May 31, 2013

Republican who ran against Durbin: Lois Lerner told me never to run for office again

Former Illinois state representative Al Salvi, who ran as a Republican against Democrat Dick Durbin in his state’s 1996 U.S. Senate race, said that embattled IRS official Lois Lerner intimidated him in her then-capacity as a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) official and told him she would drop various complaints against him if he never ran for office again.

Lerner is currently on administrative leave from her position at the IRS, where she oversaw groups’ applications for tax-exempt nonprofit status, and where she admittedly targeted conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny.

Salvi told Illinois Review this week that he went head-to-head with Lerner after his 1996 electoral loss to Durbin, when she was head of the commission’s Enforcement Division. The FEC hit his campaign committee with a small handful of complaints related to a $1.1 million personal loan he made to his campaign in its final weeks.
Though a federal district court dismissed the case against Salvi, the FEC appealed it to the 7th U.S. District Court of Appeals, and featured Salvi’s case multiple times in the official FEC magazine.
Salvi said that Lerner offered to drop the case if Salvi agreed never to run for office again.

“She said, ‘If you promise to never run for office again, we’ll drop this case,’” Salvi said, noting that he thought Lerner was helping Durbin keep him out of Illinois politics in the future.

The case was eventually dropped in 2000, by which time Salvi had reportedly racked up nearly $100,000 in legal fees. A judge ruled that Salvi’s loan to his own campaign was completely legal, according to Salvi.

“I didn’t plead the Fifth,” Salvi, who went on to become a radio talk show host, told Illinois Review, a reference to Lerner pleading the Fifth Amendment in congressional testimony to avoid incriminating herself in the IRS scandal.
Durbin wrote a 2010 letter requesting that the IRS scrutinize the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups like Crossroads GPS.


May 30, 2013

What Does the IRS Scandal Say About a 2011 Guitar Raid?

If you're a member of Congress from outside Nashville, Tenn., everything comes back to guitars.
Take the ongoing IRS scandal. If it seems impossible to make a story about tax collectors targeting conservative groups about six-strings, then you haven't met Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

"The recent scandals surrounding this administration raise a number of questions about who they choose to target and why," Blackburn said in a statement. "The arrogance and lack of transparency displayed by this president and his Cabinet officials in events such as the raids on Gibson Guitar and the IRS targeting of conservative groups show a complete disregard for the rule of law."

In 2011, the Justice Department accused the Gibson Guitar Corp. of illegally importing exotic wood from India and Madagascar, violating a hundred-year-old law known as the Lacey Act. In 2012 the guitar company agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty to avoid criminal charges.

That Gibson was guilty of committing the crime doesn't matter all that much to Blackburn. What matters was that the company—in her opinion—must have been targeted for political beliefs.

What makes her think Gibson was targeted? An editorial from has the answer:
Gibson's chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.... By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a longtime Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.
"It is clear that this administration made a choice to use excessive regulatory methods to intimidate conservative groups and individuals who disagree with their political ideology," Blackburn said. "Not only is this wrong, but it is illegal. No one should have to live in fear of their government. President Obama owes the American people a full explanation as to why these decisions were made, and anyone responsible for plotting these politically motivated attacks should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

May 29, 2013

State Department ‘withholding information’ on Benghazi

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa on Tuesday accused the Obama administration of “withholding information” about the Benghazi terror attack. The California Republican has subpoenaed more documents related to the talking points on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate that left four Americans dead.

In a subpoena sent Tuesday, Issa requested “all documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” sent to or from a list of ten current and former State Department officials.

“The State Department has not lived up to the Administration’s broad and unambiguous promises of cooperation with Congress,” Issa said in a letter sent Tuesday to Kerry. “Therefore, I am left with no alternative but to compel the State Department to produce relevant documents through a subpoena.”
On May 15, the White House released 100 pages of emails and documents on the subject. Those same documents, according to Issa’s letter, were forwarded to the committee several days later in response to a request.

Issa said that was not sufficient information, saying that information “crucial” to his committee’s investigation was being “withheld.”

In the emails, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland raised concerns about including some information, such as any mention of al-Qaida involvement in the attack, for fear that it would leave the State Department open to criticism.

But Issa said questions remain because the correspondence “suggests that she did not raise these concerns in a vacuum.”

The deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry to turn over the documents is Friday, June 7, 2013, at noon.
State Department spokesman Patrick H. Ventrell pushed back on the idea that the State Department had been anything but helpful in the Oversight Committee’s investigation.

“We have demonstrated an unprecedented degree of cooperation with the Congress on the issue of Benghazi, engaging in over 30 hearings and briefings for Members and staff, and sharing over 25,000 pages of documents with Committees,” Ventrell said in a statement.

“The State Department remains committed to working cooperatively with the Congress and we will take stock of any new or outstanding requests for information, and determine the appropriate next steps,” he said.

“Secretary Kerry and the President are focused first and foremost on implementing the ARB’s recommendations and going above and beyond — to ensure that our men and women have the security they need to carry out their vital missions. All of us — in the Administration, in the Congress, in the media — we should all be focused on the issue of protecting the American diplomats and development experts who are working every day to advance America’s national interest and global leadership,” he added.


May 28, 2013

Senators say Holder can’t ‘review’ himself on news media snooping

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s direct involvement in the Justice Department’s decisions to spy on the press should disqualify him from heading any review of the unfolding controversy, Republicans said Sunday.

Questions have been raised about the attorney general’s role in two Justice Department investigations of leaks, one involving a massive seizure of Associated Press phone records and another an aggressive probe of Fox News reporter James Rosen’s private emails.

According to multiple media reports, Mr. Holder personally approved targeting Mr. Rosen. He earlier told Congress that he had recused himself from the decision to seize AP phone records.

President Obama, responding to critics from both parties who say the Justice Department is undermining press freedoms, said Thursday he has directed Mr. Holder to lead a “review.” That idea has been flatly rejected by Republicans, several of whom voiced their objections on Sunday’s political talk shows.

“A total conflict of interest,” Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said Sunday on CBS“Face the Nation.”

“You cannot investigate yourself. Allowing the very person that authorized the two things we are aware of today to investigate whether he did that appropriately is inappropriate,” Mr. Coburn said. “There’s an inherent conflict of interest in me judging whether I did something and reporting it to the president.”

Mr. Coburn stopped short of calling for a special prosecutor, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and said it was “time to have a special counsel to come forward or some independent group to look at it.”

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, wouldn’t go that far, but he acknowledged he has questions about Mr. Holder’s role.

