I mean really, did you honestly believe that a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati did this on their own … for over two years? Yeah, about as much as you believed the YouTube video caused Benghazi, huh?
Additional scrutiny of conservative organizations’ activities by the IRS did not solely originate in the agency’s Cincinnati office, with requests for information coming from other offices and often bearing the signatures of higher-ups at the agency, according to attorneys representing some of the targeted groups. At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.
Lois Lerner … the IRS official who “knows nothing” and refuses to talk about any of it?
Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.,” and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Two letters with “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.” letterhead were signed by “Tax Law Specialist(s)” from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.
Imagine that. We have an administration full of “Sgt. Shultz’s” (see Hogan’s Heroes if you’re too young to know what that references). They see nothing. They know nothing.
But apparently, they’ll sign anything.
And, as it always seems to happen now days, nothing was done:
In late March 2012, IRS deputy commissioner Steven Miller–who resigned his post as acting commissioner last week at President Obama’s request–directed senior technical advisor Nancy J. Marks to investigate allegations of political targeting of groups seeking tax exempt status, agency officials told congressional aides. Holly Paz, acting director of ruling and agreements, worked with Marks on the probe, and both traveled to Cincinnati to conduct interviews.
Sounds serious, right? Eh, not so much:
On May 3, 2012. Marks gave what IRS officials described as a “presentation” to Miller describing her findings. According to the House aide, Marks said the investigation had found significant problems in the review process and a substantial bias against conservative group. No written findings were produced as a result, the aide said, and it does not appear the internal review led to any disciplinary actions against IRS employees.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if, in fact, “a substantial bias against conservative groups” was found, and it was important enough, at least initially to send Paz and Marks to check it out, then by doing nothing, it would seem to me that IRS management at least tacitly endorsed the action.
Which may be why certain IRS official has decided has decided to plead the Fifth:
A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.
And yes, you’re right … this stinks to high heaven and it absolutely begs to be prosecuted.
Of course, if you had any faith in government, you’d expect it too.
That exempts me, however. I expect a few low level IRS employees to get to take one “for the team” and those that actually made it happen will, as usual, escape scott free.
That’s how it works today in this land where everyone is “equal” under the law.
Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:
What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.
And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.
First paragraph … agree, for the most part. Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government. There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception. Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting. They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government. They do it out of fear.
As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey. Total.
The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations. How does one not politicize it? It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.
And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.
Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.
Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.
Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.
Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.
Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.
So Ed Morrissey points out that the IRS thing has been going on since 2011 and it’s just a “couple of agents” in a single per the official line. Well, maybe four.
Except the agents in question are claiming only to have done what their bosses wanted. And their bosses? We don’t know. We don’t know who they are. After all, it was only a couple of letters to a couple of right of center organizations.
But again, per Morrissey, these two – or four – agents were busy little people in that one office.
Did I say 300 organizations? According to the report, Reps. Jim Jordan and Darrell Issa now put that number closer to 500. If it was just these four agents, they’d have to have been rather, er, productive.
Yeah. And they did it all over the US and all by themselves for two years.
Is anyone in charge up there? Does anyone even know what’s going on? And, if someone is in charge, are we ever going to hold them accountable?
Trust in government?
I found this to be very interesting. From ABC News (email):
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The troubles are mounting for the White House – Benghazi, IRS, AP phone records – leading one administration official to ask yesterday: “Is it really still only Monday?” It’s safe to say all three topics are moving into scandal territory, but it’s a mistake to view them together. Of all of the controversies, the IRS seems to be the most troubling because it further erodes trust in government and institutions – from a point that is already distressingly low. At least three Congressional committees are digging in. Even though the president said he didn’t know about the IRS matter until the news broke last week, it happened on his watch. Democrats could have a hard time winning this one. It bolsters the case for Republicans, just in time for the midterm campaign to begin.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It comes fast and intense in a second term. And the confluence of events – Benghazi talking points, the IRS scandal, sweeping subpoenas of Associated Press records – leave plenty of reasons to mistrust the government President Obama is leading. Knowing that Congress can’t walk and chew gum very well – it can’t walk all that well without the gum, and this flavor is particularly tasty to the president’s opponents – this is a recipe for stalling and worse for just about anything the White House wants to do. The president’s powers of public persuasion, meanwhile, could ebb in the whiff of scandals. If there’s a White House strategy to turn this all around, we’re not seeing signs of it, not yet.
ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: The talking points coming out of the State Department on Monday were astonishing for their attempted revisionism. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeated four times in four minutes that the Obama administration’s early public characterization of the 2012 Benghazi terror attack was dictated by the CIA. “These were CIA points. They were CIA edited. They were CIA finalized,” she said. Nevermind that trove of emails, obtained by ABC News, that shows it was in fact the State Department that sought to edit out the CIA’s references to al Qaeda and to security warnings in Benghazi prior to the attack. “These started and ended as CIA talking points,” Psaki said. Technically, maybe so. But it would be disingenuous to ignore or deny the apparent influence of State during the talking-point sausage-making that occurred in between.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The Tea Party groups who say they were unfairly targeted by the IRS showed ABC News questionnaires and documents received from the Internal Revenue Service. They had to answer questions about their donors, views on issues, and one member said she was even asked to show her personal Facebook account, all they say, because of their political views. The agency apologized last week, but these groups don’t feel like they were directly apologized to. All want an investigation, but for Jennifer Stefano who was trying to set up a group called The Loyal Opposition, but finally gave up, she compares this scandal to Watergate: “It became very frightening, the IRS has the power to target the political opposition of a sitting president.”
It’s amazing it has taken these events and this long for these people to actually do their jobs. And there’s no guarantee they will. But it can’t be denied any longer — it is on “the” radar screen. Benghazi, IRS, AP, you name it. Even the sycophants credulity is being tested.
Maybe it took this administration’s messing with AP to finally make them figure out that for the most part they’ve simply been the media arm of the administration and the administration feels some “ownership” rights. Thus it was checking on them … or something.
It’ll be interesting to watch this all unfold — or disappear.
This has been a scandal for over 2 years. It has bubbled along in the blogosphere for some time. But in the MSM, it has been mostly ignored. Cheryl Atkinson of CBS is about the only reporter I’m aware of who has done any in-depth reporting about this and it too has been mostly ignored.
Even the coverage of the Congressional hearing into this fiasco was muted.
Finally, we have some journalism coming to the fore (with apologies to Ms. Atkinson) and Univision, a largely Hispanic network, has done an expose on this operation that can only be called either the dumbest and most inept operation known to man or a very cynical and malevolent one. More and more I’m leaning toward the latter explanation with a sprinkling of the former.
ABC has finally picked up the ball, and if you are interested in the Univision report, they have it with English captions. Definitely worth the view.
As part of Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allowed 1,961 guns to “walk” out of the U.S. in an effort to identify the high profile cartel leaders who received them. The agency eventually lost track of the weapons, and they often ended up in the hands of Mexican hit men , including those who ordered and carried out the attack on Salvarcar and El Aliviane, a rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez where 18 young men were killed on September 2, 2009.
In Mexico, the timing of the operation coincided with an upsurge of violence in the war among the country’s strongest cartels. In 2009, the northern Mexican states served as a battlefield for the Sinaloa and Juarez drug trafficking organizations, and as expansion territory for the increasingly powerful Zetas. According to documents obtained by Univision News, from October of that year to the end of 2010, nearly 175 weapons from Operation Fast and Furious inadvertently armed the various warring factions across northern Mexico.
Univision went into some real depth in their investigation, apparently even deeper than the Congressional investigation:
Univision News identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre.
Remember, this was first claimed to be a “local, rogue” operation. Then White House staff emails referencing it were found. This was an ATF/DEA/DoJ operation that was never coordinated with Mexican officials. It has caused at least 2 deaths of US agents and literally hundreds if not thousands of deaths in Mexico.
Someone should be held accountable and be heading to jail.
But then “someone” ought to also be reporting about it too, shouldn’t “they”?’
Need a story to get you all fired up this morning? Looking for something to make you see red?
The phone rang before sunrise. It woke Craig Patty, owner of a tiny North Texas trucking company, to vexing news about Truck 793 — a big red semi supposedly getting repairs in Houston.
