THE SMOKING GUN IN THE IRS SCANDAL
May 25, 2013
Jeffrey Lord’s story in the American Spectator about a “smoking gun” in the IRS scandal has backfired. He implied that the head of the IRS union had personally met with President Obama to plot against the Tea Party when there is no evidence of such a meeting or such plotting. Instead, as the Daily Caller and U.S. News & World Report have reported, the union chief had been part of a “Workplace Flexibility Forum” in the Old Executive Office Building attended by 200 people and featuring Obama as a speaker.
Lord is a fine columnist, but Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel had previously pointed out that the smoking gun evidence of presidential wrongdoing has been right in front of us all along, in the form of various statements by the President and other administration officials attacking and demonizing the Tea Party, as well as demands from Democrats and their allies that conservative groups be scrutinized by the IRS. This was pressure from above that had its intended effect—to disable the Tea Party movement during the 2012 elections.
“The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies,” Strassel commented. “But that’s not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. 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.”
In fact, the pressure came not only from the Democratic Party, but from various George Soros-funded groups and journalists, one of whom, Seth Rosenfeld, obtained personal financial information about filmmaker Joel Gilbert and his financial backers. The Gilbert case, which involves a massive invasion of privacy and harassment of donors to an anti-Obama film, is potentially even more serious in a legal sense than scrutiny of Tea Party groups by the IRS. In addition, the IRS reopened Gilbert’s 2009 tax return, and simply denied all of his business expenses, even though they were well-documented.
Amy Pyle of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) asked that I correct my article on this aspect of the scandal, saying that, “While Seth has done some freelance work for us in the past, as for many other outlets, he is not an employee here nor is he on any contract with us.”
I had reported that Rosenfeld “works” for the CIR and in fact he is listed on its website as a “correspondent” for the group. That suggests an on-going relationship. I told Pyle there would be no correction. In fact, why doesn’t the CIR help us get to the bottom of this scandal?
The CIR is funded by the Open Society Institute of George Soros and other liberal foundations. Its “media partners” include the Arab government-funded Al Jazeera English—a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood—The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio and PBS.
With these collaborators, it would appear that an investigation of Rosenfeld and his methods would have to come from Congress, rather than the media. Such a probe might help get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, although he would undoubtedly refuse to identify his sources in the government.
The progressives understand that Obama did not need to personally order this probe and are trying to discredit any reports or suggestions to the contrary. In this manner they hope to save Obama from impeachment, as various scandals continue to grow and implicate the White House in lies and cover-ups.
Jeffrey Lord was justified in asking why National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) president Colleen Kelley was at the White House. His mistake was assuming that her listing in a White House visitors log suggested some kind of high-level, one-on-one meeting with the President. His other mistake was assuming he could ever discover what they discussed, if such a meeting took place.
He won’t retract his story, saying “it is crystal clear there is a relationship between the NTEU and the Obama White House,” adding that Kelley has described her view of this relationship as being about “collaboration.”
He added, “As an ex-White House aide myself it makes no sense that someone in her position has as much access as she does to the White House and the President…speaks glowingly of ‘partnership’ and ‘collaboration’…yet has zero communication on a subject on which the President, his staff, and his congressional allies (Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Franken etc etc) have been loudly emphatic—The Tea Party.”
But communications of that nature, because of the relationship he described, was not necessary. Obama’s allies got the message without a smoking-gun meeting or memo. I think Strassel was making this same critical point in her column that was appropriately titled, “The IRS Scandal Started at the Top.”
Republicans are getting tripped up by the media when challenged about evidence of President Obama’s personal involvement in the IRS scandal. Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, who chairs the House committee looking into the IRS, “admitted there was no evidence” linking Obama to the IRS scandal, as MSNBC described his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Camp said, “We don’t have anything to say that the President knew about it.” Michael O’Brien, a political reporter for NBC News, said both Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Dave Camp “admitted they lacked evidence that the targeting of conservatives was ordered by the White House.”
But a Democratic Administration or its president does not need to issue orders or directives or make telephone calls demanding that the IRS act against conservatives. History shows that it is simply how the federal bureaucracy operates. The “smoking gun” is liberal politics as usual, and it stretches back to the Kennedy Administration.
To illustrate this point, consider an article on a left-wing website attempting to distinguish between the Obama Administration’s IRS “affair” and Richard Nixon’s “Watergate-era IRS scandal,” The author is none other than Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who insists that what Nixon did was far worse than anything that has been done under Obama. He advised Republicans not to fall victim to “anti-Obama hysteria” and to avoid talking about Obama’s impeachment.