“I heard Sen. Graham call for special counsel. I’m not ready to do this at this point. I’d like to know if Holder has any conflict in here beyond what we’ve heard when it comes to the Fox case,” Mr. Durbin said on the Fox program.

Another Democrat, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York said “the system is clearly broken” and that he and Mr. Graham will reoffer their proposal, with the bipartisan support of six other senators, for a “media shield law” that would tighten judicial oversight of Justice Department and law enforcement.

“We’ll be announcing that we have four Democrats and four Republicans another ‘Gang of Eight,’” Mr. Schumer said on CBS“Face The Nation.” He did not specify who would join him and Mr. Graham.

The proposal would require the government to first go before a judge to ask a news organization to divulge sources. That judge would “impose a balancing test” between free press and government need for the information.

“You always need set rules and an independent arbiter. We have neither now,” he said.

The Department of Justice has come under fire amid revelations that Mr. Holder personally approved an investigation of Mr. Rosen after his 2009 Fox News story on North Korean missile tests that cited intelligence community sources.

In an effort to uncover what some administration officials considered a national security leak, Mr. Rosen was named a potential criminal “co-conspirator” and Mr. Holder signed off on warrants to allow agents to track the reporter’s movements at the State Department and monitor his phone records and emails.

James Rosen is a lot of things, but a criminal co-conspirator he is not,” Mr. Graham said. “We’re beginning to criminalize journalism, and I think that should worry us all.”

Mr. Graham also called for a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The president said Thursday that he was “troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.”


May 27, 2013

Senate Republican calls for a special prosecutor in IRS scandal, fellow lawmakers disagree

A powerful Republican senator called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that a special prosecutor should be called upon to investigate the exploding IRS scandal, as well as accusations that the Obama administration’s Department of Justice spied on a Fox News reporter.

“My belief about the IRS scandal is that this culture of going after tea party groups that were on the president’s case about Obamacare did just not accidentally happen. I think it comes from the top in terms of tone,” Graham said in regard to the IRS scandal.
Not all Republicans agree with Graham’s call to action.

“When I can’t do my job because I lack the authority or cooperation, I’ll seek additional remedies,” House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa said last week.

At least three different congressional investigations, including one led by Issa and one led by Democratic Montana Sen. Max Baucus, are reportedly stalling the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the much-maligned agency.

“I think it’s too soon. I don’t think there’s enough evidence to warrant a special prosecutor,” said Baucus, who is leading an investigation into the IRS’ conduct as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

As The Daily Caller previously reported, Baucus wrote a September 2010 letter to then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman urging the IRS to scrutinize the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups.
“I request that you and your agency survey major 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) organizations involved in political campaign activity to examine whether they are operated for the organization’s intended tax exempt purpose and to ensure that political campaign activity is not the organization’s primary activity,” Baucus wrote to Shulman, identifying the conservative group Americans For Job Security as one of his targets and citing a Time magazine article about pro-Republican outside groups entitled, “The New GOP Money Stampede.”

Past presidential scandals have required the services of special prosecutors, including Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor famously fired by President Nixon in the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre,” and Kenneth Starr, whose investigation into President Clinton’s Whitewater scandal led to Clinton’s impeachment for allegedly lying under oath about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.


May 24, 2013

Tea party vs. old guard in GOP Senate rift

A long-simmering feud between establishment Republicans and tea partyers broke into full view, with Sen. John McCain accusing younger colleagues of overplaying their hands and tempting Democrats to change Senate rules that protect the minority party.

Tactics for dealing with the government's budget and debt became the latest quarrel In a string of them between McCain —sometimes joined by other traditionalist Republicans —and tea party champions such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Those four won Senate seats by defying the party establishment, and are shaking up the tradition-bound Senate with no-compromise, no-apology stands on key issues like debt and deficits, government spending and the use of drones in the war on terrorism.

McCain himself has defied Republican orthodoxy at times. But he was the party's 2008 presidential nominee, and he now is among those who say a minority party will accomplish little in the Senate if it can't find ways to cut deals with the majority.

Cruz, who like Paul is weighing a 2016 presidential bid, renewed his taunts of the party establishment in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor. The more accommodating Republicans, he said, are in cahoots with Democrats to raise the government's borrowing limit by disabling the GOP's ability to mount a filibuster threat that could be used to extract spending cuts from Democrats and the White House

Calling it "a dirty little secret," Cruz said Republicans "would very much like to cast a symbolic vote against raising the debt ceiling and nonetheless to allow our (Democratic) friends on the left side of the aisle to raise the debt ceiling."

Earlier in the day, Lee angered McCain with similar remarks. Lee said Republicans should block a House-Senate conference designed to resolve budget differences because it might ease the Democrats' effort to raise the government's borrowing limit. That rankled the sometimes cantankerous McCain, of Arizona. He said the tea partyers' tactics could embolden Democrats who are threatening to change Senate rules that now allow the minority party — or even just one senator— to block various actions.

"That would be the most disastrous outcome that I could ever imagine," McCain said.

For months, Democrats have complained about Republicans blocking or delaying confirmation of top White House nominees, including some federal judges. Democrats say the impasse over a budget conference is further evidence of a small group of senators in the minority abusing their powers to block actions that in the past would have gone forward after a few speeches.

Supporters of the tea party-backed lawmakers say the ongoing IRS and Benghazi controversies have vindicated their sharply partisan, uncompromising views. Republicans cite the controversies as examples of Democratic overreach and obfuscation.

This week's budget quarrel follows a high-profile split between tea partyers and champions of a big defense program over drone attacks, and an intra-GOP disagreement over gun control tactics. It involves an obscure procedural battle and arcane rules governing the congressional budget process. Democrats want to set up an official House-Senate negotiating committee to iron out the gaping differences between the budget plans passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.

Cruz, Lee and others say they fear House and Senate leaders will use the budget measure to engineer a scenario in which an increase in the government's borrowing cap could pass the 100-member Senate by a simple majority instead of the 60 votes typically need to overpower the minority on an issue.

McCain and others, like Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., note that House Republicans can block any move by Democratic negotiators to engineer a filibuster-free debt limit increase.

"Isn't it a little bizarre," McCain said Wednesday. "Basically what we are saying here on this (Republican) side of the aisle is that we don't trust our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who are in the majority, Republicans."

"Let me be clear. I don't trust the Republicans," Cruz responded. "And I don't trust the Democrats. I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don't trust the Republicans and the Democrats, because it is leadership in both parties that has gotten us in this mess."

At a tea party rally last month in Texas, Cruz taunted fellow Republicans after the Senate rejected a call for background checks on virtually all prospective gun buyers.

