The So Called Scandal

Originally posted at Rhinehold's Blog.

In defense of the administration, many of the partisan left are trying to label the recent scandals as ‘so called’ and ‘imaginary’.  However, as new information makes its way to the media, and the lawsuits start to mount, even the most partisan protector of the administration must be asking themselves some very hard questions, even if they aren’t being asked out loud.  One recent story was the treatment of Catherine Englebrecht.

Catherine and her husband own a small manufacturing company.  Over time, she has become interested in political policy, specifically after witnessing what she considered voter fraud during the 2008 election.  She created two groups, True the Vote and King Street Patriots.  True the Vote’s function is to ensure the integrity of elections, including working to clear voting rolls of people who have died or no longer living in the district and educating poll workers on identifying potential election fraud.

In July 2010, she applied for tax-exempt status from the IRS, and apparently this action ‘poked the bear’.

Here is a timeline of what happened to her after that action, remembering that before applying she had never had a single issue with her groups or her business from the federal government.

  • December 2010 – FBI interviewed her about a person who attended a King Street Patriots function.
  • January 2011 – FBI returned and the IRS audited her business tax returns.
  • May 2011 – FBI returned again asking about the actions of the King Street Patriots.
  • June 2011 – FBI returned and the IRS audited her personal tax returns.
  • October 2011 – IRS questioned her about True the Vote.
  • November 2011 – FBI returned to question her about King Street Patriots.
  • December 2011 – FBI returned to question her about King Street Patriots.
  • February 2012 – IRS questions her about True the Vote and King Street Patriots, including asking for “all of your activity on Facebook and Twitter.”, BATF audited her business.
  • July 2012 – OSHA inspected her business.
  • November 2012 – IRS questions her about True the Vote.
  • March 2013 – IRS questions her about True the Vote.
  • April 2013 – BATF conducts a second audit.

To this day, she has not received the tax exempt status she requested.  This additional scrutiny was not just the IRS, but also the FBI and BATF, both groups that had no issue with Catherine and her group before.  In addition, her group True the Vote has been subject to a congressional investigation by Elijah E Cummings and Barbara Boxer.  Apparently wanting to ensure that the voting rolls are accurate is a hate crime to some.

After it was made public that True the Vote was one of the groups subjected to additional scrutiny by the IRS, Ms Englebrecht responded:

“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. We’ve met all requirements, responded to everything, and provided case law in such areas where appropriate,” Engelbrecht stated. “The IRS treatment of us lends to the appearance of a politically motivated abuse of power and an assault on free speech.”

Unfortunately, while Catherine Englebrecht’s situation is shocking, it isn’t an isolated case.  Consider the following stories we have hear over the past few days.

The Leadership Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization that trains young conservative activists was audited and had to produce 23,000 pages of documents for the IRS as well as answer questions about where its interns came from and where they were employed, a request that came from the IRS’s Baltimore office, just a couple of weeks after the Hawaii Tea Party was asked by the Cincinnati office to provide details regarding their relationship with the Leadership Institute.

Z Street, a pro-Israel group filed for 501(c)(3) status in December 2009 intending to operate as an educational group.  When their tax counsel called in July 2010 to ask about the slow pace of mvement, the IRS auditor (Diane Gentry) said they were supposed to give special scrutiny with groups ‘connected to Israel’ and that requests that related to Israel are sent to ‘a special unit in DC to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies’.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment…

Coalition for Life of Iowa, who was approved for their tax-exempt status, provided that they sign a letter agreed that none of their board members would picket Planned Parenthood offices.  They agreed, since their group wasn’t interested in picketing or protesting, though they did pray in front of Planned Parenthood.  Apparently you need to sign away your 1st amendment rights to get tax-exempt status now.

Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County, also asked about their protesting plans and asked to provide copies of grants and contracts.  An IRS agent from California sent them a letter asking “In your educational program, do you education on both sides of the issues in your program?”.  He also asked “do you try to block people to enter a building, e. medical clinic, or any other facility?”  (the grammatical issues are as originally written)

Ret. Lt. Col. Mark Drabik, once leaving the military he was free to express political beliefs openly.  He participated in marches in Washington and donated to the 912 movement.  Then he got an audit from the IRS, questioning his church donations, familty respite care and his daughter’s equine therapy.  Deductions he had clamed for almost a decade without question.

