subject of any particular media surge during the 2012 election cycle. And it doesn’t obscure Senator Levin’s role in orchestrating the whole campaign. He was basically handing target lists of his political adversaries over to the IRS, which dutifully assured him they had the flexibility to whip up “individualized questions and requests” to harass those dissidents:
The newly released IRS documents contain several letters and emails revealing an intense effort by Levin and IRS officials to determine what, if any, existing IRS policies could be used to revoke the nonprofit exemptions of active conservative groups and deny exemptions to new applicants. In a July 30, 2012, letter, Levin singles out 12 groups he wants investigated for “political activity.” Of the groups – which include the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, the 60 Plus Association, and the Susan B. Anthony List – only one, Priorities USA, is notably left-leaning.
As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, Levin sent a series of letters to the IRS intensifying his campaign against predominantly conservative nonprofit groups:
- September 27, 2012: Levin asks for copies of the answers to IRS exemption application question 15 – a question about planned political expenditures – from four specific groups: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA.
- October 17, 2012: Miller informs Levin, “As discussed in our previous responses dated June 4, 2012, and August 24, 2012, the IRS cannot legally disclose whether the organizations on your list have applied for tax exemptions unless and until such application is approved.” Miller, however, then informs Levin that Americans for Prosperity and Patriot Majority have been approved, but the IRS has no records for Crossroads and Priorities USA.
- October 23, 2012: Levin writes to again express his dissatisfaction with the IRS handling of “social welfare” (501(c)(4) organizations insisting that IRS guidance “misinterprets the law” by allowing any political activity. He again demands an answer as to whether the four organizations he listed in his previous letter were primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare. He also seeks copies of tax exempt revocation letters sent due to c4 political activities, as well as statistics on how many c4s have been notified that they may be in violation due to political activities.
In perhaps the most revealing letter from the IRS to Levin, Miller on June 4, 2012, takes 16 pages to explain to the senator what IRS regulations and policies may and may not be used to evaluate political groups and assures him that the agency has considerable leeway in picking and choosing which groups would be subject to additional scrutiny:
There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization … Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton summed up the new revelations: “These new documents show that officials in the IRS headquarters were responsible for the illegal delays of Tea Party applications. It is disturbing to see Lois Lerner mislead the IRS’ internal investigators about her office’s Tea Party targeting. These documents also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents. The IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress.”
It’s long past time to shatter the Obama Administration’s stonewalls, remove Democrats from a process they’ve worked to de-legitimize with political antics, ensure that conspirators like Sen. Levin and Rep. Cummings are completely isolated from participation in the investigations, and get to the bottom of this mess. A truly independent prosecutor with power to get the sort of long-hidden evidence that Judicial Watch is digging up with time-consuming lawsuits must be put on the case. All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the independent watchdogs who have worked so hard to accomplish what our “mainstream media” refuses to do – seriously, guys, are you embarrassed at all about the way Judicial Watch keeps scooping you? – but it’s clear, as with Benghazi, that people with official power need to step in and take it from here.
Or are we supposed to accept that our government is corrupt beyond redemption, and grow accustomed to even the almighty IRS being used by the ruling regime to suppress dissent? If there’s nothing stopping powerful politicians, or even the partisan media, from unleashing this kind of oppressive power against groups they dislike, then the only solution is to dismantle the IRS completely, and remove the temptation our Ruling Class will never be able to resist.
And in the midst of all this, let us once again spare a merciful thought for the hard-working “low-level” employees who were used as scapegoats by corrupt officials. It is more clear than ever that their treatment by this Administration and its co-conspirators was abominable.