Cruz and other tea partyers had threatened to filibuster the gun legislation and keep it from coming to the Senate floor for votes. Other Republicans said the smarter political move — which eventually prevailed — was to let the votes take place, and have a few Democrats join Republicans in rejecting the wider background checks. Cruz suggested that Republicans who favored proceeding with the votes were "a bunch of squishes."

That earned Cruz a rebuke from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page — gleefully retweeted by McCain. "Would it have been right for us to not even debate in light of the Newtown massacre?" McCain said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has joined McCain in urging Republicans to let the Senate budget bill go to conference with the House. She said in an interview she finds it "baffling that it's a small minority of our caucus that is holding up going to conference, when our party, correctly for years, has argued that we need to have a budget." Without a House-Senate conference, she said, "we can't possibly complete action on it."

She said GOP conferees "are plenty smart enough to avoid any kind of trap" on the debt ceiling question.

Democrats say the debt ceiling must be raised to pay for expenses already incurred by Congress. Failing to raise the ceiling, they say, would trigger a catastrophic default on U.S. obligations.

McCain scuffled with the tea party senators in March after Paul launched a filibuster to warn of the threat of unmanned drone attacks against U.S. citizens on American soil. McCain referred to newcomers like Paul and Cruz as "wacko birds" and said their fears of drone strikes against Americans were "ridiculous."

"It has been suggested that we are 'wacko birds,'" Cruz said Thursday. "I will suggest to my friend from Arizona there may be more wacko birds in the Senate than is suspected."

The split between McCain, 76, and next-generation, 40-something potential 2016 candidates like Paul, Cruz and Rubio also illustrates the broader GOP drift toward the right. McCain has spent decades in the Senate, mixing a penchant for confrontation with a capacity for bipartisan relationships and legislation; the new generation is feistier and more wary of compromise.

In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Rubio defended the tradition that allows even one senator to bring the chamber to a halt. He feels he can be effective, Rubio said, "because in this Senate, even a minority within the minority can make a difference."


May 23, 2013

IRS figure who invoked 5th Amendment may be compelled to testify

The woman at the center of the IRS scandal refused to testify to Congress on Wednesday, but House Republicans said Lois Lerner botched her attempt to invoke her right against self-incrimination and said they likely will force her to come back and explain why the agency targeted conservative political groups.

Ms. Lerner’s refusal to testify shifted attention to her onetime boss, former Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, who apologized to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee but refused to take responsibility, leaving furious lawmakers warning that the Internal Revenue Service could end up facing a special prosecutor.

Meanwhile, the top Treasury Department official who oversees the IRS said the agency’s behavior was “unacceptable” but denied any responsibility.

At the outset, a Democrat on the panel warned that there would be “hell to pay” if witnesses withheld information or danced around lawmakers’ questions.

“We know where that will lead. It will lead to a special prosecutor,” said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts.

Ms. Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations for the IRS, began the witnesses’ testimony by denying that she acted improperly, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws,” she said. “I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”

Her attorney said before the hearing that she would decline to answer questions because the Justice Department announced a potential criminal investigation.

Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, dismissed Ms. Lerner from the witness table, but Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, objected, saying that since she made a brief statement in her defense, that effectively waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” said Mr. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That’s not the way it works. … She ought to stand here and answer our questions.”

Hours later, at the end of the hearing, Mr. Issa said Mr. Gowdy may be correct and that the committee may compel Ms. Lerner to return. He said he would review the legal situation, and he recessed the hearing rather than adjourning it as a way of preserving the option of bringing her back.

He was stronger in comments to Politico, a paper that covers Capitol Hill, saying he believes Ms. Lerner did waive her rights.

“When I asked her questions from the very beginning, I did so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Mr. Issa said. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”

Ms. Lerner tried to stop the Cincinnati field office’s targeting of tea party and other right-leaning groups by directing specialists in 2011 to broaden their criteria so that it did not appear partisan, according to an audit by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Yet the audit says the behavior resurfaced and had to be fixed once more in May 2012.

Ms. Lerner apologized at a May 10 event with the American Bar Association for burdening the conservative groups from early 2010 to May 2012, an admission that set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill.

The announcement — staged through a prearranged question from the audience — was made days before the inspector general released the audit that confirmed Republican lawmakers’ suspicions in 2012 that conservative groups had been singled out.

Wednesday’s hearing was the third since Ms. Lerner revealed the inappropriate activity two weeks ago, and it underscored the remarkable, sustained anger at the tax agency from both sides of the aisle.

An inspector general said the IRS gave special scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status filed by groups that had “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names. The IRS is holding up dozens of those applications, some of which were filed three or four years ago.

IRS officials, including Mr. Shulman, previously told Congress that there was no effort to target conservative groups. On Wednesday, Mr. Shulman said he told the truth as he believed it at the time.

He testified that he had “some of the facts, not all of the facts,” and that he did not want, as a political appointee, to give the impression that he was interfering with the inspector general’s review of the situation.

“If there’s someone wielding a knife in the parking lot, are you going to call the inspector general?” Mr. Gowdy said. “Are you going to wait until his or her investigation’s over before you stop it?”

Mr. Shulman reiterated his point about the inspector general and said he was under the impression last year that the offending behavior was being stopped.

Lawmakers said that strained belief and that once Mr. Shulman learned that the inspector general was looking into the reports, he should have alerted Congress, which was clearly interested. Lawmakers said they sent 132 letters to the IRS asking about the situation.

Congress was misled,” Mr. Issa said. “The American people were misled.”

Lawmakers also chastised Mr. Shulman for failing to take any action within his agency.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat and a veteran who lost both legs in combat, said there are “25-year-old buck sergeants and second lieutenants who know you can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility and that you’re always responsible for the performance, the training, the actions of the men and women under you.”

Mr. Issa also took the inspector general to task for the length of time it took for him to release his findings, or at least inform his committee of any wrongdoing.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin addressed the scandal before lawmakers for the first time. He deemed the political targeting “absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable,” but denied responsibility or knowledge of the actions that led to the scandal.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and President Obama took immediate action by demanding and accepting the acting commissioner’s resignation, he said, and Mr. Lew ordered Daniel Werfel, the newly appointed commissioner, to conduct a thorough review how the agency handles applications for tax-exempt status.


May 22, 2013

Congress grills IRS officials over targeting of conservative groups

The IRS official overseeing the division that was inappropriately targeting conservative groups said she will refuse to answer lawmakers' questions during an appearance before a House committee Wednesday, a day after another top official at the agency acknowledged that he knew the targeting was happening but chose to keep quiet about it.