“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”
“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”
The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.
Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty’s knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.
The concept of private property? Completely ignored. Permission? We don’t need no stinkin’ permission. We’re the federal government. We’re the DEA.
But eight months later, Patty still can’t get recompense from the U.S. government’s decision to use his truck and employee without his permission.
His company, which hauls sand as part of hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and gas companies, was pushed to the brink of failure after the attack because the truck was knocked out of commission, he said.
Patty had only one other truck in operation.
In documents shared with the Houston Chronicle, he is demanding that the DEA pay $133,532 in repairs and lost wages over the bullet-sprayed truck, and $1.3 million more for the damage to himself and his family, who fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting.
Out of control? That’s a vast understatement. This is like Fast and Furious Jr. Who thought this up? Who approved it? Why didn’t they seek the permission and cooperation of the owner of the business and property? Where in the world do they get off commandeering private property and endangering the life and livelihood of a citizen without seeking his okay to use his property?
The operation was a fiasco:
At least 17 hours before that early morning phone call, Chapa was shot dead in front of more than a dozen law enforcement officers – all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.
In the confusion of the attack in northwest Harris County, compounded by officers in the operation not all knowing each other, a Houston policeman shot and wounded a Harris County sheriff’s deputy.
17 hours before the owner of the truck was notified and that notification didn’t come from either the police or the DEA. The only thing the DEA didn’t commandeer for this operation was a clown car. Said Patty:
"I was not part of this," he said. "I had absolutely no knowledge of any of it until after it happened."
For its part, the DEA has not admitted that it was using Chapa as a spy because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant.
Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for the DEA Houston Division, confirmed that Patty’s demand had been received and noted that it would be investigated by the agency. But the Chronicle established Chapa was an informant based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who spoke on the condition they not be named, and later by courtroom comments of prosecutors.
So now the DEA will drag its feet, pretend like it is investigating this, refuse to admit anything, and, as is fairly standard and routine behavior for government agencies violating the rights of the citizens these days, obfuscate, evade and attempt to block every move to shine a light on this operation.
This is outrageous. And, if the facts presented by the Chronicle are true, whoever put this together and executed it deserves to be put on trial and put in jail. That’s right, jail. We want someone held accountable for this travesty for a change.
As for Patty, pay the man, DEA. You screwed up big time, you were wrong to commandeer his property and put his life in danger. You had no right to do any of that and you owe him the chance to get his life and that of his family back in order.
We’ve been asking about that since the scandal first came to light months and months ago on the podcast and on the blog. Usually not given to conspiracy theories, we’ve found it hard to justify the operation otherwise. The recent use of executive privilege by the President seems to lend credence to the assertion/theory.
At least in this case, It appears where there’s smoke there may be fire. And both Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley have spoken out on the notion:
But the suggestion by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the deadly operation was conceived to advance the administration’s gun-control agenda is quite plausible.
"Here’s the real answer as to gun control," Issa said on ABC’s "This Week": "We have email from people involved in this that are talking about using what they’re finding here to support the — basically assault weapons — ban or greater reporting."
Issa was asked about the possible connection after comments he made at an NRA convention. "Could it be," he said on NRA News’ "Cam & Company" program, "that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban? Many think so. And they haven’t come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree."
Grassley is less oblique about it:
According to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, "There’s plenty of evidence developing that the administration planned to use the tragedies of Fast and Furious as rationale to further their goals of a long gun reporting requirement."
In fact, they’ve already cranked up the reporting requirements:
As Issa noted on "This Week," the Department of Justice announced on April 25, 2011, "right in the middle of the scandal," that it was requiring some 8,500 gun stores in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico to report individual purchases of multiple rifles of greater than .22 caliber by law-abiding American citizens to the ATF because such guns are "frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest border."
Of course every one of the multiple sales that contributed to the guns that went into Mexico were okayed by the ATF. And don’t forget the prelude to all of this: the use of a discredited study that supplied the justification for an attempt to increase gun control:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the administration had been pushing the discredited line that 90% of guns seized in Mexico came from the U.S. as justification for stricter gun laws and reporting rules.