“A principal distinction” between the use of the IRS by the Nixon and Obama Administrations, he said in his column, “is the ingredient of direct presidential involvement.”
He does acknowledge that Nixon, who resigned from office because he was threatened with impeachment, “was aware that the IRS had audited him in 1961 and 1962 and presumed those audits were politically motivated by the Kennedy White House.” He doesn’t provide any more details, probably because he doesn’t want to implicate his father, Robert F. Kennedy Sr., and his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, in the political use of the IRS. But that is exactly what they did. In fact, they did it before Nixon, and led Nixon to believe the practice was routine.
As noted by Victory Lasky’s book, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, the practice of using the IRS for political purposes began with the Kennedy brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, when they were President and Attorney General, respectively. Not only were Nixon and others involved in his presidential campaign audited after John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election, “tax-exempt right-wing groups” were targeted by the Kennedy Administration’s IRS for special reviews and some lost their tax-exempt status.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s article focused on a “Special Service” staff of the IRS under Nixon. What he does not talk about is a special project under President Kennedy dealing with “ideological organizations.” According to the staff report “Investigation of the Special Service Staff of the Internal Revenue Service,” prepared for the Joint Committee on Internal Taxation in 1975, “This program apparently was stimulated by a public statement of President John F. Kennedy and also a suggestion by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.”
In other words, initially there were no direct orders or direct presidential involvement. IRS officials simply responded to the President’s public statements and his concerns.
Here’s how it worked: President Kennedy, in November 1961, was asked at a news conference about financial contributions to right-wing organizations, and he expressed concern about “a diversion of funds which might be taxable.” He added, “I’m sure the Internal Revenue System examines that.” The Senate report says that the IRS directly responded to this statement by reviewing and auditing various organizations.
Not satisfied with the results, President Kennedy did subsequently call the IRS commissioner, telling him to move forward with an “aggressive program” against both right-wing and some left-wing groups. As Victor Lasky points out, this reflected Kennedy’s annoyance with left-wingers attacking him for his anti-Castro activities and military support for non-communist South Vietnam, under invasion from the Communist north.
The report adds that, in addition to President Kennedy’s statement, “there was interest shown in right-wing organizations by the Justice Department,” and that Mitchell Rogovin, then Assistant to the IRS Commissioner, had said he had received a telephone call from John Seigenthaler, then Special Assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The report goes on: “Mr. Rogovin said that Mr. Seigenthaler asked about the tax-exempt status of four or five organizations generally considered to be right-wing. Mr. Rogovin said that, in response, Mr. Seigenthaler was told whether or not these organizations were exempt and whether the organization had been audited recently.”
The key point is that the report links the so-called “first phase” of the IRS program to audit conservative groups to President Kennedy’s press conference statement. It was also linked to a “suggestion of the Attorney General” that the IRS review the tax status of certain groups.
It may be the case that Obama officials had a direct role in the IRS scandal, going beyond simple knowledge of what the IRS was doing. But it was not necessary for Obama to raise the issue personally with the IRS, as the Kennedy Administration example suggests. All he had to do was demonize the Tea Party and let his allies in and out of Congress demand IRS scrutiny of conservative groups.
In addition to using the IRS, the Kennedy Administration used the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the “Fairness Doctrine” to intimidate and censor conservative and Christian broadcasters. The Fairness Doctrine was abolished under President Reagan, but liberal Democrats have talked about bringing it back in legislative form. They wanted to use it to muzzle conservative commentators.
As we noted in the current scandal, the evidence appears to show that the Obama Administration and its allies used the IRS to enforce a version of the Fairness Doctrine through federal scrutiny and intimidation of religious and conservative broadcasters. For example, conservative Christian broadcaster James Dobson was told he had to be fair to President Obama to get his tax-exempt status. It is doubtful that Obama had any direct role in this. He didn’t have to get personally involved.
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It is likely, however, that some White House or Justice Department officials were aware of and approved the IRS campaign. The media are already noting that the official line has been changing about which people in the White House knew what about the IRS campaign and when they knew it, and whether they informed the president.
The key point is the Tea Party movement was handicapped during a critical election year. The democratic process was undermined for political reasons in order to guarantee Obama’s re-election. House Republicans will have to decide whether they consider this an impeachable offense.
© 2013 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights Reserved
Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues. One of Cliff's books, "Global Bondage: The UN Plan to Rule the World" is still awailable.
Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.