Lois Lerner, head of the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organizations Division, informed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she will invoke Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination during her appearance Wednesday. Lerner was the first to acknowledge publicly that the IRS was targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, though she blamed the entire incident on a few rogue employees.

A committee spokesman said the panel's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is urging Lerner to change her mind.

"The committee has a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight," the aide said. "Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify [Wednesday] about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs."

Douglas Schulman, a former IRS commissioner, on Tuesday became the latest executive branch official called to explain why the IRS was targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups that intended to play a part in the 2012 election. Republicans say the targeting was politically motivated. Democrats insist changes in campaign finance laws caused a flood of applications for tax-exempt status that simply overwhelmed the IRS.

Schulman, IRS commissioner from 2008 until last November, told the Senate Finance Committee that he first learned in the spring of 2012 that his employees were delaying approval of tax-exempt status for conservative groups, marking those applications with "Be On The Look Out." But Schulman said he didn't tell anyone at Treasury, which oversees the IRS, because "this is not the kind of information that should leave the IRS."

Schulman appeared at the third congressional hearing so far on the IRS alongside J. Russell George, the inspector general who first disclosed that the targeting began as early as 2011 and who told the committee he had informed Treasury officials and a congressional committee about his investigation in 2012.

Even as the Obama administration tried to put the budding scandal behind it, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday revealed that more senior administration officials than previously acknowledged knew about the IRS targeting and probe. The White House says President Obama was not informed of either at that time.

Committee members reacted angrily when Schulman admitted he had heard of the probe just a week after he appeared on Capitol Hill to deny that the IRS were targeting conservatives. Lawmakers first asked Schulman about it after local Tea Party officials told them they were being harrassed by the IRS.

"When you say one thing before the committee and then find out it's another," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, the committee's top Republican, "I think you have an obligation to let our committee know about it."
Lawmakers insist that they will find out who was responsible for starting the targeting process for Obama's political opponents. Until then, George blamed "gross mismanagement" within the agency.

"Why wasn't more firm action taken by people, either the commissioner himself or by people at the top?" asked Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. "It's outrageous. Any person can figure out this was unacceptable conduct."


May 21, 2013

Tax-exempt Obama Foundation doesn’t exist at listed addresses

The “charity” run by President Barack Obama’s half-brother that was fast-tracked for IRS tax-exempt status is based at a Virginia UPS store, according to its website.

The organization’s IRS filings list another Virginia address that is actually a drug rehab center where the foundation does not appear ever to have been based.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is run by Abon’go “Roy” Malik Obama, the half-brother of Barack Obama.
As first reported by The Daily Caller, the foundation was speedily approved for IRS exemption by Lois Lerner, the IRS senior official at the center of the targeting of conservative organizations that have waited over two years to receive tax exempt status.
The charity was even given retroactive tax-exempt status despite never having bothered to apply for it. And its history of soliciting donations before receiving tax-exempt status was apparently overlooked.

The address listed on the site is 107 S. West St. #401, Alexandria, Va., which houses a UPS store on a street that includes a tailor, a Catholic Charities thrift shop and a Gold Works jewelry store.

“They probably just rent a mailbox here or receive mail here,” said a UPS employee when asked if the store was the address for the Barack H. Obama Foundation. She did not know if Malik Obama, who his website says divides his time between Kenya and Virginia, had been in to the store.
A visit to the UPS store revealed that there is a mailbox numbered 401.

The address listed in the group’s IRS filings — 4201 Wilson Blvd. Ste 110-152, Arlington, Va. 22030 — is even more suspicious, as it is a marketing center for A Better Today Recovery Services — a drug-and-alcohol treatment organization.

A receptionist who answered the phone at A Better Today said neither she nor anybody in the office had heard of the Barack H. Obama Foundation. She said A Better Today had been located at the Arlington address for “a couple years.” The IRS filings that list the Arlington address as the foundation’s headquarters were dated May 2011.

“I don’t know if it’s listed wrong or what’s going on, but we have never heard of that,” the receptionist said, adding that A Better Today had never received calls or correspondence related to the Barack H. Foundation.

Although the future president’s 1995 book “Dreams From My Father” depicted the foundation’s namesake, Barack H. Obama, Sr., as a heavy drinker who lost both legs in a car accident, the foundation does not appear to take any interest in addiction treatment.

The foundation’s mission statement is “to provide people everywhere with resources to uplift their welfare and living standards in memory of Barack H. Obama: in the region of his birth, Kenya, and beyond.”

Its guiding principle is “the inherent belief that no one can truly enjoy the riches he has reaped if his neighbor suffers. … We seek to elevate the human condition so that everyone can live in dignity and truly enjoy having one another as neighbors.”
Despite raising more than $250,000, the alleged charity doesn’t seem to have done much. Its website claims the organization has built a madrassa and was building an imam’s house as well as some “proposed latrines,” but there is no other evidence that the nonprofit was working to “mitigate social-shortcomings in areas of education and literacy, health and well-being, poverty, and lack of community infrastructure in such basic needs such as water, electricity, shelter and sustenance,” as the site says.

Alton Ray Baysden, a former Department of State employee and registered Republican who helped to start the foundation, declined to comment before seeing copies of this reporter’s passport and government ID, along with a description of the article’s “motivation” and “slant.”

Repeated phone calls to the Barack H. Foundation went to the organization’s voicemail and were not returned.


May 20, 2013

IRS Scandal Could Hurt Obama's Health Care Law

Political scandals have strange ways of causing collateral damage.

The Internal Revenue Service has a major role in carrying out President Barack Obama's health care law, and Republicans are hoping the furor over federal tax enforcers singling out conservative groups will take down the Affordable Care Act.

There is a link, but it may only be coincidence. No one appears to have connected the dots factually, and it's unclear whether they will.

The IRS is highly involved in the health care law because financial assistance to help the uninsured afford coverage will be funneled through the tax system. At the same time, the IRS is also responsible for penalties on individuals and employers who fail to comply with the law's requirements.

But the really tantalizing connection is that a former head of the office that subjected tea-party groups seeking tax exemptions to tougher scrutiny is now running the tax agency's division in charge of implementing the health care law.

That official apparently switched roles before internal alarm bells went off about the problem. But feed all that into today's frenzied world of online speculation, and red-meat associations are irresistible.

In Saturday's weekly GOP radio and Internet address, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris tried to make the connection.

"If we've learned anything this week, it's that the IRS needs less power, not more," Harris said. "As matter of fact, it turns out that the IRS official who oversaw the operation that's under scrutiny for targeting conservatives is now in charge of the IRS's Obamacare office. You can't make this stuff up."