But of course, it’s all really nothing more than a logical assertion or theory at the moment since the misnamed Department of Justice won’t release key documents as legally and rightfully demanded by Congress (in the execution of its Constitutional duty of oversight) and the President of the United States is aiding and abetting this avoidance of DoJ’s legal duties.
Reinstating the assault gun ban and tightening gun control are undeniable goals of the liberal left. There’s no denying that. But to summarily do it would be politically disastrous and they know that as well. So there has to be a pretext, a reason for it. What better pretext than the death of hundreds of Mexicans at the hands of guns smuggled in from the US coupled with the false 90% stat? Convenient, no?
Obviously it wasn’t supposed to leak out that the Federal government ordered it or, I’d guess, see 2 Federal agents be murdered as a result of their operation.
What could be worse than turning over the documents requested by Congress?
Something like this coming to light.
Look for the Obama administration to do whatever is necessary to delay, deny and obfuscate for 4 months on this.
But if this is true, and if Obama is fortunate enough to be re-elected, it may end up being a very short second term. There are scandals presidents can survive and then there are those they can’t survive.
This would be, or at least should be, one that isn’t survivable.
That, at least to me, is the pregnant question. He had a number of other options but 4 months from a critical election, chose the most controversial and potentially damaging one.
Let’s begin with a quote from a former White House counsel from a Powerline post:
Even with his fawning press, [President Obama] will pay a price for this one. He knows this, meaning that the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite. They have to show either that Holder knew what was going on with Fast and Furious and approved it, or that he directly committed perjury in his Congressional testimony, or both. I just can’t see any other explanation for such a risky move.
Wasn’t the Washington Post just covering big time the 40th anniversary of Watergate? I wonder how much coverage this one will get.
That’s the result of the move – speculation that the documents being withheld point to perjury by Holder or the President, or both.
So let’s break this down a bit. If it was all about Holder, why would the president risk this sort of a controversial move this close to an election. It’s not like he’s never thrown anyone under the bus. In fact James Carville is on record advising Obama to dump Holder.
Obama had the option, then, of letting Holder face contempt charges (not much happens as we’ve seen in the past, to those who are served with contempt of Congress charges) and drag out the document release until after the election.
With the election season gearing up, it is likely that while the controversy would have been an issue, it wouldn’t have been a major issue. Now it certainly is.
He could have asked Holder to resign. He could have then used the opportunity to appear as a statesman, a leader and bi-partisan all in one fell swoop. Depending on how he handled that it could actually have been a positive for him heading into an election. In the meantime, an acting AG could continue to delay on providing documents.
But he did neither of those things. For some unknown reason (at least to this point) he chose to do the least likely and most politically damaging thing – invoke executive privilege. As the lawyer quoted has said, those documents must be “dynamite” to have the president make this move.
And, unsaid by the lawyer is the speculation that the documents show the involvement of the White House to a degree that is damaging – apparently more damaging than the speculation and attention this move by the President has brought.
David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy gives you a great history of the controversy. As for the documents Kopel notes:
According to Attorney General Holder, the DOJ has 140,000 documents related to Fast & Furious. Fewer than 8,000 have been provided to Congress pursuant to subpoenas. The contempt vote has been narrowed to 1,300 documents. In refusing to comply with the House subpoenas, the DOJ has refused to create a privilege log–which would identify withheld documents, and the legal reason for their being withheld.
Matthew Boyle at the DC caller points out that Holder has retracted two previous statements he made to Congress where he gave them inaccurate information in an attempt to blame previous AGs or administrations. It seems that’s a standard operating procedure with all parts of this administration. So Holder is left holding the bag all by himself on this one, or so it seemed, at least, to the point that executive privilege was invoked.
That brings us to these 4 point by Todd Gaziano at the Heritage Foundation about the use of executive privilege:
First, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon’s purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason. There is reason to suspect that this might be the case in the Fast and Furious cover-up and stonewalling effort. Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more.
Second, even the “deliberative process” species of executive privilege, which is reasonably broad, does not shield the ultimate decisions from congressional inquiry. Congress is entitled to at least some documents and other information that indicate who the ultimate decision maker was for this disastrous program and why these decisions were made. That information is among the most important documents that are being withheld.