There are just a few of the stories we’ve heard so far.  Some of the left want to dismiss the issue because they are either trying to carry water for the administration or because they agree with limiting the rights of those they disagree with.  There are actually many on the left cheering on the administration for these IRS abuses, even though the president himself has called them wrong and despicable.

So the question comes down to how did this happen?  The initial suggestion that this was done by a rogue agent in the Cincinnati office doesn’t hold water for several reasons.  First, the Cincinnati office is not just a small office that covers just Ohio, it covers much of the United States.  Many seem to not know this.  Second, the targeting appears to have come from other offices too, as this listing suggests.  Finally, some of the documentation was signed by Lois Lerner herself.

The problem can actually be traced back to the rhetoric that Democrats, including the president himself, has used over the past several years.  As was so eloquently put by David Harsanyi:

To begin with, the Internal Revenue Service scandal isn’t just about the abuse of power; it’s a byproduct of an irrational fear of free speech, which seems to permeate much of the left these days. The unprecedented targeting of conservatives wasn’t incidental to this administration as much as it was an intuitive extension of the paranoia the left has about unfettered political expression.

Democrats, after all, hadn’t been merely accusing political opponents of being radical twits the past four years; they’d been accusing them of being corrupt, illegitimate radical twits. The president endlessly argued that these unregulated groups were wrecking the process at the behest of well-heeled enablers rather than engaging in genuine debate.

Heck, some of these funders may even be foreign nationals! Senators called for investigations. Obama called out the Supreme Court during a State of the Union speech for defending the First Amendment in the Citizens United case (which prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by groups). The New York Times editorial board (and others) advocated the cracking down by the IRS on conservative dissenters and getting to the bottom of the anarchy.

How can Americans function in a society in which anyone can speak out or fund a cause without registering with the government first?

Why wouldn’t the IRS — a part of the executive branch, lest we forget — aim its guns at conservative grass-roots groups during an election in which the president claimed that a corporate Star Chamber was “threatening democracy”? Come to think of it, I’m still not sure why the president believes that it was wrong of the IRS to single out limited-government groups for their tax-exempt status at all. He couldn’t stop talking about the topic for two years.

On the heels of this, the administration set out to delegitimize Fox News

You may also remember that back in 2009, the administration was so preoccupied with Fox News (the only news network one could reasonably call the opposition) that top-ranking administration officials — including Anita Dunn, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod — made a concerted effort to delegitimize its coverage. This was also unprecedented. Not long after that effort, Attorney General Eric Holder decided to spy on a Fox journalist who was reporting on leaks — shopping his case to three separate judges, until he found one who let him name reporter James Rosen as a co-conspirator in a crime of reporting the news.

On top of that, we now find that ProPublica was given the information of unapproved conservative groups from the IRS.

The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year.

The IRS did not respond to requests Monday following up about that release, and whether it had determined how the applications were sent to ProPublica.

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

Note that ProPublica states that getting approval for these groups is NOT NECESSARY.

Social welfare nonprofits are not required to apply to the IRS to operate. Many politically active new conservative groups apply anyway. Getting IRS approval can help with donations and help insulate groups from further scrutiny. Many politically active new liberal nonprofits have not applied.

Applications become public only after the IRS approves a group’s tax-exempt status.

The progressives who fear free speech aren’t comprehending the problems with what they are doing in targeting those who disagree with them.  They see the opposition as inhuman, evil and repugnant, therefore not worth of free speech.  They see free speech as something that is given to those who are worthy and taken away from those who they feel shouldn’t be allowed to wield it.  They fail to grasp that in order for them to have their rights protected when they are not in power, they MUST ensure that they do not violate other’s rights when they are in power.  This is clearly evident, not only in the cases of the IRS abuses and myriad of other rights abuses on the press and enemies both at home and in the field.

It started with the attack on Fox News, the torture of Pvt Bradley Manning, the expansion of warrantless wiretap searches including protecting the government from lawsuits, the use of signature strikes, creating a ‘hit list’ of enemies, targeting US Citizens with assassination, spying on the press, on groups like, breaking into reporter’s laptops, spying on US Citizens nationwide, pushing legislation that would allow government agencies to spy on all Americans on the internet, seizing of domains that don’t fall under US control, attacking the Citizens United ruling, Democrat Senators calling for investigations into conservative groups, prosecuting people for whistleblowing, leaving people to rot in Guantanamo Bay in direct violation of the Constitution, and many more that space prevents me from listing…

This administration has been using its full force to push it’s power around.

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