Earlier in the week, debating the latest GOP bill to try to repeal the health care law, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also reached for a link. Citing the IRS role in administering the law, she said:

"Under Obamacare, the average American will pay more, they'll get less, and now they have to worry that their government may punish them because of their beliefs."

Nonsense, says Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS.

"There really isn't a tie," said Levin. "This is another effort by the Republicans to essentially try to score political points."

The head of the IRS health care office, Sarah Hall Ingram, was in charge of the tax exempt division when agents first started improperly targeting conservative groups over their applications for tax-exempt status. The fallout has already led to the ouster of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, followed by the announcement that the current head of the division will retire.

But the IRS said Ingram was re-assigned to help the agency implement the health care law in December 2010, about six months before a Treasury inspector general's report said her subordinate, the director of exempt organizations, learned about the targeting.

"There isn't any evidence that Sarah Ingram had any inkling of the problems," said Levin. In contrast, Levin continued, ousted commissioner Miller failed to adequately inform Congress after he learned.
At a congressional hearing on the IRS scandal Friday, Miller was grilled by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, about Ingram's shift to running the IRS health care office.

Tiberi: "Why would you promote somebody to that position who was in charge of the exempt organization division, which certainly has had some controversy over the last couple years, under an investigation?

Miller: "Because she's a superb civil servant, sir."

Tiberi: "So she had nothing to do with this?"

Miller: "I wouldn't imagine so."

GOP lawmakers are smart to be looking for a connection, said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, but must be careful not to overplay their hand.

The health care law "is 50-50 with the public on a good day," said Davis. "You put that together with the IRS and it's combustible. For Republicans, I think they need to go a little slower and get some facts in."

"I don't think it's just a couple of underlings, but they don't have any smoking gun yet," he added.
Though it plays a crucial role in carrying out the health care law, the IRS is part of the back-office operation. IRS agents won't be setting up health insurance markets, and they won't have a say in which health plans people get to pick or what doctors they see.

However, agency officials will determine who is eligible for financial assistance under the law — and who must pay penalties.

The reason the IRS is involved in what's essentially a social program is that lawmakers crafted the financial subsidies available under the health law as tax credits. The agency already administers another major social program, the earned income tax credit, which long ago surpassed welfare as the main source of government assistance for low-income families.

The IRS handles four major components of the health care law. The most important one is determining if individual Americans are entitled to new tax credits to help pay private insurance premiums. It's a complex calculation.

Keyed to income on a sliding scale, the credits are available starting in 2014 to households making up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $94,000 for a family of four. Individuals or families are eligible if they don't have affordable coverage on the job. But if you understate your income to get a bigger credit, you'll owe more taxes next year.

The agency is also in charge of assessing penalties on people who ignore the law's requirement to carry health insurance, which applies to virtually all Americans starting next year.

On the employer side, the IRS administers a tax credit to help small businesses with low-wage employees afford coverage, and it's also in charge of imposing penalties on companies with 50 or more employees that don't offer coverage.

Read the entire article

May 17, 2013

Senate immigration gang frustrates GOP efforts to bolster border enforcement

The Senate Gang of Eight stayed unified through the third day of marking up immigration reform legislation, frustrating Republican attempts to strengthen the bill’s enforcement provisions.
Democrats touted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of three Republican amendments to crack down on the future hiring of illegal immigrants but senior Republicans on the panel were left disgruntled by the failure of stronger proposals.
 “The gang’s agreement to stick together is firmly in place. They’ve united in opposition to a lot of good amendments,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). “Anything that comes close to being a significant vote they voted ‘no’ on.

“I’m disappointed in that,” he added.

Republican members of the Gang of Eight, Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), joined with Democrats to defeat a proposal sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requiring the government to implement an E-Verify program to combat the future hiring of illegal workers within 18 months after the bill’s enactment.

Republicans on the Gang of Eight and Democrats quashed a second Grassley amendment to delay the pre-emption of state and local laws related to employment eligibility verification until employers across the nation are required to use the E-Verify program. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to verify the legal status and work eligibility of prospective employees.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) joined Gang-of-Eight Republicans and Democrats on both votes, bolstering their hopes that he may vote for the broader bill.

The committee instead moved to soften E-Verify regulations to spare small businesses from added costs, adopting a proposal sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

The Franken amendment requires annual accuracy audits of E-Verify and reduces the cap on penalties for businesses failing to use or misusing the program if audits show error rates above 0.3 percent. It covers first-time violations.
Franken argued that having to verify the employment eligibility of workers mistakenly identified as illegal is a burden on businesses.

Franken’s proposal passed on a voice vote despite opposition from Grassley and Flake.

Flake noted the legislation already includes a four-year phase-in period for small businesses.

“I think that there are protections in the legislation,” he said. “I know we come under a lot of criticism for not going after employers and making sure employers are fined when they run afoul of the law.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill and a member of the Gang of Eight, persuaded Franken to hold off on another amendment that would have exempted businesses with 14 or fewer employees from e-verify until low error rates had been achieved.

Schumer called that proposal a deal breaker.

Pro-immigrant advocacy groups said they were pleased with the bill’s progress after the first three days of markup.

“Overall there’s been a very concerted effort that has resulted in protecting the basic architecture of the agreement, which is very welcome to organizations like mine,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns at National Council of La Raza.

Schumer touted the panel’s adoption of three Grassley-sponsored amendments that he said would strengthen enforcement.

One amendment requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide weekly reports about people who fail E-Verify checks; a second amendment requires a parent or guardian to attest to the identification of minors for employment verification; a third allows parents to lock the Social Security numbers of children to safeguard against identity theft.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has taken the lead in selling the bill to conservative voters, praised the changes.

Rubio’s office said the revised bill empowers parents to protect children from becoming the victims of fraud within the E-Verify system and noted the original bill allowed anyone over the age of 21 to attest to the identity of a minor for purposes of employment.

Pro-immigrant groups, however, raised concerns about the Grassley amendment requiring Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue reports on people who failed e-verify.
“The problem is as we know there are a lot of ways to use and misuse those kinds of tools and one of the things we’re concerned about is having certain employers willing to use a tool like that to intimidate workers speaking up about bad working conditions,” said Martinez Del Castro.

“What are going to be the measures to protect workers when unscrupulous employers try to use it for a different purpose?” she said.

Critics of the bill said the amendments did not go far enough to prevent future waves of illegal immigration.

