Monday, December 8, 2014

Uncovering Obama's Enemies List

My article from the Dec. 4, 2014 issue of FrontPage magazine:

Uncovering Obama's Enemies List

By Matthew Vadum

More proof has emerged that President Obama is using the IRS as a weapon against his perceived enemies as the administration abruptly canceled the release of 2,500 damning documents reportedly showing that the IRS illegally shared taxpayer files with the White House.

The existence of the documents is yet more proof that Obama maintains an extensive enemies’ list and that he treats the IRS as his personal plaything while he closely collaborates with senior IRS officials who have practically taken up residence with him in the White House. To Obama, the IRS is an instrument of political repression and taxpayer terror. Although it isn’t exactly breaking news that Obama is doing Machiavellian things with the IRS that the nearly-impeached President Nixon only fantasized about doing, hard documentary evidence of wrongdoing has been slow in coming.

The abortive document dump comes as former IRS mandarin Lois Lerner remains at liberty. Instead of becoming a long-term guest of the Bureau of Prisons, the unrepentant left-wing Democratic activist continues to live a life of luxury in Bethesda, Md., a fancy suburb of Washington, D.C. Despite the severity of her crimes, she doesn’t even have to wear a monitoring anklet. She hasn’t even been charged with breaking the law, an oversight that may be corrected by the incoming Republican-dominated Congress.

With Lerner taking the lead, Obama’s IRS targeted conservative “social welfare” nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status under section 501c4 of the Internal Revenue Code. Evidence establishes that hundreds of groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement were bullied and intimidated from engaging in constitutionally protected political activism. The IRS also subjected conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to heightened scrutiny, harassment, and extended processing delays that may have hindered their activities during previous election cycles.

But now the Obama administration, which barely acknowledges the historic electoral whooping it received last month, has placed the 2,500 documents that are apparently not related to Lerner’s escapades in limbo as it hides behind privacy laws that are supposed to protect taxpayers, as opposed to corrupt government officials.

The inspector general’s office for the U.S. Department of the Treasury is making the novel claim that privacy laws prevent the promised document release from taking place.

“All of the 2,043 pages of documents we have determined to be responsive were collected by the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the determination of possible liability under Title 26 of the United States Code. These pages consist of return information protected by 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and may not be disclosed absent an express statutory exception,” the office indicated in a Dec. 1 letter.

The Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, apparently hasn’t yet decided what to do with another 466 documents.

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, was highly skeptical. Treasury is  using “sophisticated” lawyering to worm out of producing the documents.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew acknowledges he is examining “potential liability” that his underlings violated the law by providing taxpayer information to the White House. Treasury is either “stonewalling” Cause of Action, or Lew “is incompetent” for only now getting around to investigating possible lawbreaking on a two-year-old case.

Asked about the case Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claimed he didn’t know about it. He said, apparently with a straight face, that the administration “very closely” follows rules shielding the IRS from political interference.

“I can tell you that, as a rule, that the Obama administration has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communication between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service,” Earnest said.

Epstein says Earnest isn’t telling the truth. “We know for a fact that the IRS broke the law,” he said. “If there is any evidence that the White House requested (unauthorized taxpayer information), then people in the White House are going to be implicated,” he said.

The Treasury Department’s decision to stonewall just so happens to coincide with publication this week of a four-part series by the Washington Examiner about the benefits and pitfalls of the federal inspectors-general system. The series details several occasions in which inspector generals “provided cover for agency managers seeking to avoid more rigorous evaluations.”

It goes without saying that Obama has been using the IRS improperly since he was sworn in as president. 

That’s the Chicago way.

Ask Catherine Engelbrecht, leader of the Houston-based good government group True the Vote. Since getting involved in the fight for ballot box integrity she has been subjected to a slew of audits, surprise inspections, and all manner of bureaucratic harassment. Ask supporters of the Manassas, Va.-based Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, whose tax-exempt charitable status was yanked by the IRS because it disseminated criticism of Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry a decade ago.

Ask officials of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Obama’s IRS has admitted it illegally provided the group’s confidential donor information to its left-wing arch-enemy, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which favors same-sex marriage. The IRS later agreed to settle a lawsuit by paying $50,000 in damages to NOM. The release of the tax filing, known as an IRS Form 990 was not the issue as such; in fact federal law requires 990s to be publicly disclosed.

But the IRS claimed one of its employees innocently neglected to redact the names and addresses of NOM’s donors before releasing the group’s amended 2008 Form 990 to an individual. The law requires groups like NOM to list top donors on Schedule B to the form. The information on Schedule B is supposed to be held in strictest confidence by the IRS. Unauthorized disclosure of confidential tax information is a felony that can lead to a five-year term of imprisonment, but Eric Holder’s Justice Department never got around to filing criminal charges in the case.

The egregious IRS leak allowed the HRC in February 2012 to post online NOM’s 2008 tax return and the names and contact information of NOM’s major donors, including Mitt Romney who became the Republican presidential nominee later that year. Making that normally confidential information public allowed progressive activists to harass and intimidate NOM’s donors, just as they had done in the wake of California’s Proposition 8 that affirmed traditional marriage in 2008. The most prominent victim of leftist venom was former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was forced out of his post because he dared to donate $1,000 to the “pro” traditional marriage side in the Prop 8 battle.

Left-wing activists call this kind of in-your-face harassment “accountability,” an Orwellian euphemism to be sure. Accountability actions focus on harassing and intimidating political enemies, disrupting their activities, and forcing them to waste resources dealing with activists’ provocations. It is a tactic of radical community organizers, open borders fanatics, and union goons. Taking a cue from Marxist theorist Herbert Marcuse, they want to shut down, humiliate, and silence those who fail to genuflect before their policy agenda.

Obama’s IRS is all about accountability, but not in the way that normal, patriotic Americans use the term.

*Clarification: Mr. Brendan Eich’s contribution in support of Proposition 8 was published by the Los Angeles Times using state public records and was a separate incident from the IRS’s illicit disclosure of NOM donors. 

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