Third, the Supreme Court in the Nixon case also held that even a proper invocation must yield to other branches’ need for information in some cases. So even a proper invocation of executive privilege regarding particular documents is not final.
And lastly, the President is required when invoking executive privilege to try to accommodate the other branches’ legitimate information needs in some other way. For example, it does not harm executive power for the President to selectively waive executive privilege in most instances, even if it hurts him politically by exposing a terrible policy failure or wrongdoing among his staff. The history of executive–congressional relations is filled with accommodations and waivers of privilege. In contrast to voluntary waivers of privilege, Watergate demonstrates that wrongful invocations of privilege can seriously damage the office of the presidency when Congress and the courts impose new constraints on the President’s discretion or power (some rightful and some not).
The key point, of course, is executive privilege cannot be used to “shield wrongdoing”. While it is speculative, it appears highly likely – given the other options available – that executive privilege is being used for precisely that reason in this case.
Additionally, given the choices available to the President, it is not at all out of bounds to speculate that the most transparent administration in history is trying desperately to hide something even more terrible than the political fallout from this choice.
The White House cites internal discussions and ongoing investigations are the reason for its denial and claims the investigations would be jeopardized with the release of the documents. But, as Gaziano points out, accommodations can be made in that regard. The total number of documents requested is 1,300. The White House is simply refusing to cooperate or accommodate.
We’re still left with that question.
And the answer, given the actions to date, lead to some logical speculation – what is contained in those documents is much more damaging politically than the damage done by the decision. Additionally, Obama can’t afford to let Holder go because if he does there’s the potential that Holder will then spill the beans.
Oh, and finally, this move has suddenly brought Fast and Furious to page one and the top of the newscast like nothing else could. The majority of the country, which was mostly ignorant of this scandal are now in the loop.
As the cited former White House counsel said, “the documents now to be withheld must be dynamite.” In fact, they must be so explosive that the White House is desperate enough to try to weather this self-inflicted political storm in lieu of exposing them.
That says a lot.
Another example of the poor job government does in picking winners and losers is emerging. Solyndra, a solar panel company, was the first to go under, taking with it half a billion in taxpayer money.
Now we have the specter of another “green jobs company” that received guaranteed government loans doing the same. But this one seems to have consumed over twice the amount of money that Solyndra did.
SunPower is its name and right now, bankruptcy seems to be its game.
How well did the government, via the Department of Energy, do this time?
The Energy Department says on its website that the $1.2 billion loan to help build the California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, a project that will help create 15 permanent jobs, which adds up to the equivalent of $80 million in taxpayer money for each job.
The DoE also claims:
“This project underwent many months of rigorous technical, financial and legal due diligence by career employees in the DOE loan program,” Energy spokesman Damien LaVera said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “It was approved for one reason only: because it meets all the requirements of the program – helping America win the clean energy race and create entire new industries for American workers.”
Did it indeed undergo such “rigorous” analysis? Well if so, then they should have known all about this:
But SunPower posted $150 million in losses during the first half of this year and its debt is nearly 80 percent higher than the market value of all its outstanding shares. The company is also facing class action lawsuits for misstating its earnings.
It truly makes you wonder how bad a company would have to be not to get a DoE loan (obviously it would have to be a “clean energy” company, because those are the “winners” this administration has chosen to fund).
Oh, and then there’s this:
The company is also politically connected. Rep. George Miller’s son is SunPower’s top lobbyist. The elder Miller, a powerful California Democrat, toured the plant last October with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and reportedly said, "We’ve worked hard to make renewable energy a priority because it represents America’s future economic growth. Today, businesses like SunPower are moving forward, hiring 200 people for good clean energy jobs in the Easy Bay."
It’s not clear what role, if any, either of them played in securing the loan. Miller’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
An Energy Department official denied crony capitalism was a factor in the loan guarantee.
“The notion that political connections played any role in this application is simply false,” the official said. “This application was approved based on the exhaustive due diligence of the career professionals in the loan program, and nothing else.”
Of course. Because there was such a sound financial basis to approve such a loan, wasn’t there?
And politicians wonder why people are more and more cynical and less trusting of our government all the time?