"After two weeks of considering amendments to the Gang of Eight immigration bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee has generally failed to strengthen the loophole-filled enforcement provisions or to reduce the harm of radically expanded immigration numbers on unemployed and underemployed Americans," said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which opposes granting millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

The committee postponed action on a package of amendments sponsored by Hatch to ease regulations on companies hiring foreign workers under the H-1B visa program. Schumer requested a delay for more time to negotiate a deal, prompting an exasperated response from Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

“At some point, we have to vote on these things,” Leahy said.

Hatch told reporters Thursday afternoon that a compromise on visas for high-skilled workers is necessary to secure his support for the bill.

“We've got to iron out the H-1B situation so it doesn't push businesses to hire people overseas, which is what the current language will do, and everyone who looks at it knows that,” Hatch told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“I think if we don't solve their problem, it will sink the bill,” he said.
The Judiciary panel will resume its markup on Monday morning. Leahy plans to report the bill out of committee by the end of next week.


May 16, 2013

How the IRS and Benghazi Fuel the Washington Trust Divide

The IRS’ targeting of conservative groups has nothing to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but these two political tornados collided simultaneously into the White House Friday and continue to swirl around Washington.

Both stories are like catnip for conspiracy theorists. On the Internal Revenue Service, conservative groups and lawmakers have for years complained they were getting harassed by the IRS. Maybe they weren’t imagining things.

On Benghazi, conservatives have long alleged that the White House tried in the immediate aftermath to downplay that terrorism led to the consulate attack. Their suspicion is that the White House didn’t want to admit a terrorist attack occurred right before the presidential election.

But talking points on Benghazi, it turns out, underwent heavy revisions. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl unearthed those edits last week.

But while in both cases some long-held suspicions were confirmed, and the two have combined to dominate the political airwaves in the past several days, there are some key distinctions between the two.

First, disdain at the IRS has been swift and bipartisan. The tax-collecting agency, it turns out, was targeting conservative political groups as it assessed tax-exempt status for new organizations. The IRS scandal burst forth out of nowhere Friday and seems poised to dominate the political conversation.

Lawmakers from both parties have called on the acting IRS commissioner to resign. Indignant hearings are expected on Capitol Hill later this week.

The Benghazi story, on the other hand, has become ultra-partisan as it has percolated  for months. Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that the Obama administration intentionally played down the possibility that the attack on the consulate was a planned terrorist attack.

Sure, President Obama referred to it as “terror” the day after Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three others died in Benghazi. But Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations said shortly thereafter that it might have been spontaneous reaction to a video.

In hindsight, she was wrong. The question is whether the Obama administration was intentionally misleading or just misguided. The revelation Friday that the State Department was heavily involved in extensive editing of talking points that were given to Susan Rice set administration critics on fire.
That sort of political meddling is what the IRS story lacks so far.

Obama strongly condemned political targeting by IRS staffers in Cincinnati. He said today that he didn’t learn about  the story until Friday.

He said he would wait for an internal IRS investigation to take action.

“But I’ve got no patience with it,” he said. “I will not tolerate it. And we’ll make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”

And he added that “integrity” is key for the IRS.

“People have to have confidence that they’re applying it in a nonpartisan way, applying the laws in a nonpartisan way,” he said. “I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, independent or a Republican. At some point there are going to be Republican administrations. At some point there are going to be Democratic ones. Either way, you don’t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate.”

Compare that to his dismissive tone regarding the Benghazi controversy, which he called a “sideshow.”

“There’s no there there,” he said of controversy about the Benghazi talking points.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Friday it doesn’t really matter whether President Obama knew specifically what the IRS was doing when it targeted conservative groups. Obama, McConnell said, deserves some blame regardless.

“They all take their cues from the tone expressed by the president, and he’s made it clear that this administration is perfectly willing to crack down on critics,” McConnell told the National Review.

“… This is a lot bigger than just one person,” he added. “This a whole effort by the administration, across the board, to squelch their opponents, to shut them up, and, finally, they’ve done it in a way that will allow us to call attention to it nationwide.”

This is an important distinction.

You wouldn’t know it from the way people talk about the IRS, but IRS agents – at least before this new political scandal – actually aren’t all that reviled.

Here’s how ABC pollster Greg Holyk  put it just before Tax Day this year in summarizing an ABC News-Washington Post poll:
“The Internal Revenue Service, for its part, is more popular than the tax system it administers. This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that about half of Americans see the IRS favorably, half unfavorably, 49-48 percent, better than one might expect for an organization that has to carry out the task of tax collection.” 
It is true the IRS ranks near the bottom in favorability for government institutions. A 2010 Pew Poll found the IRS with a 47 percent favorability. But that’s a 9 point  increase since a similar poll in 1998. Other government agencies, while seen more favorably than the IRS, have suffered falling popularity. The Food and Drug Administration had 75 percent favorability in the late 90s. It was down to 58 percent in 2010.

These institutions all have better favorability than Washington in general and Congress in particular.
Just 28 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Washington, the lowest ever in a Pew survey.
“This is more about elected officials in Washington, than it is about bureaucracy,” said Pew’s Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, trying to explain the discrepancy between attitudes toward the people elected to run the government as opposed to individual pieces of the bureaucracy.

“They don’t really like either [institutions like the IRS or politicians], but politics is worse,” Dimock said. “A big part of the dark cloud is politics. There’s always a lot of distrust of Washington politics.”
He added that this latest scandal, by politicizing what is supposed to be a nonpartisan government agency, could hurt impressions of the IRS, particularly among the limited government advocates whose interest groups were receiving special scrutiny.

“This cuts so close to the concerns of the tea party movement,” he said. “It is the script. This is what they’re worried about. Here is the government trying to use its power to tip the scales.”


May 15, 2013

An Interview With Barack Obama About The IRS Scandal, AP Phone Records And Benghazi

Does Barack Obama have any idea what is going on in the government that he is supposedly running?  Scandals are erupting all around him, and he supposedly was not aware that any wrongdoing had taken place in any of those instances.  It is almost as if every major government agency has gone rogue and Obama has no idea what the heck they are doing.  According to Obama, he often doesn't learn what those under his authority are up to until he sits down and turns on the news.  Should we believe him when he claims ignorance over and over again, or is Obama just trying to protect himself?  Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent, the revelations that have come out in recent days about the IRS, the seizure of AP phone records and Benghazi should be very alarming to you.  Taken together, these scandals paint a picture of a federal government that has become drunk with power, and no matter where you may fall on the political spectrum that is something that nobody should want.

Posted below is a fictional interview that I have created between an anonymous reporter and Barack Obama about the IRS scandal, the seizure of AP phone records, Benghazi and other sensitive topics.  Yes, this interview is a bit absurd, but so is the notion that Barack Obama is completely ignorant about so many important things that are going on inside his own government...
REPORTER: "President Obama, the IRS has publicly admitted that they were specifically targeting patriot groups and Tea Party organizations for 'extra scrutiny'.  When did you first learn about this?"

Obama IRS Scandal
REPORTER: "But how is that possible?  We have now learned that the targeting of patriots and Tea Party groups began as early as March 2010.  The head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations division was informed about this targeting in June 2011, the chief counsel for the IRS knew about this targeting by August 2011, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement knew about this targeting by March 2012, and IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller knew about this targeting by May 2012.  Throughout this period of time, the IRS repeatedly lied to Congress when they were specifically asked about the targeting of conservative groups.  Are you claiming that nobody from your administration ever had any contact with anyone from the IRS about this?"
Obama Funny
REPORTER: That is what the IRS was claiming at first.  But now the Washington Post is reporting that "IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups."  That would seem to indicate that this was being coordinated on a nationwide level by someone at the IRS.  Would you care to comment on that?

Obama Investigation
REPORTER: But you were just commenting on it.  Don't you think that the American people deserve the truth about this?

Obama I Know Nothing
REPORTER: Okay, let's switch gears.  Did you know that the Justice Department was spying on AP reporters just months before the 2012 election?  Did you know that two months of cellular, office and home telephone records were secretly obtained without any explanation last April and May?

Obama Press
REPORTER: The Associated Press is now the enemy?  Without a free and independent media, what would keep us from descending into tyranny?

Obama Tyranny
REPORTER: But shouldn't we be alarmed when government agencies target specific groups of people for their political beliefs?  Breitbart is reporting that the EPA "has routinely charged conservative and watchdog groups fees that the agency has waived for the mainstream media and 'green' groups".  Do you know anything about this?

Obama Teleprompter
REPORTER: I understand that these are tougher questions than you normally get from the media.  But I think that the American people deserve some answers.  For example, would you like to discuss Benghazi?

Obama Benghazi
REPORTER: Very funny Mr. President.  What about the Fast and Furious scandal?  Would you be willing to talk about that?

Obama Fast And Furious
REPORTER: Are there any difficult subjects that you would be willing to discuss?  I have questions here about the Secret Service prostitution scandal, Solyndra, the new NSA spy center out in Utah, government ammunition stockpiling, the NDAA, drone strikes, Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers.  Would you be willing to answer any of those questions?


May 14, 2013

Multiple Agencies Involved with IRS in Intimidation

Tea party groups' allegations that the IRS has long been targeting them for their political beliefs were recently confirmed by an apology from the IRS. The scandal gained traction as congressional leaders began efforts to hold the IRS accountable and understand the depths of the federal government’s politically-motivated abuses of power. 

Yet given the history of such abuses, the problem may extend further than the IRS, and require a "government-wide" probe across several agencies, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has suggested.

The issue was initially believed to only involve groups with “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their names being singled out for greater scrutiny by the IRS, but recent admissions reveal that a wide range of conservative and constitution-oriented groups were singled out by the federal government. Most media outlets have focused on 2012 as the year the abuses occurred, but one prominent Tea Party-initiated organization, True the Vote, began to run into alleged federal government abuses in 2010--from a variety of agencies.

True the Vote, a Houston-based nonprofit which focuses on election integrity issues, was formed by Catherine Engelbrecht and her King Street Patriots Tea Party group. True the Vote applied to the IRS for their 501(c3) non-profit status in July 2010, and almost immediately their problems began.

Within two years, multiple federal agencies, along with an EPA-affiliated Texas state agency, began auditing True the Vote and its founders, visiting their group, their businesses, and asking questions of people who knew them. The IRS was not the only governmental agency involved.

True the Vote’s experiences with the IRS’s abuse of power were recently discussed by Catherine Engelbrecht in a previous interview with Breitbart News. She said:
We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010. Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They’ve requested to see each and every tweet I’ve ever tweeted or Facebook post I’ve ever posted. They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future.
Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family's firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership--which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”

The Democratic Party of Texas filed a lawsuit against her, as did an ACORN affiliated group. Both the FBI and the BATF continued to poke around her life, the lives of people in her Tea Party group, and her businesses.

Ultimately, the IRS determined that it actually owed a refund to Engelbrecht; the BATF found nothing wrong in any of its repeated visits and audits; OSHA’s fine-toothed comb found reason to demand $25,000 from Engelbrecht’s family business; and TCEQ demanded the Engelbrechts spend $42,000 on additional storage sheds.

“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like," Engelbrecht said. "My family and I have lived with great concern that we would be subject to even greater government abuses if we were vocal about what they were doing to us because of our political views and our efforts to increase governmental accountability.

"We are now convinced the only way to protect ourselves from our government is to speak out and bring our story straight to the American people. If such politically-motivated governmental abuses of power can happen to us, they can happen to anyone,” said Engelbrecht.


May 13, 2013

Lamar Alexander slams Sebelius over Iran-Contra-style health care scandal

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be involved in an Iran-Contra-style health care scandal and he wants Congress to investigate it.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Sebelius is asking private companies involved in health care to contribute funds to Enroll America, a nonprofit that is working to help implement the Affordable Care Act by enrolling the uninsured and educating Americans on the new law. Congress has turned down requests from the Obama administration for additional funds to help implement the ACA.

Alexander, the ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, called for an investigation into Sebelius’ actions Saturday, saying it “may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress.”
“Such private fundraising circumvents the constitutional requirement that only Congress may appropriate funds. If the secretary or others in her department are closely coordinating the activities of Enroll America, which is headed by a former White House aide, then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act,” he said.

He compared such behavior to the Iran-Contra scandal, “when Reagan administration official Oliver North raised funds and directed their spending through private entities in support of Nicaraguan rebels even though Congress had refused to appropriate such funds.”

A report from the Joint Select Committee charged with investigating the Iran-Contra incident determined that “Congress’s exclusive control over the expenditure of funds cannot legally be evaded through the use of gifts or donations to the executive branch,” Alexander noted.

Alexander added that Sebelius’ actions also possibly violated “federal laws prohibiting raising private funds from those she regulates.”

HHS spokesman Jason Young told Bloomberg News that Sebelius had not solicited money from any companies she regulates.
HHS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.


May 10, 2013

House Foreign Affairs Chair: More Benghazi Hearings Coming

The day after the House Oversight Committee’s blockbuster hearing on the Benghazi terrorist attack of September 11, 2012, House Foreign Relations Committee chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) told Breitbart News that the Oversight Committee would hold more hearings:

The Committee continues its examination of the deadly Benghazi terrorist attacks so we can ensure that the bureaucratic failures that left State Department personnel vulnerable are not repeated.  The Committee will continue to review the responsibility of senior State Department officials for the failure to provide proper security prior to the Benghazi attacks and needed improvements in embassy security.

Based on testimony in Wednesday’s Benghazi hearing that contradicted the rosy findings of the Obama-appointed Accountability Review Board, Royce has also introduced the Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013. He penned a letter to other House members on Thursday encouraging such reforms to the Accountability Review Board process. “Yesterday,” Royce wrote, “the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing that reaffirmed the flaws in the Benghazi ARB’s review.  Specifically, the ARB found that the responsibility for the ‘systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies within the State Department stopped at the Assistant Secretary level. As we heard throughout the hearing, this was simply not the case.”

Royce’s proposed legislation would help sever the bond between the ARB and the State Department – currently, the Secretary of State “appoints four out of the ARB’s five members – a clear majority that could influence the outcome of any investigation.” It would change the ARB staffing so that it isn’t as reliant on the State Department. Board members with conflicts of interest would be banned. The Secretary of State would have to hand over a list of staffers to Congress. And the ARB report would have to go to Congress, not merely the Secretary of State.

“These improvements seek to strengthen future ARB investigations to help avoid disasters like Benghazi,” Royce wrote. “Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.”


May 9, 2013

Benghazi whistleblower: ‘I’ve been demoted’ for challenging Susan Rice’s claims

Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Benghazi, told Congress today that a State Department official began criticizing his job performance, and he was ultimately demoted, after he asked why U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice attributed the Benghazi attack to an anti-Islamic Youtube video.

“In hindsight, I think it began after I asked the question about Ambassador Rice’s statement on the TV shows,” Hicks said of the criticism during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the attack today.

Hicks said he asked Assistant Secretary Beth Jones why Rice made the statements that she did on the 9/16/13 Sunday talk shows.

“Her reaction was ‘I don’t know,’ and it was very clear from the tone that I should not proceed with any further [questions],” he told lawmakers.

On September 12, Jones had emailed Hicks and several other State Department officials stating that she told the Libyan government that the Benghazi attack had been carried out by a terrorist group.

“I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements,” Jones wrote in the email, from which Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., read during the hearing. “I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”

Jones eventually “delivered a blistering critique of my management style,” Hicks said, “[and] even exclaimed “I don’t know why Larry Pope [the top U.S. diplomat in Libya] would want you to come back.”

Hicks told the committee, “I’ve effectively been demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.”


May 8, 2013

It’s come to this: Solar installer now suing the government for more money

This is where the path of relentlessly determined government subsidization of politically-preferred, rather than free-marked-selected, fledgling technologies has brought us: A troubled global solar industry awash in oversupply and rent-seeking, and taxpayer dollars being spent on a lawsuit with a solar company that wants still more taxpayer dollars. The mind reels.

Last December, the Inspector General of the Treasury launched a probe of the three largest providers of solar panel installation companies that received funds from the much-vaunted 1603 Program — “Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Tax-Credits,” part of President Obama’s stimulus law meant to help the residential market make a switch to more renewable-energy use — as part of an ongoing investigation into whether the companies received excessive government grants via inflating their reported work costs.

One of the companies in question, SolarCity (several of whose executives and venture capital firm backers, you might remember, were generous Obama donors), is now countering with their own lawsuit against the federal government, demanding that they haven’t been paid enough money because their payouts were actually smaller than promised. From the WSJ:
The suit, filed quietly in February in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, comes as SolarCity and other industry players are defending solar-friendly government policies, and it could undermine the industry’s message that solar power will soon be viable without government help. … 
The government is looking into whether SolarCity and other firms misrepresented the fair-market value of solar systems in order to boost the value of the grants they received. In its suit, SolarCity says two of the company’s subsidiaries received smaller-than-expected grants. The company doesn’t say exactly how much funding it applied for originally, but it says the final grants issued by the Treasury Department were $8 million less than was proper under the law. 
The company says it could lose millions of dollars more if the government does the same thing on all $400 million in grants it has sought. … 
SolarCity, of San Mateo, Calif., installs solar panels on homes and businesses and sells shares in those systems to investors. The company, which went public in December, depends heavily on federal and state subsidies and government policies that support solar-power development.
“…depends heavily on federal and state subsidies.” Gee, whatever would we do without the federal government using our money to pick the products they feel we should be buying, for us? ‘Cause let’s not forget who’s really to blame here: Yes, it sounds suspiciously like this company really doesn’t care about cheating the taxpayers as long as they can get theirs, but hey, they’re trying to get the best deal they can out of a contract promised to them by the feds. All of this cronyism, waste, and artificial market-distortion is only made possible by the cancer that is big-government largesse in the first place and the many ways in which it encourages people and businesses to rent-seek rather than survive on their competitive merits.


May 7, 2013

Bill Ayers defends Weather Underground bombings, dismisses comparison to Boston blasts

Left-wing radical Bill Ayers, a longtime friend of President Barack Obama, recently defended the series of bombings that he carried out as a member of the Weather Underground, saying that his bombings were not like the Boston Marathon attack and that America is the most violent country that has ever been created.

Ayers — who participated in a series of anti-Vietnam War bombings in the early 1970s including an attack on New York City police department headquarters and the Pentagon — answered an Akron Beacon Journal reporter’s questions after giving a keynote speech at an event commemorating the anniversary of the 1970 Kent State National Guard shootings.

Ayers said that there is no equivalence between his bombings and the deadly bombings that rocked the Boston Marathon.
“What I did was some destruction of property to issue a scream and cry against an illegal war in which 6,000 people a week are being killed,” Ayers said.

Ayers reportedly said that the United States is the most violent country that has ever been created, and said that Republican Senator and Vietnam War hero John McCain committed daily war crimes.
“Six thousand a week being killed and I destroyed some property. Show me the equivalence. You should ask John McCain that question … I’m against violence,” Ayers said.

“To conflate a group of fundamentalist people [in Boston] who are nihilistic in some way with a group of people who spent their lives trying to oppose the murder of 6,000 people a week … and still the killing went on. And still the killing went on. What would you have done?” Ayers said.

“There’s no equivalence [with Boston]. Property damage. That’s what we did,” Ayers said.
But Ayers was involved in a Greenwich Village townhouse explosion in 1970 that resulted in the accidental deaths of three Weather Underground members who were preparing a bomb. Ayers subsequently went underground as a fugitive from justice.

Ayers has since served as a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been a “family friend” to Obama, who previously lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where Ayers and wife Bernadine Dohrn reside.